If you’ve happened down a doll aisle in your local retail store and encountered beautiful Black and Brown dolls that mirrored your likeness or the likeness of someone you know, you probably have Dr. Lisa to thank. Even with an impressive and rather extensive background in higher education, Dr. Lisa walked away from it all to follow her heart and give children, our future, the positivity and representation that has been lacking for decades, letting them know they were born “Positively Perfect.” Through children’s books and now dolls, Dr. Lisa is teaching children how to love themselves and setting them up for a successful future. Rolling out spoke with Dr. Lisa about her humble beginnings and vivid future.
Explain your journey from being a college professor to the creator of Positively Perfect Dolls.
I was the first African American to receive a doctorate in logistics from Ohio State University. A few years later, I became the first female professor to receive a multimillion-dollar endowed chair. But after a divorce and other personal challenges, I reassessed my life and decided to let my heart lead my career. I wondered if others were coming to the same realization. Being an educator, I researched it. The findings were summarized in my book Leading Beyond Excellence. When the book was completed, Walmart asked if they could sell it. It took me less than a nanosecond to say yes!
Soon I was asked for children’s books. Because representation is so important, I wanted to make sure African American, Latina, Asian and other multicultural characters were included. The books did so well that I was later asked to create dolls in the image and likeness of the book characters. So books gave life to Positively Perfect Dolls. They are called Positively Perfect because I wanted all children to know they were “Positively Perfect … just as they are.”
Are you surprised by Positively Perfect Dolls’ success?
Yes! Positively Perfect’s success has far exceeded my expectations. They are now found in several major retailers and international markets. We have dolls that represent African-Americans, Latinas, blended ethnicities and Caucasians. They recently won the prestigious Oppenheimer Award. We even have a fashion line for the Positively Perfect and Fresh Doll Collections. But the best part of Positively Perfect’s success is that it supports families in raising powerful and brilliant children. It makes my heart sing when a child looks at a Positively Perfect doll and says “mama, she looks just like me.” That’s the true success and what inspires me everyday.
Why is is important for all children to see a representation of themselves in the dolls they play with?
Representation matters. When you see it; you can believe it’s possible. I believe it’s life-changing when children see positive images of themselves. It ignites imaginations. It empowers them to dream of themselves in successful adventures and careers. When they don’t see images that reflect themselves they may begin to feel unimportant, even marginalized. This can result in children seeing their potential as limited. They may not see their true power, talents or opportunities.
How imperative is it to instill in girls at a young age that intelligence is as vital as beauty?
It’s extremely important. As a former educator, I truly know and value the power of intelligence. Intelligence allows us to think for ourselves. It’s my desire that girls think for themselves. I want them to think beyond the limitations set by others, to think beyond what’s been done before and be trailblazers. I want them to dream of the possibilities of what they can become. Girls are brilliant and multicultural girls are particularly insightful because of the unique blending of their history, cultural and ethnicities. Beauty and intelligence go hand in hand to create powerful, happy and successful lives.
The Fresh Dolls are more mature, trendy, and hip. What caused you to make dolls for older children?
I want to create a doll for every stage of a girl’s life.The Fresh Dolls encourage girls to embrace their look and wear it with confidence.They are called Fresh because they’re a totally new perspective on dolls.These dolls have a variety of custom-blended skin tones ranging from deep mocha, caramel, latte, and even blended. They have authentic facial features; beautiful full lips, and cute noses and eyes. Their stylish hair features braids, afros, afro-puffs, wavy and curly styles. Fresh doll bodies are specifically designed to be more representative of multicultural young women so they have fuller hips, thighs and more realistic waists. I truly hope little girls will see their own beauty reflected back to them with Fresh Dolls.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced in the doll industry?
There have been many, but I must say the biggest obstacles were within me. I had to learn to embrace the idea I could create from my heart, when I didn’t have experience, money, connections or education in the doll industry. I had to overcome every self doubt, insecurity and negative thought that paraded across my mind. As I learned to overcome my inner doubts, it strengthened me to overcome the criticisms that came from others.
Where do you see the future of Positively Perfect Dolls?
We at EPI like to view ourselves as partners with parents and global communities by providing tools that lift the self-esteem of all children of color. I want a future where our products positively touches the lives of every multicultural child. I’d like to create more products that represent multicultural beauty, including apparel, bedroom accessories and educational programs. Then one day perhaps there’ll be a World of EPI Amusement Park full of fun rides, multicultural characters, educational programs and overall family fun.
Check out some of the beautiful Positively Perfect Dolls below: