A woman who was so self-conscious about her frizzy hair that she accidentally went bald trying to straighten it as a child has created a line of dolls with Afro hair to empower other little black girls.
Widline Pyrame, 30, from Boston, Massachusetts, hated her appearance and wanted nothing more than to have the sleek locks she saw in magazines and on dolls.
Aged nine, she was so determined to achieve her goal that she used her mother’s hair relaxing products in a desperate attempt to straighten her locks – causing them to fall out.
But now she is trying to help other black girls by creating Afro dolls to empower them to love their looks.
Widline, who grew-up on Haiti before moving to Boston in 2002, said: ‘I struggled with my self-esteem and confidence as a child.
Widline Pyrame, 30, from Boston, Massachusetts, has created a line of dolls with Afros after struggling to accept her appearance as a child
Widline’s range of dolls all have Afro hair and she hopes they will inspire young girls who want toys that represent what they look like
‘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 everything changed when her uncle bought Widline and her sister Youselord a black doll to share.
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.’
While training to become a social worker, she became more aware of concepts like self-care and self-love and was determined to find a way of helping young black girls to avoid the negative self-image she had as a child.
Remembering the positive impact her uncle’s present had on her and her sister, she set out to make her own range of black dolls, each with a sumptuous Afro.
Everything changed when her uncle bought Widline and her sister a black doll to share, and now she’s determine to help other black girls learn to love their looks
She said: ‘I believe little girls seeing dolls that look just like them would help with the pressure of skin bleaching and the pressure to change their hair texture’
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, who spends up to a week designing the dolls and their clothing, has the outfits made up by a seamstress in Florida.
African and Haitian cultural designs
She takes inspiration from African and Haitian cultural designs, with each of the dolls wearing traditional dresses, and sells them online for an average of $30 (£23).
One of the playthings’ biggest fans is her niece, who loves it when her aunt gives her one as a present.
She spends around a week designing the dolls and their clothing, taking inspiration from African and Haitian cultural designs, before selling them online for an average of $30 (£23)
Widline decided to start the project while training to become a social worker, as she became more aware of concepts like self-care and self-love
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.’
Although Widline’s dolls are already very personal, she hopes to build on that by making bespoke dolls for her clients.
She said: ‘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 colours, clothing and hair texture.
‘I want them to finally feel visible, comfortable and unique.’