Introducing Prodigyrls: Real Black Dolls, For Real Black Girls
D.C.-area doctor hopes to improve the image of black females
It's definitely an experience most African-American mothers are familiar with: browsing the aisles at the local toy store, looking for a doll for our little girls, and walking away empty-handed because the shelves are missing dolls of color.
Washington D.C.-area doctor Daniela Wiggins decided enough was enough and launched Prodigyrls, a new line of African-American dolls with more realistic features. These dolls have their own back story and future profession. The star of the line is Nicole, a future doctor, who comes with her own lab coat. Other dolls are future chefs, judges, soccer players, and chemists.
Loop 21 interviewed Dr. Wiggins on the difficulties of bringing the black dolls to market and how she hopes every black girl in America can own one.
Loop 21: Tell me about your experience trying to buy a doll for your daughter.
Wiggins: Currently, my daughter is 11 and I realized when she was 7 or 8 that I had never purchased her a doll. I would go into stores and not see anything. I've never found anything. I thought it was because I was going to the same stores in a particular area. But even when I branched out, I still couldn't find anything. I just wanted my daughter to have something that wasn't a fashion doll -- just a plain doll that looks like our girls.
Loop 21: How did Prodigyrls go from an idea to a reality?
Wiggins: The real catalyst was when my mother died. She was an anti-tobacco advocate. Even to her death, she was working. She had a real passion for what she did. I was at a point in my life where I thought, "Wow, what would life be like if you had such a passion that you'd still do it even when your days are numbered?" After my mom died, I said, "This is it." I found that it was my passion. Due to my medical career, a lot of my work has to be done at night or on weekends. It didn't even seem like a job to work the extended hours. This is a turning point.
It was a lot of research. I started from the ground up, learning about how dolls are manufactured, and the legal side of starting a business.
Loop 21: What void were you trying to fill in the marketplace?
Wiggins: I want our girls to know that the possibilities are endless. That's not a message that our children get. The message of the our dolls is that, "If you can dream it, you can be it. Anything is possible." Yes, the girls come with their own professions, but it's not about the profession. It's about the talent or the dream that the girls have.
Loop 21: What's the issue with the black dolls on the market? What challenges have you faced getting yours manufactured?
Wiggins: That is one of the challenges. You talk to the manufacturers and they say, "Well, we have these molds." I had to tell them, "Well, that's not how I want my dolls to look." The doll industry has been around for so long that the way they've been doing it is how they do it. No one has been willing to break the mold, literally. Other doll companies haven't taken the time to make it happen. Black girls ages 5 to 8 have been overlooked. They didn't think we watched TV until the Cosby Show. They didn't think we went to plays until Tyler Perry. It's one market we need to get into as black people.
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Loop 21: Will your distribution change this year? Are you looking to get into physical stores?
Wiggins: Initially, it was just me, selling them online. And I was okay with that because I wasn't sure if my message and business philosophy matches up with these stores. But my goal is for every black girl who wants one to have one. If I want to get these dolls into these stores, I need to go where we go. These are high-quality dolls and I want to make them accessible.