'Black Barbie' is a very important campaign not only because it is personal to me, but because it empowers women of colour around the world.
The concept and idea for the shoot had been lingering in my mind for a while, in fact for a few months until I finally decided to take a shot and go for it as I believed this is the representation young black girls needed and I also needed to express the deeper parts of myself.
The campaign is about reconnecting with your childhood and believing in yourself, especially as a woman of colour. It highlights the importance of self-belief, which enables you to view yourself as the role model that you always wanted to have as a child and to become that person to someone else younger than yourself.
I remember my own childhood, the timeline of my early years and how I felt growing up as an African child in London where I did not have a sense of belonging. I recall how my African peers and I did not feel permitted to be ourselves as our culture wasn’t viewed as important or 'cool'. Reflecting back on these moments, I now remember and understand that it was due to the fact that I hardly had any role models in the African Diaspora to look up to, which made me feel inferior.
There were many successful people around me, but there were hardly any successful people from my race, even finding a Barbie doll in my skin tone was quite a task. Unconsciously, this gave me a feeling that I was not good enough, that I was not allowed to have high aspirations for coming out of low-income background.
There is an intergenerational stigma in the black community associated with beauty ideals and the images of power and money to be a rarity. I believe this has a huge impact on the subconscious mind of black youngsters both male and female as well as adults across the world. This results in them not feeling good enough or worthy amazing achievements in various institutions; schools, universities and working environments which are predominantly white and middle class in nature. For example prior to going into full-time entrepreneurship with Daolondon I worked for an amazing company that inspired me in many ways and encouraged my growth as an employee. Even though there was no discrimination towards me, I always noticed I was one of two black people in the entire company and at times I felt as though I had to tone down my ‘blackness’ in order to fit in.
As black African youngsters in the diaspora hardly see role models who look like them in their natural state, I believe it has a direct influence on their desires to change how they look, dress and behave. Daolondon wants to change this narrative through fashion, starting with females, by creating campaigns which feature black girls as role models that young people can relate to. This should encourage them to aim for the skies whilst chasing their dreams.
During my teenage years I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and family who have been supportive of me on chasing my dream, which has helped me build my self-confidence; an objective of the Daolondon Foundation. Without their support and enthusiasm I would have never considered turning my passion for fashion into my dream of being a fashion designer and building my own brand, Daolondon.
However, this is not the case for many other black girls, so through this campaign we want to encourage young black females to reflect on their own childhood, reflecting on questions like - What was the relationship with my inner child like? Do you feel like you have to tone down your 'blackness' in certain environments and why?
Daolondon's Black Barbie campaign tells the story of a young girl – Christina – who is playing dress up with her dolls and realises that the beauty she sees, the doll, is not the beauty she sees in herself. She begins to search for a doll in her image that she can relate to but she does not succeed. She doesn't find any doll with the same skin colour as hers, the same clothes or similar hair. Therefore she decides to draw her own doll, after which she becomes tired and falls asleep at the table. Similar to the godmother concept in Cinderella, it is in this moment that the magic starts.
As soon as Christina wakes up, she finds that there is a life-size Barbie doll in her room similar to the one she drew the night before. A black Barbie, dressed in an African skirt that represents her culture. Curiously she decides to take a closer look only to realise that the doll looks back at her, she is alive!
Excited about the fact that her doll became reality it boosts her confidence and she begins to play all sorts of games and activities with her new friend which she would never have done on her own. The fact that she has someone as a role model is enough for her to push her boundaries and discover her true potential.
We are well aware of the fact that everyone is different and that's why we created different Barbies, which all have individual personalities, characteristics and appearances like different skin tones and hair textures. We want everyone to be able to identify with at least one of the dolls so that every girl knows she can achieve anything, as long as she believes in it and works hard for it.
Be your own role model
With our campaign we want to emphasise, once again, how important it is to be represented in society, and that is why we want everyone, irrespective of age, race, gender or descent, to have someone to look up to, with whom they can identify with.
We also want to tell young women that they can and must take care of this task. They are the role models for our next generation and they should carry this responsibility with pride.
Together with Daolondon, they can be an example for our children by following their dreams and representing their African roots with pride, with our Kente Tulle skirt, which is now available on our website.
Hold the hand of the child that lives in your soul. For this child, nothing is impossible. – Paulo Coelho