Karen Byrd’s Natural Girls United Dolls Feature an array of skin tones and hair textures
There’s a new girl in town and she’s vying to give Barbie some competition. Natural Girls United dolls feature an array of skin tones and hair textures. Thanks to founder Karen Byrd, girls all over the world can find a doll that look like them, whether they have a deep mahogany complexion and curly locks or are an amber hue with a frizzy fro, the options are plentiful. I recently caught up with the doll designer to talk about her collection and get intel on her mission—one doll at a time.
“It’s important for little girls to have a doll that looks like them, has hair like theirs or reminds them of someone they can relate to.”
What inspired you to create Natural Girls United dolls? There is a lack of ethnic dolls in stores worldwide. That has been a problem that has existed for quite a while. I initially started working on dolls as a hobby. After sharing my work, I received a positive response and the request grew from there. I am just hopeful that I am helping a little to solve the problem of there not being culturally diverse dolls available for little girls.
Why do you believe it is important for little girls to have dolls that look like them? It’s important because when we are young, we look to images around us to help define who we are. I think it’s important for little girls to have a doll that looks like them, has hair like theirs or reminds them of someone they can relate to.
“As an artist, I just love being creative. It’s just a process of trying new things, being creative and having fun with the craft you enjoy.”
How did you get started in the craft of doll making? I’ve loved dolls my whole life—from playing with them as a kid, to having a small doll collection, to buying them for my daughters. As an artist, I just love being creative. It’s just a process of trying new things, being creative and having fun with the craft you enjoy.
What was the first doll you created? I believe it was a doll with an afro.
How many doll hairstyles are in your collection and what was your most favorite to create? There are 28 hairstyles offered on the website. But I try to think of new hairstyles to add all the time. I enjoy working on all of the different styles. I do seem to feel very relaxed when doing the braided hairstyles. Maybe because I have been braiding hair my whole life.
How do you come up with new doll designs? I try to think of what the hair texture and style reminds me of or what it was inspired by.
Which doll(s) is the most popular? The most popular style changes with time. First it was the afro doll and then it was the locs doll. Most recently the kinky faux-twist and the braid out hairstyle has been pretty popular.
You also offer doll fashions and accessories. Do you design and create these yourself? I purchase my handmade clothing from some of my favorite doll clothing designers. For accessories—I love to shop. I am always looking for cute shoes or clothing to add to the website.
If given a mission to design a doll in honor of anyone past or present, real or fictional, who would it be? Michelle Obama. She is an amazing woman and an inspiration to a lot of people.
You offer customization services, how long does it take and what is the price range for these services?
I do offer custom hairstyles. The wait depends on the time of the year. Right now, the turnaround time would be a couple of weeks, but closer to the holidays it could be a couple of months. Because of this, I also try to offer dolls that are ready to ship, for people who don’t want to wait.
What is next for Natural Girls United? The goal is to continue to grow. Right now, all of the dolls hair is customized by hand. It would be great to be able to go into manufacturing a doll line that can be sold in toy and department stores.
Image source: Natural Girls United