Once upon a time there was a brown girl with short curly hair and big black eyes. What she distinctly heard from outsiders growing up was, avoid the sun so she can maintain her brown, was constantly told she was too skinny and to eat more food to put on weight. Her curls were considered a mess and with her big eyes she dreamt of a society free of prejudice where everyone went about their own business.
Hello, my name is Sunaina Somu Divakar and I am that little girl. My very first toy
was a plastic blonde haired white doll. There were no brown dolls that were easy to find in the 1980s in India or the Middle East where I was raised. This doll was special, she sat through cake cuttings and was taken on travels.
As young as 10 years old I was fascinated with how to drape a sari and the only Barbie I wanted was the “Indian Barbie”. This doll wore a beautiful yellow sari with a pink blouse and funny enough though she was “Indian”, once again she was a white doll with blonde hair.
Every hair commercial I watched, showed girls with curly hair like mine that would transform to become straight, shiny and beautiful. Fairness creams showed girls who were of darker complexion, after applying the
product would then become 5 shades fairer, and turn into confident young women.
It was a blessing to grow up in a household that didn’t conform to society’s standard of beauty, kept communication open, encouraged me to dream and pursue a career of my choice. At 22, I got selected to become cabin crew with Singapore Airlines.
Moving to Singapore was life changing in the best possible way. But I came across a lot of girls/women who avoided the sun, straightened their hair and remained as thin as they possibly could.
The ones that caught my attention were the ones that accepted themselves. Confident and happy girls were truly the prettiest.
I moved back to India and almost a decade later I started a family of my own. Very little had changed when it came to giving advice/ comments and plenty came my way about the way I looked during my pregnancy or how my unborn child was going to look.
It was the year 2020, my son was 3 months old when we were in the middle of
a global pandemic. I found myself at a very low point in my life. I loved my
baby but I wanted more than be a new mom. I knew I wanted to work in the
“children space”. I noticed how much was said about children in front of them
and recalled how it made me feel listening to adults speak about my weight,
my hair and colour. I wanted to help children understand what really matters
and how to cope with the things they heard about themselves.
Some of my fondest childhood memories had my friends in them. I wanted to create a brand where I could incorporate lessons on self-love and introduce affirmations to children early. And so, I started doing some research and was shocked to find most toy stores in India still had more white dolls than brown. I decided this was the space I wanted to step into - create handmade linen dolls that would come in 2 shades of brown, be eco-friendly and best friends.
The dolls went through many face shapes, hair styles, body shapes, fabric shades, stuffing materials, hair colours, and smiles and I finally narrowed it down to 4 dolls.
As a part of the sustainability initiative I wanted children to spend time with their dolls and use their imagination and creativity to colour, dress or style their dolls hair to their liking. And so, I put together an experience box.Our dolls come in a delightful gift box with:
- A colouring page
- A cotton backpack with affirmations on them
- A passport with the dolls story and a friendship certificate
- A set of removable/ interchangeable clothes, accessories and an
Since the beginning of 2022 I have been on a mission to show children Every
Shade Of Brown Deserves A Crown. I look forward to put India on the map for
creating eco-friendly brown dolls of heirloom quality. I know when children see
themselves represented positively it can boost their confidence, increase self-
esteem and self worth.
From a skinny brown curly haired girl who didn’t feel represented or fit into
society’s standard of pretty, I am here to show you why representation matters
and let children know it's not what others think of them that matters, its what
they think of themselves that really matters.
Sunaina Somu Divakar
Founder, Wild Little Society