Children of colour can now have dolls that look like them, thanks to a Caribbean-born and Camps Bay-based international model and founder of Malaville dolls, Mala Bryan.
Being an observant person and a passionate doll collector, Ms Bryan struggled to find more black dolls with afro hair to add to her collection.
She realised that she had to do something about it.
It started in 2016 when she introduced her first dolls Malina, Maisha, Mala and Mhina.
The aim was to have more representation in the doll market as far as skin tone, hair texture and eye colour were concerned.
“I felt that it was very important for children to see beautiful dolls that they can somehow relate to. The message was to have these children to love and appreciate dolls with darker skin colours and the beautiful textures of afro and curly hair,” said Ms Bryan.
Inspired by life itself, Ms Bryan said she believes she has answered her calling. She said she does her best to make small changes that she knows could make a huge impact.
She said dolls played a vital role in building children’s self-esteem, which is why she designed the dolls with no make-up and with different curl types, from supercoils to big curls. “Dolls can change the world in many different ways, they’re used as therapy for healing and some children solve lots of their issues by using their dolls,” she said.
Last year saw the launch of the world’s very first albino doll, Alexa.
Ms Bryan said she always knew that representation matters and was very important in the doll world, but the introduction of Alexa was a reminder of its importance. “Lots of adults with albinism for the first time in their lives finally getting to see a doll that looks like them made me realise just how important it was to have proper representation in the doll world. Although that has always been my goal, there are just moments where you get reminded about the importance of it and creating Alexa was my reminder,” she said.
Touching on one of her life-defining moments, Ms Bryan recalled a conference she recently attended hosted by the National Organisation of Albinism and Hypopigmentation in the United States, where she had to talk about Alexa and why she created her.
“Just being in the presence of hundreds of people with albinism and being in their space was an emotional experience, and then having to talk to them about creating Alexa and why she was so important to me and the world made that a life-changing moment for me. Being told thank you over and over again made me realise how important the work I am doing is,” she said.