Yelitsa Jean-Charles is the 28-year-old CEO and founder of Healthy Roots Dolls, a company that makes beautiful Black dolls with natural hair so that young girls can see themselves and learn to love their curls. And recently, she's been going viral for sharing an absolutely joyful reaction clip of a little girl finally meeting a doll that looks like her.
In the video which has been viewed more than two million times on TikTok, a little girl is sitting in the car with her eyes closed. When she opens her eyes and sees the doll, she's immediately in love.
The little girl squeals in delight and says, "Oh my god, oh my god. My doll, it came! So pretty!!" And you only have to look at her face to see how much it means to her to finally have a doll that looks like her. In the captions, Yelitsa writes, "Best reaction ever. I cry every time I see girls fall in love with my dolls."
And in the comments, people are screaming, crying, freaking out about this little girl's incredible moment.
I was super curious about Healthy Roots Dolls and the woman behind it, so I reached out to Yelitsa Jean-Charles. She told me more about how she started her company and created the first line of Black dolls with washable and styleable natural hair.
Yelitsa got inspired to start her company while she was an undergrad at the Rhode Island School of Design. "I was assigned a project to redesign a fairytale character. I chose Rapunzel and reimagined her as a little Black girl with beautiful natural hair so that I could show little Black girls that they can be princesses too! My classmates said the project looked like a doll, and after talking to my peers on Facebook, I found that many of us never had dolls that looked like us or had hair like us."
"After doing some research, I learned that toys influence how kids think, act and see themselves. When little girls can’t find dolls that look like them, it negatively impacts their self-esteem. So that’s why I created the Curlfriends (Zoe, Gaïana and Marisol): the first Healthy Roots Dolls and the first dolls with natural hair that you can wash and style. We call it their curl power."
"I never had a doll that looked like me growing up and it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I learned to love my natural hair. Because of this experience, I wanted to work in children’s media to create the representation I didn’t have growing up. I want to teach all Black girls to love their healthy roots."
She also wants to encourage other women entrepreneurs to ignore negative self-talk and share their stories. "My entire journey building Healthy Roots Dolls started online with telling my story. I showed people my sketches, raised funds, asked people to vote for me in pitch competitions, and shared my challenges while asking for help."
"It’s not overnight. You build an audience by putting yourself out there while learning how to tell a really great story. Post the content, talk to people, and find your people."
BET / Via giphy.com
The Healthy Roots line started with the Zoe doll, and Yelitsa is proud that she was recently able to introduce two new dolls to expand her brand. "We launched two new curlfriends, Gaïana and Marisol, with different facial features, hair textures, and skin tones to help even more kids see themselves on shelves. It’s taken us awhile to build out this line of dolls, but we’re only going up from here."
You can keep up with Yelitsa on TikTok, and follow Healthy Roots Dolls on Instagram and TikTok.
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