https://thefreshdolls.com/ ( https://bit.ly/3D4YQdd )
There are a lot of moving parts to Dr. Lisa Williams’ company
World of EPI (Entertainment, Publishing, and Inspiration) which produces the Positively Perfect Dolls ( https://bit.ly/3o4BWOG ), The Fresh Dolls ( https://bit.ly/3o3N52n ), The Fresh Squad ( https://bit.ly/3D8mJR9 , https://bit.ly/3E7mDu9 ), and the toy clothing line ( https://bit.ly/3FWp8QA).
At the risk of hyperbole Williams’ World of EPI is much more than it appears on the surface. These beautifully crafted dolls and action figures are part of Artistic Activism. Let’s push into the definition of Artistic Activism — which is described as a dynamic practice combining the creative power of the arts to move us emotionally with the strategic planning of activism necessary to bring about social change. Art and activism do different work in the world like shattering stereotypes and educating with a dynamic purpose.
That’s what Dr. Lisa Williams is doing, standing outside of trends, working smart, and following the motivations from her heart because she believes that EVERY child should see their beauty reflected during playtime. Who amongst us didn’t grow up with dolls? It’s part of our collective history of playtime and no shade, most of us spent hours styling our dolls’ hair, planning their busy social itineraries, and in a way, seeing our future selves in these dolls.
Now — dear-fam[ily] most of the dolls of our childhood didn’t look anything like us. They didn’t reflect the diversity of our varied hue or the wonderfully diverse texture of our hair, nor did they share any of our other physical attitudes that God graced us with, like fuller lips, and hips.
Dr. Williams, a mother, and a former professor possess a unique ability to connect with people who feel voiceless. In creating these incredible dolls and action figures, she did so to honor the beauty and intelligence of multicultural children, and to support families in raising beautiful, confident children with unlimited possibilities.
Dr. Lisa is outspoken and passionate about the need for little girls, and boys of color to see themselves in a positive light. And please note the toy game is dominated by companies owned and operated by white people. This is big business, generating trillions of dollars, so for Dr. Williams to step into this lucrative market armed with a plan and unafraid to stare down the paradox introduces us to a new type of culture creator.
Above-and-beyond creating “toys” is in itself, an act of a revolutionary. It’s like “taking the knee” — the symbolic gesture against racism whereby an individual kneels upon one knee in place of standing to attention for an anthem or other such occasion which originated by American football player Colin Kaepernick (September 1, 2016); it’s like raising a black-gloved fist which was done, in 1968, by two African-American athletes (Tommie Smith and John Carlos) during the playing of the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” in protest against racism.
Her origin story is interesting, and like many before her, Dr. Williams or Dr. Lisa’s (as she’s affectionately known) didn’t start out with the idea of creating the Positively Perfect Dolls, The Fresh Dolls, and The Fresh Squad Dolls. Her area of expertise lies in teaching marketing and supply chain management as a tenured professor at an esteemed institution where she earned two multi-million dollar endowed chairs, and had written several business books and academic articles. Dr. Lisa had risen to the top of her profession and had no intention of leaving academia until she witnessed an update of the now-infamous doll study, or doll test, on television in 2009 or ’10.
Considering the era, with an African-American First Family living in the White House, and African-American celebrities covering magazines and starring in TV shows. The little girl’s answer broke her heart but instead of just shaking her head, and uttering tisk-tisk, Dr. Lisa did something about it.
As the author of Leading Beyond Excellence: Learn 7 Practical and Spiritual Steps to Spiral Yourself to the Top she took her own advice and answered her spiritual wake-up call which is to help children of colors to see themselves in a positive light.
Dr. Lisa stood up and did something about it and resigned from her tenured professorship, much to the shock of friends, and family who thought she was insane for striking out on her own and leaving a guaranteed salary. But Dr. Lisa was answering a higher calling and wrote a series of children’s books that were sold at Walmart and that success encouraged her to create dolls to accompany the books. The first World of EPI release was in 2009 with Positively Perfect Dolls, this is the line of baby dolls that represents the beauty of Black and Brown children, and where Dr. Lisa stressed authenticity in every level of her design. The Fresh Dolls followed in 2017, and have a
a myriad of skin tones, beautiful full lips, thighs, and butts, along with a realistic waistline.
Today, the World of EPI dolls can be found in the U.S., Australia, Dubai, and Switzerland and she’s growing closer to creating a #FreshMovement that inspires and uplifts Black and Brown children across the world.
Here’s what Dr. Lisa Williams (Dr. Lisa) ( https://bit.ly/3xCDiDo ) had to share about her World of EPI (Entertainment, Publishing, and Inspiration) which produces the Positively Perfect Dolls ( https://bit.ly/3o4BWOG ), The Fresh Dolls ( https://bit.ly/3o3N52n ), and The Fresh Squad journey.
Q: How did this all begin Dr. Lisa Williams? If feels that it started from a deep passion. Am I correct?
LW: Yes. I’ve always had the passion to inspire young people. In 2003, I formed the World of Entertainment, Publishing, and Inspiration (World of EPI) with the mission of spreading joy by providing children with dolls that inspire dreams, promote intelligence and build self-esteem.
Q: Self-esteem. Speak on it.
LW: (laughing) Building self-esteem is the cornerstone of all the work I do because low self-esteem can limit a child’s potential and have a negative impact on communities and society at large.
Q That’s true, a lot of sad stories begin with the lack of self-love, the lack of self-esteem which can be traced all the way back to our childhoods.
