After attempting to make her own hair straight as a child – which caused it to fall out – Widline Pyrame realised she had to do something.
Painfully self-conscious about her dark skin and frizzy hair, a woman whose botched childhood attempt to straighten her curls made them all fall out has told how she now makes afro dolls to empower little girls to love their looks.
Loathing her appearance and with only sleek-haired, pale skinned dolls in the toy shops, social worker Widline Pyrame, 30, of Boston, Massachusets, USA, was nine when – feeling black girls had no toys to represent them – she had a DIY disaster with her mum’s hair relaxing products.
Widline, who grew-up on Haiti, in the Caribbean, said: “I struggled with my self-esteem and confidence as a child.”
She continued: “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 mum’s products all over my hair, hoping that it would be silky smooth. Instead it all fell out, and my mum was furious!”
A big change came when Widline was given a special gift to share with her sister, Youselord, 32, by her uncle.
She recalled: “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.”
Moving from Haiti to the USA in 2002, aged 14, as Widline grew-up she fulfilled her dream of training to be a social worker.
As she learned her craft, 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, with sumptuous afro curls.
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.”
She added: “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 by taking inspiration from African and Haitian cultural designs, then has them made-up by a seamstress in Florida.
Charging on average £23 for each doll, which she sells online, she makes them so that they reflect black history and wear traditional dresses.
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