BROCKTON (CBS) – Widline Pyrame is a woman on a mission.
“We’re trying to preach that representation matters,” says the 33-year-old.
Her journey to a booming kiosk business at the Westgate Mall in Brockton began long ago, when, as a young girl growing up in Haiti, Widline realized every doll she owned was white.
”We didn’t have dolls like that look like us,” she told WBZ-TV, noting that all of her dolls were Caucasian.
“And I always wanted my hair to be straight. I even managed to perm my hair when I was younger, just because I felt like when your hair is straight, you are cuter.”
She carried that baggage with her when her family moved to the states in her teen years, and all the way through graduate school. It was there, studying social work, that Widline learned about the famous Clark Doll Test, a psychology experiment from the 1940s in which two married black researchers, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, determined that white and Black children both assigned positive attributes to white dolls and negative ones to Black dolls.
Widline decided she wanted to help change those perceptions. “I said to myself, I want to really bring diverse dolls in the community.”
Soon, she founded Fusion Dolls, offering a diverse array of dolls with a variety of skin tones and hair types.
“One thing that’s so important is you can actually do their hair,” Widline notes. “You can braid it, you can twist it, you can wash it.”
Each doll comes with its own story of empowerment for young children. Angel, for instance, is a Black doll who at first didn’t like her hair but grew to love it.
And Fusion is now booming. Widline has sold more than 2,000 dolls and has made enough money to hire a small staff. She has opened two kiosks at the Westgate Mall and plans to soon open an entire store there.
“It was so exciting for me when I get to meet the kids and see their faces when they see our dolls,” she said. “A little girl, her mom had gotten a doll from me for her birthday, and she came back to me and then said, ‘Thank you so much for creating a doll that looked like me,’ and she gave me a hug. And honestly, that made my day.”
You can find Widline’s kiosks near the Popeye’s entrance at the Westgate Mall or order a doll directly from her website: fusiondolls.com.