Posted on February 6, 2020
Yelitsa Jean-Charles grew up without a doll that resembled her. She recalled crying at the sight of a black doll from her parents, believing it was not the “pretty one.” Her company, Healthy Roots Dolls, is now creating a fairer toy industry.
The Toledo Lucas County Public Library is hosting Jean-Charles on Feb. 26 for “Hustle & Glow: Resourceful Entrepreneurship.” Jean-Charles will present about how she recognized the lack of diversity represented in the toy industry and pursued a business opportunity. The free event begins at 6 p.m. in Main Library McMaster Center.
During her junior year at Rhode Island School of Design, Jean-Charles recreated the character Rapunzel “as a brown girl with beautiful kinky hair,” according to Healthy Roots Dolls. She saw the need for greater equity in toys and children’s publishing. Jean-Charles ultimately created several more characters.
“Because while there are black dolls, we go beyond just painting a doll brown. We create an educational play experience with curl care,” Healthy Roots Dolls states. “Our mission is to bring curl power to the toy aisle with products that reflect the diversity of our reality.”
Doll purchases come with a curl care starter kit. Jean-Charles told HuffPost she wanted to help educate on styling techniques and feeling confident.
“It’s basically just a lack of knowledge of how [to do your hair] and that’s something we have to bring back,” she said. “We want to put the knowledge back into our children’s hands without putting the burden on the parents.”
Jean-Charles created Healthy Roots in 2015 with backing from a Brown University Social Innovation Fellowship grant and support from the RISD E’Ship Program, Masschallenge Accelerator program and 674 Kickstarter users. Essence selected her in 2017 for its “50 Founders to Watch” list.