Playing with dolls was a way of life for me as a little girl. Running, jumping, getting dirty was the foundation for my being. I considered myself the ultimate tomboy, except when it came to my dolls. Barbie ruled my imaginary world and taught me many lessons.
Barbie had her own dream house, townhouse, Corvette, horse, and restaurant. She was every woman, literally. No one would ever be able to call her lethargic. If they did, they were lying. Barbie was President, an astronaut, a school teacher, owned her own McDonald’s, and had a fabulous wardrobe before Carrie Bradshaw even knew of Manolo’s existence. Some people try to talk about her affecting body image, but even as a kid, I knew she was just a doll. There was no reason to ever want my body to look like hers. In my mind, your body would look like your moms when you grew up. I just wanted a life of possibilities like Barbie.
Dolls taught me my first lesson about color. When I would run errands with my dad, he would let me and my brother hang out in the toy aisle. He would then go on to look for whatever had brought him to the store that day. It was the eighties and you could leave your kid in the toy section unattended without worry of them being kidnapped or molested.
I remember black dolls were never on the shelf, at least not where we lived. You always had to ask a salesperson to go in the back and get the black doll. Keep in mind, I played with white dolls too, but sometimes I just wanted one that looked like me. It was a roll of the dice, many times the salesperson would come back empty handed. The more helpful associates would offer to special order it for their next shipment. One day, I asked why they could not just have the black dolls out on the shelves with the white ones. The associate told me that the black dolls were not wanted as much. My heart was broken, but my parents eventually found me the black Pretty n’ Pink Barbie.
Fast forward thirty plus years later and I am reading an article about actress Thandie Newton calling out the beauty store Boots for its limited access to beauty products for darker women of color. I know I struggled for many years to find foundations and powders in my shading up until the late nineties. I also had to be prepared to spend more money, but I was able to find it. Having never been to Europe, I cannot offer intelligent commentary on the state of makeup for women of color across the pond. What I do know, successful businesses try to make as much money as they can. If you speak up, organize, contact their corporate headquarters and let your dollars be heard, they will pay attention. Those whom do not respond to the needs of their clients will see their competitors race past them.
It took many years for toy manufacturers to get better. Now you can walk into a toy aisle and see African-American, Asian, Latina, and mixed race dolls on the shelves. Companies are creating dolls with different hair textures and facial features, because parents spoke up and let toy companies know they needed to be more inclusive. There is also more and more competition, so alienating possible clients makes little sense. Are they going to get every shade, absolutely not, but ignoring an entire group of people makes little sense.
I have been wearing makeup in some form since 18. Individuals whom use it will probably do so in some form for the rest of their lives, that is a lot of cash to leave on the table. If Boots is not in the business of making as much money as possible and creating new customers in an already competitive market, another company will gladly pick up the ball they are so clearly dropping. I guess the executive officers of Boots should have played with more dolls, so they could evolve with the times.