For those of you who remember, there was a time in the 1990s when there was series of dolls in different skin shades marketed to little black girls. One such doll was called, “Kenya”.
As I said elsewhere when I found this out, it hit me right in the childhood. I am still flailing. I
will most definitely might buy one when they are released next month. I don’t care if I’m not the target demographic. And clearly I’m not the only one who feels this way:
We can almost hear the squeals of joy coming from the countless black women in their 20s as they read this post and remember their childhood days with Kenya in tow.
SEE?! SEE?! IT’S NOT JUST ME!
Anyway, I’m truly excited about not only the re-launching of the dolls, which went away due to copyright issues, but also what I’m hearing about the the new version. This time around, the brand is hoping to have among other things a TV show, computer apps, a film, and music released.
The first launch of the product was successful and I am hoping the second launch will be even more successful. There is an undeniable void regarding self-esteem building representations for little black girls where they get to see positive images of themselves and be positively encouraged to love themselves.
I’m checking out the new versions and there are a few things I noted:
1.) Kenya is very dark-skinned. This true of both the classic version being released and the “Fashion Madness” version. I admit I was a bit concerned about how they were handling this re-launch in terms of skin tone. I know people want to tip-toe around the shadism/colorism elephant in the room, but marketing a dark-skinned doll as the lead in a series of dolls targeted to little black girls is very bold, given the fact darker skin is often maligned when it comes to black women in popular black culture. I feel like doll’s creators are very sensitive to that fact and are going above and beyond to reaching out to those little girls.
2.) They gave the older version of Kenya a boyfriend, named TJ. Yes, TJ is also black and this isn’t very surprising giving the pro-black family (more on that in a minute) angle of these toys. What I like is that he, like all the characters in this line, is not stereotypical, is into sports but at the same time is VERY MUCH about his education, and has a positive message for young black girls regarding doing their best and being with people who love and support them. Including the men in their life.
3.) The Kenya line is very much pro-black family and pro-black community. This MAY worry some on the BW-centric front who see this as a Trojan horse. Some may see it as promoting a reality of the black community that does not exist.
Well, the flip side of this is the fact that you can bet there will be GAT-DL haters complaining about how “unrealistic” these dolls are because of how “white” they all act, how portraying the characters from stable two-parent homes may “hurt the feelings” of some little girls from single parent homes. You may have people chipping away at the positivity of this brand because it does not reflect or normalize dysfunction. And YES, I already see it coming.
The bottom line is, as far as I can tell, the good of these dolls far outweigh any BWE-centric notions of “it’s a trap!”. Still if you feel that there’s going to be an issue, it’s not like you have to buy the dolls for your daughters or any other little girls you know. It’s like anything else you suspect may be a bad influence that involves you spending money…you don’t have to do it. Put your money into whatever else you feel will positively influence women and girls around you, that is your right.
The final impression I get from these dolls is that as a black girl, you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to: You are intelligent, fun, fashionable, out-of-the-box, and you should form connections with people who feel the same. You should be proud of yourself (as stated in the music video for the “Fashion Madness” doll).
I feel like anything that encourages black girls to do their best, be their best, and fills them with a sense of self-love and pride is a GREAT thing. Because it’s not something that has always been marketed at little black girls. Kenya dolls were the first of their kind, and that was a tiny window compared to other dolls for other little girls. Hopefully good things will come of this.
…And yes, I’m buying all the dolls. \o/
So what are your thoughts? Are you excited for the return of classic Kenya? What is your opinion on the other dolls being released? Do you think there are any major issues and concerns being overlooked?