If you've been to the toy store lately, you might notice something odd going on in the Barbie or doll aisle: the most popular ones have white skin. Or lighter features. The disparity is so real a study from 2010 uncovered the fact that black Barbies are rare and sometimes more expensive than the ever-present white ones.
South African designer and businesswoman Maite Makgoba is hoping her latest venture will change that. She founded a company called Childish Trading and Manufacturing and is the face behind a new line of black-complexioned dolls called Momppy Mpoppy.
According to AFP, the 26-year-old created them after realizing little girls aren't drawn to dolls of color already on the market.
"They were frumpy and unattractive, some in traditional attire. That is not the reality of today," she said.
Her dolls come in different outfits and hairstyles that can keep up with even the coolest Barbie on the market.
Founded in 2013, the brands largest marketing tool has been social media, where they direct interested buyers to Takealot.com. On the Momppy Mpoppy page, Makgoba posts photos of the dolls as well as little girls playing with them.
They seem to be a hit, but due to fierce competition it's been a struggle to get large retailers to buy in. But making a profit isn't Makgoba's only motive. She's well aware of disparity of the toy industry when it comes to race and representation.
"Black children are confronted with growing up in a world that does not represent them, everything is skewed towards whiteness," she told AFP.
Nokuthula Maseko, a South African mother whose daughter plays with the doll, agrees.
"At school they play with their white friends, so this is my idea of maintaining that realism, so that they are aware of different races and not that everything is just white and only look a certain way," she said.
Not only is it important for girls to have dolls that represent who they are, but it's important for all little girls, no matter what race, to play with dolls that don't look like them, too.
We live in a culture that values white people and their experiences highest of all, and investing in diversifying their first interactions with media and toys can go a long way to teaching them that the world is filled with all sorts of people. It will help them develop empathy and eventually they'll understand that their experience is not the only one.
We're glad to see Momppy Mpoppy starting the trend.
A Plus has reached out to Makgoba and will update should she respond.