LW: One day while watching an updated doll study, I saw a beautiful little dark-skinned girl say she didn’t think the brown doll was pretty because its skin was nasty. She then touched her own hand indicating her skin was nasty, too. As my heart broke and tears flowed down my face, I said to myself, ‘I have to do something. This can’t happen on my watch.’
Q: Wow, this is still happening? Ok, in the 1930s, ’40’s, and ’50’s I get it but now?
LW: This program was in 2009 or 2010. We had an African-American Black Family living in the White House, and Black celebrities covering magazines and starring in TV shows.
LW: What was even more heartbreaking [was] why she picked the white doll.
Q: Let it go, the truth will set us free.
LW: This beautiful Black girl said because the brown doll’s skin was nasty, and then she touched her own hand to indicate that her skin was nasty. And that broke my heart. A generation of children can’t grow up not knowing their true beauty and brilliance.
Q: Say, less.
LW: At that moment, the World of EPI was born. I knew I had to create dolls for multicultural girls. To this day, every morning I wake with the vision of little girls playing on the floor, and I’m driven to create dolls, accessories, and items that honor them.
Q: What was important about addressing Caucasian features that are part of the doll culture, where white manufacturers just colored in those faces?
LW: You are correct. The dolls on the market have facial features that are basically Caucasian sculpt faces, and typically they have brown paint attached to it, and the brown paint wasn’t even authentic. It would either have too much red and it was ruddy, or too much pink and it was kind of orangey, or it would have too much grey and it looked kind of ashy. […] So there was nothing that was truly authentic, and nothing that I felt that was conscientious and meaningful, and, and, and purposeful.
Q: Speak on it. The design of your dolls and action figures are utterly different from the Caucasian faces we are used to. Shall I assume that’s by design?
LW: It is my design. I paid close attention to the face sculpts so they resembled real Black and Brown children, and the dolls possessed beautiful full lips and high cheeks and brown eyes and beautiful curly hair and braided hair, twisted hair. Plus, I was mindful of the message the dolls and “positive play” gave the children.
Q: You accomplished this and more.
LW: Thank you. I want them to be able to see that they can do anything and that they are powerful, beautiful, and brilliant.
Q: I am so in love with the clothing options for The Fresh Dolls. The physician’s white coat, the nurse’s uniform, the surgical scrubs, the teacher’s outfit, and finally, my personal favorite, the “president’s attire.”
LW: (laughing) Thank you. In released the Fresh Dolls in 2017, all
modeled after adult women. And when I looked at my body and I look at the bodies of Black and Brown women … that I see, we tend to have thicker thighs and thicker hair and thicker waists, and I could not in all consciousness create a doll that didn’t reflect that.
Q: Say less. You are dropping truth like a filled water glass on a shaky ship. Can we talk about the line of male action figures tho’?
LW: (laughing) Of course. Well, I introduced The Fresh Squad, a line of male dolls with 13 points of articulation in 2018. Until that point, there weren’t many 12-inch articulated male dolls available on the toy level. Like The Fresh Dolls, The Fresh Squad also represents the diverse real world.
Q: What I took away was how powerful I felt, looking at them. But what was your motivation in creating The Fresh Squad ( https://bit.ly/3p7JFLg ) ?
LW: Thank you, Lapacazo. Well, I wanted to portray Black men how I see them and I see them as powerful, as strong, as chivalrous, and handsome.
Q: True, that.
LW: And so our face — I think the face matters too, not just the sculpt — [so] I’ve spent a lot of time with each of our dolls making sure the sculpt is authentic and looks real, but also the facial hair. We have goatees on some of our dolls. We have braids on some of our dolls. … And then we got brown dolls that are bald. So we really try to focus on men of color, in this particular example, and making sure that they are portrayed like the men of color I know and [who] are in my life, not what I see kind of misportrayed.
Q: What I love is that your doll and action figures are also collectibles. In short, not just for kids.
LW: That’s exciting because young children are definitely fans of the Positively Perfect Dolls, but, it’s true, The Fresh Dolls and The Fresh Squad keep gaining the attention of adult doll collectors and enthusiasts.
Q: We are culture. What do you think attracts these collectors? What’s do you think the percentage is?
LW: Great question. I think they are attracted to The Fresh Dolls and The Fresh Squad’s articulation, fashion-forward streetwear, and hair textures because they allow for realistic play no matter the age of the storyteller. In terms of percentage, in terms of sales, The Fresh Dolls are either 50/50 children to adults or 60/40. The Fresh Squad is skewed more towards the adult collector. It’s the attention to detail and the authenticity that has made adults fans of The Fresh Collective.
Q: Fam[ily] looks at the collection and we see ourselves.
LW: Exactly. You can look at a doll and you can see if it’s authentic, you can see if it’s made by a person of color. You can look at my dolls, you can look at their faces and the way that they’re dressed, and say, ‘Yeah, that looks like something a Black woman [or man] would do.’
Q: Last question, Dr. Lisa Williams. Why the children’s market?
LW: Another, excellent question. I want to get to the children early. Before
society gets to put a stamp on them about who they are and what their aesthetic is, I want [them] to already see it. So they already know my dark brown, beautiful skin and full lips are gorgeous. They already know, so you can’t dissuade that. And I know that there are so many parents who are committed to that. I just want to be a part of a parenting toolkit. So as a parent is looking for what products, what book, ‘What can I do to show my child how amazing they are?’ I want them to be to say, ‘You know what, I can come to Dr. Lisa and The Fresh Dolls, and I can find something to support my parenting mission.’
Q: Dr. Lisa Williams you are a powerful Artistic Activism with style, passion, and purpose and I am here for it. ( https://bit.ly/3I4QZ2U )