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Healthy Roots Dolls help young Black girls see themselves in positive light

Posted at 4:32 PM, Feb 23, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Zoe Doll is loved by girls all over the country. Healthy Roots Dolls CEO and founder Yelitsa Jean-Charles says her own childhood experience inspired the creation of Zoe. She says she never saw dolls that looked like her growing up.

“It has an impact on your self-esteem," Jean-Charles said. "I know that I struggled with loving my natural hair. I know that when my parents tried to give me a Black doll, I actually started crying because it wasn’t the one that I saw in the commercials with the long blonde hair and all that jazz.”

That reason is why so many parents are introducing their children to Zoe. Parents like Veronica Armstrong who is Cameron's mother. Ten-year-old Cameron says most dolls she sees don’t look like her.

“If it’s nothing close to how you look or your skin tone it’s kind of disappointing and annoying,” Cameron said.

She calls Zoe her "mini me." She likes to pretend Zoe is hosting her own video channel.

“They kind of go on like crazy adventures," Cameron said. "Well not really crazy, but I pretend the other one broke their foot and has to go to the hospital.”

Jean-Charles says she wants Zoe to help girls love their curls. That’s why her hair is made out of a unique fiber that can be washed and styled.

“I didn’t learn how to take care of my hair naturally until I was around 20 years old," Jean-Charles said. "Which is crazy because this is the hair that grows out of my head. How am I not going to know how to love it and nurture it as it is and rock it?”

Cameron’s mother had a similar experience.

“I’m Dominican and my mother is half Asian, so we had really different hair texture and my mother actually didn’t know how to do my hair,” Armstrong said.

Now, they get to work on styling curly hair together, hopefully helping other young girls to see themselves in a positive light.

“I love my hair because it’s a very great and beautiful texture," Cameron said. "It’s of course boingy and wavy and just very beautiful hair.”

“The parents are telling us that the first thing that the kids say is ‘oh my God it looks just like me’ and it’s like yeah, while the doll is not a carbon copy of this kid’s face, the fact that they’re able to see something that resembles them closely for once, that’s a big deal,” Jean-Charles said.