Model Mala Bryan on creating the Imani and Alexa dolls

PHOTO: malabryan/Instagram
PHOTO: malabryan/Instagram

Growing up how often did you see a black doll? Or if you were lucky enough to spot one, was it accurate to the hair texture and eye colour?

No? Well we didn’t think so but oh how the times have changed. Thanks to innovators like model Mala Bryan, our doll shelves have more variety and a representative accuracy to them.  

The doll collector spoke to us about her Malaville dolls and the latest addition, Alexa the albino doll.

Mala invested a lot of time in market research as a doll collector and saw what people wanted, and also what was missing from the black dolls on the market.

“I joined quite a few adult doll collector groups and any time dolls came out, people would ask questions like, 'But where are the black dolls?' and asking if they could get black dolls with black people’s actual natural hair,” she says. “Parents were talking about how they needed to colour in their children’s brown dolls' eyes because they were green and purple instead of brown.”

This prompted Mala to more investigation among not just adult collectors but also children. She noticed that parents were now making their kids more aware of racial differences and it all made sense to her what she needed to do.

She saw the gap and filled the need

Mala created her first four dolls, which were in four different shades. The four shades were an experiment and she got some backlash for her dark-skinned doll because people didn’t believe anyone was that dark.

“My darkest doll got a lot of negative reviews because she was too dark and that was two years ago before super-dark girls were in style. And so they bashed her and said nobody is that dark, and I responded to that comment on social media and it went viral – and people were buying her like crazy.”

Mala did not expect the overwhelming reception of her dolls at all. She knew that they would be great as a side project but never expected them to be this big.

“I wasn’t ready. I just really needed one for my collection and I decided I'd make more to sell, and I woke up one day and my dolls went viral. I promise you, I have no PR agency but they did it. I didn’t do anything, they did it,” she gushed.

The latest addition to the Malaville family

Mala is all about representation of all people, not just black people. She says she doesn’t only want black kids to have black dolls, but that white kids also need to have black dolls that will represent, hopefully, a friend of theirs and vice versa.

That is why she created the Alexa doll that is an albino.

“Alexa is very important to be inclusive. Imagine, little girls with albinism have no dolls. Parents have to buy them white dolls, but they aren’t white and they don’t have that afro and curly hair.”

Alexa is the doll that not only represents those with albinism but also brings awareness to the things that people with albinism suffer in Africa. A lot of people are not aware of these things and what better way than to use this platform to create awareness for different causes.