Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wigging Out -- Afros

"Do you feel as if the toy selection in stores can affect the way a child looks at the world (consciously or unconsciously)? If so, how? Do you think that it is important for children to have access to dolls that represent their race or ethnicity? Why or why not?"  Baby Beatriz Doll Project survey.

“Tu as des cheveux comme une princesse,” said my Haitian neighbors’ daughter, comparing my wavy, shoulder-length hair to the black mermaid doll I had just given her. 

By her fourth birthday Aya obviously did not feel her own hair measured up to princess standards, and unfortunately, by the time she is old enough to appreciate Limbé, Leon G. Damas’ 1937 poetic reflection on black identity, she will have already internalized the idea that there are no princesses with kinky hair.  

For the first day of school when I entered 3rd grade (which would have been in 1970), I wore my hair in an Afro.  I had to keep my hair rolled up on kid curlers (remember those?) all day and all night, but when my mother picked out my hair that morning before school.  I felt as fly as a Soul Train dancer and as foxy as an Afro Sheen model.  A whole day of little white boys chasing me and calling me “bush baby” burst my bubble, and I never wore an Afro again.  It wasn’t until the 1980s when I saw people paying serious money for Jheri Curl perms that I felt confident enough to let my hair “do its thing.”  The sad part is, I had what most blacks, many whites, and the Puerto Rican stylist who gave me this cute cut considered “good” hair:

I just never felt my hair was “good enough” because it never grew long enough for me to sit on like my grandmother’s hair.

The images and cultural artifacts like toys that children are exposed to in popular media definitely influence the way they see the world and themselves.  I do not have children myself, but I have always kept a box of fashion dolls for my friends’ children to play with when they visit.  It breaks my heart to see beautiful little black girls digging through the box to find the doll with the lightest skin and the longest hair.  In fact, this upset me so much, I started customizing fashion dolls with afros, braids, dreadlocks, and natural hair textures several years ago.  Hurricane Katrina and a number of other life changes kept me from following through on my plans to market these products until now, but Vanessa Morrison’s post on Rohan, the D.J. from New Orleans has pushed me into unveiling my wig collection earlier than I had planned.

In honor of Odetta, folksinger and Civil Rights activist who was one of the first prominent African American women to adopt the “Afro” hairstyle, here is a selection of Afro hairstyle wigs I have developed for 1:6 scale dolls and action figures:

Vertical braid Afro -- chocolate

Afro -- honey blonde

Horizontal braid Afro -- brown
Wavy locks Afro -- toffee
Please let me know what styles and colors are your favorites and what you would be willing to pay for handcrafted items that take up to six hours a piece to produce.  And in case you aren’t familiar with Odetta, here is a clip of her singing a traditional African American lullaby, “All the Pretty Little Horses” in 1957:

 À Bientôt


  1. Lovely wigs and color choices. I would like to see auburn (not Kool-Aid red, but auburn) in the mix. Not sure about pricing. I've paid $25 for a Heidi-style wig -- bangs with two braids -- for a 5-inch, little girl doll. I've purchased a doll that came with interchangeable wigs that included an afro. I only wanted the doll because of the afro.

    I can tell you've put a lot of labor into your wigs. No one else is making anything similar for playscale dolls. You have a market. The key is to make them less labor intensive without eliminating their authenticity. Can you incorporate a simple afro of different lengths and colors into your line? Any afrocentric style with texture, specifically the traditional afro is appealing to me.


  2. Dear Debbie,

    Thanks for your comment. I do have a good auburn color. You should see it in the braids or locks that will be featured in the next posts. I would need to experiment more with different types of fiber to get a closer cropped Afro. I just finished making one for my Princess Tiana but it was more labor intensive to make.

  3. You're welcome. I look forward to seeing your other wigs.

    I'm glad you're using Yatimi. Do you plan to add a link to your store on your blog's home page? I hope so.


  4. There goes that Vanessa chick pushing you to do something before you had planned. LOL. I see you got some new followers, too. I wonder if the wig helped with that. If I have to drag you kicking and screaming, you are coming on this doll journey! I love your pictures and your school story. Very sad, but hopefully today you are able to laugh at it.

  5. Speaking of school stories... after a 1984 trip to Jamaica, I fell in love with dreadlocks and styled my then 4-year-old daughter's hair in twists. One of her classmates, a white child, called her "mop head." I explained to her that her hair was beautiful because God gave it to her and to ignore that child because s/he wanted what she had -- God-hair. (I don't recall if her tormenter was male or female.)


  6. Hi Vanessa,
    Rohan could sell me just about anything so if I got new followers from that post, I credit the model more than the wig!

    Hi Debbie,
    I learned about Yatimi from your blog and the "no listing fees through 2011" offer gave me the courage to take the plunge. I'll add the link to my store this week but it looks like first I will have to put some wigs in there! :-)

  7. Great, limbe dolls... I didn't know you had a Yatimi store until I read Vanessa's blog about Rohan. I'd love a wig like his in the same color.

    I think I'll create a Yatimi account, too. You've inspired me!

    Correction: The trip to Jamaica was in 1981, the year my daughter was 4 and called "mop head." Kids can be so cruel.


  8. I can identify with your story. I've been told that my texture of hair is "good". I myself don't see it. But like you I've grown into my hair and accepted who I am and love myself.

    As for I've paid from $15+ for wigs for my dolls depending on the style. I have yet to find any like the style on Rohan or Grandmere. I look forward to seeing more

  9. Hi Debbie and Dollz4Moi,

    Thanks for your feedback. I really like what Debbie told her daughter -- "you have God hair." I wish all children got that kind of positive reinforcement.

  10. Wonderful! Magnificent! Majestic! Divine! I want your dolls featured on an upcoming documentary project... We may not start filming till next year...but your artistry is PHENOMENAL & fills a Great Need Sista-Queen.


  11. Hi LB Lacey,

    Thank you very much for your compliments and good luck with your documentary!