There's nothing I love more than 'Adulting'.
Growing up on the Texas coast, all I ever wanted in life was to leave my home island and carve out a little space of my own in a big, bustling city. After years of city life aka grappling with under-employment, scrapping together 98 cents for Ramen, and mental exhaustion, Fortune wrapped her mighty arms around me, her warmth emanating from deep within the heart of Austin, Texas.
And as much as I love this musical, culturally shifting city, overwhelming urges to venture back to my island home and the childhood memories she holds strike me. Yes, sometimes I need a freakin' doll, y'all. Seriously, Toy Blast isn't enough, and if you don't know what Toy Blast is, you're probably better at adulting than I am.
In those moments when life is not fun or exciting or is just downright painful, I want to braid my doll's hair and practice new styles on her before I try them on myself. I want to dress her in clothes that I'll never ever wear because I don't want to show out like that. And, sometimes... I just miss being a kid.
Which is why seeing vitiligo dolls made my heart swell in my throat. Even though I do not have the disease that causes the skin to lose its pigmentation in splotches, I lift up those that do live with it by following social media mavens and supermodels and creatives and by watching these powerful people live their lives and do their thang.
From Black to Vitiligo: Beauty revealed and revered
Several months ago, my colleague Cristina wrote an empowering listicle featuring 10 companies that make Black dolls and I nearly lost it because OMGoodness there are people in the world making black and brown and caramel dolls for children. I mean... is the world actually representin' my people to the little people?! Where do we go from here?
PopSugar.com's Perri Konecky must have heard my question floating in the ether, only to answer it with a 'Hold my portable hard drive."
Yes, she did compile stunning Instagram visuals of Dolls with Vitiligo. Yes, I did freak out. Yes, I am going to buy a customizable doll for myself this holiday season because I deserve happiness (money cannot buy happiness, but it definitely will buy me this flippin' awesome porcelain doll and you cannot and will not stop me).
Seeing this beautiful doll, her vitiligo painted to present the continent of Africa to the beholder, made me feel like I had seen something innovative, powerful, and groundbreaking. And maybe you've seen Kay Black's dolls on IG on her feed @kaycustoms, but I'm just now showing up to the party and I am ready to revel in the magical blackness that is the vitiligo doll.
Why? It is most likely because these dolls have stirred a sense of longing, of nostalgia in me that I did not know was there.
Author Milan Kundera describes what I have been feeling in his best-selling novel Ignorance:
"...she was captivated by images suddenly welling up from books read long ago, from films, from her own memory; ...the family homestead we all carry about within us; ...the rediscovered trail still marked by the forgotten footprints of childhood; ...the return, the return, the great magic of return." -Milan Kundera
Yes, since seeing the mark of Africa on this doll's face, I have wanted to go home to my mother and revel in our memories of the hometown she raised me in, my community, my 'hood. My toes want to dig themselves as deep as they can into the beach sands. My tongue wants the salt in the air to make my lips pucker so I can quench my thirst with water, a cold fruit cup, and a dill pickle.
Beyond me and the feelings this physical artifact plucked from my quiet thoughts, the doll's face made me think of all the little girls and boys out there who have never seen their dark and light skin represented on their toys. They have something that may help them feel less alone, safe in the dark, understood when nothing in the adult world makes sense, and I just love that. They have a face to be nostalgic for when they grow up and learn how adulting can be just as revelatory and lonely and terrifying as being a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kid who's not quite sure what kindergarten will be like, but is determined not to cry in front of momma.
Yes, I am a full-grown woman who loves these beautiful Vitiligo dolls, painted by Kay Black. They have inspired me to get a customized doll for the child in me that sometimes still needs something to hold onto.
Will you gift to yourself one of these customizable dolls? Are you gifting one to a friend or family member?
When you get yours, tag #kaycustomz in your IG photo because I want to see!