Woman creates custom crocheted dolls in 21 different skin tones: ‘It’s important for Black people to know that they are represented’

Doll maker Tammy Blunte knows firsthand how important it is for children — and even adults — to see themselves represented in dolls.

Growing up in Trinidad in the ’80s and ’90s, Blunte tells Yahoo Life, she had Cabbage Patch dolls and white Barbies, “but I could never find one that looked like me.” She adds, “It was pretty much difficult to find a Black doll. And if you [did] find a Black doll, it was never with an Afrocentric type of hairstyle. It was never the right skin tone. The representation was not there.”

This inspired her to start TammyBCreations where she makes handmade crochet dolls that reflect Black and brown little boys and girls. Making sure that her dolls have a wide range of skin tones was important to Blunte. When customers order a custom Tammy B Creations doll, there are 21 different skin tones — “I try to match as close to your skin tone as possible,” she says — and about 10 different hairstyles to choose from.

Blunte shares that she’s received many heartwarming videos of kids who are thrilled with their custom dolls and that “this is what keeps me going.” She sees the dolls as something that can help give kids “confidence and boost their spirits and be like, ‘Wow, I’m beautiful.’”

Having a doll that looks like them is a “special gift,” says Blunte. “To say that, ‘Okay, this doll has my skin color and it looks like me,’ those are the words — ‘just like me’ — that I love hearing.”

She adds: “I need people to understand that having something to make them feel happy and proud, it can really do a lot for little girls and boys, even for adults to see that.”

Video Transcript

- I think it is amazing to give someone this special gift. Say that, OK, this doll has my skin color, and it looks like me. Those are the words, just like me, that I love hearing. My name is Tomika [INAUDIBLE] I create and make crocheted dolls and fabric dolls.

I grew up in the Caribbean. I'm from Trinidad. I grew up collecting dolls but I can never find one that look like me. I had Cabbage Patch dolls, I had a lot of white Barbies, and if you do find a Black doll it was never with an Afro centric type of hairstyle. It was never the right skin tone. The representation was not there.

I would have loved to have a mini me growing up. We have learned to sew and crochet from a very young age. In 2014 I started making my first crochet dolls. I wanted a doll that matched the features of someone.

I started showing my work on Instagram. A lot of people were like, I have never seen anything like this. This is beautiful. I would like to have one of myself. I would like to have one for my daughter. Where were these things when I was growing up?

And this is where the birth of Tammy B creations came about. By myself I crochet these dolls. It's going to take anywhere up to four to six weeks to complete a doll. You can select among 21 different skin tones. White skin tones all the way to dark skin tones. I have about 10 different hairstyles and the bonus is you can submit a picture, and I can recreate the picture for you.

I try to match the clothing and the hairstyles. If you're wearing glasses. And sometimes I do get special requests for dolls that have like hearing aids. Let's say you have a birthmark, I try to incorporate these birthmarks into the dolls.

I want my dolls to reach homes that a little girl doesn't have anything to look like her. This doll has dimples. I try to put in the sister locks. So she's going to be like this is me. This is my doll. This is mini me.

- I love it!

- She made it look like you.

- She got earrings of pearl!

- Yeah!

- I love her and I love you.

- The reaction of them, this is what keeps me going and keeps me wanting to continue this business. Because they are in love with their dolls. Something that's going to give them confidence and boost their spirits and be like, wow, I'm beautiful. This doll is beautiful, so I'm beautiful too.

Kids are very imaginative. They pretend a lot with their dolls. So let's say a child has a doll that looks like them. They can pretend that this child can be anything. Every doll I send now, and I'm like, I hope it's perfect.

I'm hoping that big businesses see that this is something that's greatly needed. It's important for Black people to know that they are represented and that Black dolls need to be important as other skin tone colored dolls. I want to incorporate different types of cultures, because we are much bigger and much larger than our skin. We have so many things going for us, and if I can bring about any little quality of what something great a Black person can do in my dolls, I'm going to do it.