Doll program founder spreads message of inclusion, empowers BIPOC children

TACOMA, Wash. — A woman is spreading the message of inclusion through her doll program that has a global reach.

KIRO 7′s Tracey Leong explains why Black Doll Affair founder Dana Hill wanted to open a doll house here in Western Washington.

Hill’s impressive collection of dolls comes with a philanthropic purpose.

“Dolls are more than toys, they reflect who we are, period. Kids, their first conversation about self is with a doll, so we can’t negate the importance of a doll,” Hill said.

She started The Black Doll Affair in 2007 after seeing similar results from the 1940s “doll test” play out decades later. The test was a psychological experiment where Black children still identified a Black doll as bad or least preferred.

“We see through the doll test how important it is. That test gave us an idea of where our children were in terms of their self-esteem,” she said.

Hill, also known as Mama Doll, invites women around the world to join the self-esteem movement.

“I ask women Black women, white women, Asian women, women of all races to become the Black doll. And the Black doll is someone who doesn’t have a voice, someone who isn’t seen, someone who is not the most popular doll, someone who is not chosen,” she told KIRO 7.

To become a Black Doll, there are no membership fees — just buy a doll tee and bring a doll to donate at official affairs. This is known as their “Be a doll, give a doll” program they’ve collectively given out more than a million Black dolls — a mission to remind girls that Black is beautiful.

“‘Love hue’, that’s our trademark slogan; love HUE. You’ve got to learn how to love the doll in the mirror,” Hill said.

An official partner of Barbie, Hill consults the company on inclusion. In 2020, Hill was selected to advise their designers, which then resulted in a conversation about race between Black and White Barbie.

Bringing this mission to the Pacific Northwest Hills’ plans to open a Dollhouse in Tacoma have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

“I just felt like this area really needed some support in terms of poverty, and the opportunity for diversity and reaching women and girls where they are at,” she said.

Continuing her outreach online, Hill started Self-Esteem Saturdays to coincide with the start of the school year.

“We teach our girls how to use their voices, how to feel empowered, because they are kept back because of how they look, because of the skin they are in,” Hill said. “What we see is that kids want to fit in because they don’t want to stand out. And what we want to teach kids is ... stand out, and if you fit in, great; and if you don’t, form a new line.”