Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Melanites Celebrating Brown Boyhood



Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Pierre, founder of Melanites, "Action Pals: that celebrate “brown boyhood.”  The interview transcript follows:

EEoDiB:  What inspired the creation of Melanites?

Jennifer:  I’m brown, and as a young girl I enjoyed playing with dolls. Yet growing up, it was next to impossible to find toys that looked like me. Many years later, the industry is finally starting to understand that we all don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes as seen by industry giants’ recent roll out of diverse dolls. But for the 7 million boys of color under the age of ten, not much has changed. This is where Melanites comes in.  Melanites designs diverse toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Our mission is to inspire children of color to dream big, stand tall, and live out their childhood.

Summer 2015, I was a mentor and volunteer at my local community center. After months of working with the kids in the program, I started to notice that many of the boys were not expressing their full potential and dreamed within a bubble. The messaging they received on a daily basis from various factors like TV and media did not provide positive affirmations about different possibilities for their future. I founded Melanites to celebrate them and change the internalized beliefs they were absorbing. My goal is to remind them that they can be whoever they wish, regardless of what society maps out for them.

Our society is a beautiful mix of different ethnicities, cultures, and personalities. Unfortunately, when a consumer ventures into toy stores or searches online, there aren’t many positive, educational, and diverse options available. Melanites is revolutionizing what it means to have toys and products for boys. We are challenging social norms about gender and diversity.

Melanites are articulated and can stand on their own.


EEoDiB:  Please describe the features:


Jennifer:
Height
  • Approximately 16 inches tall
Material from which they are made
  • Full vinyl body
Are they jointed (if so where)?
  • Articulated in the neck, shoulders, elbow, wrists, hips and knees.
Sturdiness of construct - will they withstand boy play?
  • Yes! We have spent months testing our action dolls in after school programs, playgrounds, and living rooms.

Is the hair molded or rooted with synthetic fibers?
  • Intent on creating a holistic play experience, Melanites decided to have textured wig hair.
Are the eyes inset or painted?
  • Inset eyes


EEoDiB:  What sets Melanites apart from other toys made for the target market; do you believe they are a first of their kind?

Jennifer:  Melanites is the only company currently in the market tackling gender stereotypes and diversity simultaneously. We are developing products that provide a space for the millions of children of color in the country who do not currently see themselves represented. Moving beyond just dolls, our future roll out of storybooks and apps will create an entire ecosystem that celebrates who they are.


Actual image of "Action Pal" Jaylen above design mage of entire Melanites crew.

Our launching toy product, Jaylen, is the new “Action Pal” that combines the emotional appeal of a doll with the novelty of an action figure. Intent on celebrating the diversity of our multicultural society, each Pal comes in diverse skin tones, facial features, and hair types. What makes Melanites especially unique is our development of characters and personalities behind the Action Pals. Our Action Pals are based on four characters who are nine-year-old boys with different personalities. They represent the “Thinker, Doer, Maker, and Performer” in all of us. Our accompanying storybooks and games follow the crew as they go on different adventures that highlight S.T.E.M. and the importance of staying true to yourself.


EEoDiB:  How can Melanites be purchased or preordered?

Jennifer:  Melanites can be pre-ordered starting February 28th through our crowdfunding link hosted by Indiegogo. We will be launching our first action doll Jaylen and potentially through stretch goals, our first storybook Jaylen and the High Five Machine.


Contact information, website, email, crowd-funding link

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Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing the inspiration for Melanites, details about the "Action Pals," and the preordering information through the crowdfunding link provided above and here.  Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black wishes you much success getting the Melanites crew into the hands of little people as well as adult collectors, who will be inspired by owning them.  

9 comments:

  1. This is an interesting project. I wouldn't have thought there was a market for boy's dolls in this size. I've known many who had male dolls but they were action figures in 1/6 scale with military gear. These dolls will take boys and girls on different adventures.

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    1. I think the idea is trending. AG recently revealed their first 18-inch doll, but of course their doll is white. A couple of other companies have released 18-inch boy dolls. I don't see it as just a boy's toy. I think the dolls can be enjoyed by anyone who loves dolls and by those, in particular, who love dolls of color.

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    2. You're right, it's an idea that's taking root. AG has one boy as does Carpatina but these are the only ones of color I think I've seen.

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  2. This is exciting! I will keep my eye on these. They are slightly smaller than my dollhouse compliment's current residents but maybe they will scale in properly. Can't wait to see!

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    1. Perhaps they can service as younger brothers for the current residents.
      :-)

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  3. I always find the topic of boys and dolls (or Action Pals as they are called here...why the euphemism?...rhetorical question I do understand why :)) of interest (obviously) and I think it's great that someone is working to address the issue of self confidence and identity through play. This separation of church and state when it comes to what boys are allowed to play with, action figures vs. girls play with, dolls when they are servicing the same need of moulding identity and classifying both gender and cultural stereotypes through an 'other'.

    It is when a child crosses these supposed unbreachable barriers that all hell breaks lose, because lord forbid a little girl identifies with Batman or Tonka trucks or a boy identifies with Barbie (more problematic I would argue as we see when we look at the recent example of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) or American Girl.

    I truly hope that it is dolls like this and the recent AG entry (despite the shallow multicultural pool he swims in) begin to open up options for boys growing up in this day and age, however it would be nice to also see a softening of toy gender lines where whichever toy a child chooses to play with does not require a gender rebranding to allow permission to play?

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    1. You're right, Julius. The barriers you mentioned that currently exist in the area of gender-specific toys should be relaxed, eliminated. With reference to dolls, in particular, because they are a representation of people, doll play for children or collecting as an adult should not be restricted to any one gender. Regarding this particular line of dolls, I want to see them enter the market and perhaps open doors for others to follow. I preordered!

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    2. I agree and I think the Melanites are a worthy offering in the changing of minds...and the articulation is awesome! I love the different characters and hope the project is successful that they can each be produced! Really interested in your review when Jayden arrives. :)

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    3. Keeping hope alive that Jayden actually arrives, and you know a review will follow.

      :-)

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Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.