Widline Pyrame, from Boston, Massachusetts, used to be very self-conscious about her appearance.
She grew up in Haiti before moving to Boston in 2002. Seeing the sleek locks of models in magazines and on dolls made her think something was wrong with her hair which was frizzy.
She was so obsessed with her hair that at age nine, she overused all her mother’s hair relaxing products in an attempt to straighten her locks but only succeeded in accidentally going bald instead.
Now 30 years old, she now creates Afro dolls to help black girls accept and love their looks.
She said, “I struggled with my self-esteem and confidence as a child.
“I thought I wasn’t beautiful enough because of my dark skin and hair texture, which led me to want straight hair so badly – just like they did in the magazines – so I looked more like the dolls, with sleek locks.
“I used my mother’s products all over my hair, hoping that it would be silky smooth. Instead, it all fell out, and she was furious!”
But her outlook changed one day when her uncle bought her a black doll to share with her sister Youselord.
She added: “One day my uncle got us a black doll to share. We were so shocked to see that one existed that we just stared at her in amazement.”
Training to become a social worker allowed her to discover concepts such as self-care and self-love. This convinced her to find a way to help young black girls avoid the pitfalls she had as a child.
Looking back and realizing what a positive impact her uncle’s present had on her and her sister, she decided to create her own range of black dolls, each sporting a sumptuous Afro.
She explained: “When children are playing, they want to see something that represents themselves.
“I believe little girls seeing dolls that look just like them would help with the pressure of skin bleaching – which involves using a cosmetic cream or procedure to lighten the skin – and the pressure to change their hair texture.
“Many children, from India to the Dominican Republic, see darker skin as negative. We need more diversity and awareness in our early years to know that there’s nothing wrong with different skin tones.”
Widline takes up to a week to design the dolls and their clothing before having the outfits made by a seamstress in Florida.
African and Haitian cultural designs inspire her creations and each of the dolls wears traditional dresses. The dolls are sold online for an average of $30.
Widline’s niece is one of the biggest fans of her dolls and absolutely loves getting one as a present.
Widline said: “Her eyes light up when I give her one of her own, it’s magical. It reminds me that we must love our uniqueness.
“I currently have four different dolls on offer. The first is Kenara, a Haitian girl who is all about celebrating the national flag and heritage.
“Malikalia is an African doll, whose name means angel. Adelaida is a bi-racial girl who represents the different backgrounds black girls come from, and Nevah is another Haitian doll who loves celebrating Haitian independence day on January 1 as it was the first black country to gain independence.”
While Widline’s dolls are currently quite personal, she hopes to build on that by crafting customized dolls for her clients.
She explained: “It would be a dream for me to learn how to sew the dresses myself and see my clients get the exact style they want.
“It would mean a lot for my customers and their children to feel represented as I didn’t when I was little – even if it means just seeing different skin colors, clothing and hair texture.
“I want them to finally feel visible, comfortable and unique.”
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