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Yelitsa Jean-Charles’ Healthy Roots Dolls teach girls self-love and self-care

Yelitsa Jean-Charles (Photo provided)

Yelitsa Jean-Charles is the creator of Healthy Roots Dolls, a toy doll brand that challenges traditional societal beauty standards that negatively impact young Black girls. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration and a concentration in gender, race and sexuality. Healthy Roots Dolls’ mission is to empower, educate and inspire self-love through dolls that represent and celebrate girls’ natural beauty.

What inspired you to create Healthy Roots Dolls?

Healthy Roots Dolls is inspired by my own experiences growing up. I never had a doll that looked like me growing up and it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I learned to love my natural hair. Because of this, I wanted to work in children’s media to create the representation in the content I didn’t have growing up. One of my class assignments was to redesign a fairytale character. I chose Rapunzel and reimagined her as a little Black girl with beautiful natural hair so that I could show little Black girls that they can be princesses, too. My classmates said the project looked like a doll, and after talking to my peers on Facebook, I found that many of us never had dolls that looked like us or had hair like us. After doing some research, I learned that toys influence how kids think, act and see themselves. So, when little girls can’t find dolls that look like them, it negatively impacts their self-esteem. That’s why I created Zoe, the first Healthy Roots Doll and the first doll that teaches natural hair care.

What makes Healthy Roots Dolls unique?

Our dolls are not just another doll painted brown. Zoe is an educational experience around hair play. Zoe’s hair is a unique fiber full of curl power specially designed to be washed and styled just like real hair. This lets kids practice all the fun natural hairstyles that we wear every day on their dolls first.

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