Meet Yelitsa Jean-Charles, the founder and CEO of Healthy Roots Dolls, a toy company that manufactures Black and brown dolls with genuine curly hair that can be treated in a variety of ways. Yelitsa hopes that the toys will teach Black youngsters about the beauty of their natural hair and how to embrace it.
Yelitsa admitted that she was self-conscious about her natural hair as a child. She even had damaged hair as a result of her extensive usage of chemical treatments. She thought she wanted to teach the next generation of young Black females learn to embrace their own gorgeous characteristics until she eventually came to love herself. That’s what drove her to make dolls that resembled them.
Yelitsa, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate with a BFA in Illustration and an emphasis in Race and Gender, created a doll inspired by Rapunzel as a Black girl with gorgeous kinky hair for a college class assignment.
She spent nearly 5 years constructing the doll and garnering funds through a Kickstarter campaign. Yelitsa was finally able to officially establish her company in 2019 thanks to a grant she got.
Healthy Roots Dolls now contains four dolls with various face characteristics, skin tones, and natural hair that can be washed, detangled, and styled completely. Aside from the dolls, they also sell booklets with illustrated instructions on how to accomplish natural hairstyles.
“My whole purpose in life is to do work for the next generation,” she told Women’s Health Magazine. “As long as I’m teaching kids to value themselves, put themselves first, and advocate for themselves… If I can do that by just making them feel powerful and love themselves with a toy, then I’m doing my job.”