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Monday, October 29, 2018

Dr. Lisa's Fresh Dolls


Dr. Lisa is shown with her Positively Perfect and Fresh Dolls.

A line of multicultural fashion dolls was released in August 2017.  Made for the play market, the dolls appeal to adult doll collectors as well.  The appeal is attributed to the dolls’ “fresh” look:  authentically-beautiful ethnic features, hairstyles from curly to straight, articulated and fuller-figured bodies, customized skin tones, more ethnically centered fashions, extra clothing,  accessory packs, and competitive pricing.  They are the Fresh Dolls!

Several months ago, Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black was privileged with an exclusive interview of Dr. Lisa Williams, the creator of Fresh Dolls.  Dr. Lisa is also CEO and Founder of World of EPI.  We discussed her inspiration for the dolls, their attributes, Dr. Lisa’s message to parents and collectors, where to purchase Fresh Dolls, and Dr. Lisa's upcoming November 2018 speaking engagement.  Originally interviewed for Black Dolls Matter Magazine, this never-published interview includes additional exciting information that was not available at the time of our original discussion.

Who is Dr. Lisa?
In short, Dr. Lisa is a phenomenal woman!   To be more specific and to quote her biography, “Dr. Lisa is internationally recognized as an academic trailblazer, founder of a multi-million dollar company, an award-winning speaker and author. Through hard work and perseverance, Dr. Lisa attained unprecedented success by becoming the first female professor to receive a multi-million dollar endowed chair, the first African American professor to earn tenure at Penn State University, and the first African American to receive a doctorate in Logistics from The Ohio State University.

At the height of her career, Dr. Lisa did the unthinkable when she left the academic life to blaze a new trail as an entrepreneur.  In 2003, she founded the World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (World of EPI), LLC. EPI is the classic Cinderella story. Dr. Lisa grew the company from negative revenues into a multi-million dollar powerhouse.  EPI is now a leading multi-cultural toy manufacturing and design firm with a global supply chain that crisscrosses the world from the US to China and other worldwide destinations.  EPI is an industry innovator having created both the Positively Perfect and Fresh Dolls Collections.  The doll collections represent African American, Latina, Middle Eastern, and Caucasian.  They are sold in Walmart, Target, [formerly at] Toys  R Us, Meijer, Kohl's, Walgreens and international markets such as the United Kingdom, Dubai, Australia, France, South America, Canada, etc.”

The Fresh Inspiration
Dr. Lisa’s inspiration to create Fresh Dolls was multipronged.   As a college professor, she recognized young women in her classroom had self-esteem issues.  These women withdrew from classroom participation and would not answer questions or otherwise speak in class.  These same women, however, would visit Dr. Lisa’s office after hours and know the answers to classroom questions.  When asked about their lack of classroom participation, their responses were, “There are so many people,” or “I don’t want to talk in class.”  It was then that Dr. Lisa realized these young women had low self-esteem. 

Later on, Dr. Lisa wrote a spiritually-based leadership book entitled, Leading Beyond Excellence.  That book went into Walmart and a line of uplifting children’s books followed.  In these books, every child is represented by African American, Caucasian, Latino, and Asian characters.  Most importantly, Dr. Lisa’s children’s books illustrate a realistic view of family and society with mothers, fathers, and grandparents woven into the stories.

With a well-established business relationship with Walmart and books that sold well there, the multinational retailing corporation asked Dr. Lisa to create a line of dolls representing the characters from the books.  Dr. Lisa answered, “No,” to Walmart’s request for a doll line not once, not twice, but three times!  After the third time, she recalled, “I was sitting on my sofa watching an episode of Anderson Cooper.  He had Soledad O’Brien on the show.  They were doing an updated doll study.  Of course, the original doll study [conducted during the 1940s by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark] was sad when it said that these African American children did not identify with the African American doll.  They thought they were unattractive.  [In 2010,] they replicated this study and I’m watching the show and thought, it’s going to be differentWe have an African American president, a beautiful First Lady, and their gorgeous children.  There are celebrities on the covers of magazines; obviously, this is going to be different. Sadly, it wasn’t.  It really affects me because there was one beautiful dark skinned child – a beautiful chocolate child – and they asked her why she didn’t choose the African American doll, and she said because her skin is nasty like mine and she literally touched her own hand.  That breaks my heart.  You have a little girl who thinks she’s not attractive at 6 or 8.  What happens to her when she grows into a teenager or young adult?  What may be the opportunities she is limiting herself because she doesn’t know the truth about her beauty and intelligence?  So that was my inspiration.  A little girl I have never met.  Not only was she my inspiration that day, but every day.  Every day I get up to do this line of dolls, I remember her in my mind and in my heart because I want to do a doll line that is worthy of her.  She is the driving force.” 

Dr. Lisa reiterated, “So the inspiration for this line is a little girl who is beautiful with deep chocolate skin, a little girl who does not have positive images in dolls and is not clear about her beauty.  She is not clear about her intelligence.  I am hoping that these dolls, that every doll we do actually, is one piece of the parenting toolkit.  Obviously, dolls are not going to solve all the problems, but they are going to play with these dolls.  They are going to see their beauty reflected back in this line, and they’re going to say, ‘Oh, I’m beautiful.  I’m smart. I’m intelligent.’”

As Dr. Lisa’s reflection on the little girl in CNN’s updated doll study continued, she thought about the young women in her classroom who had not yet found their voices and recalled her personal experience growing up as a girl not recognizing her own intelligence and beauty.  She emphasized, “I create a line of dolls with an amazing team so we can start to correct that false thinking that black is not beautiful, that brown is not beautiful, that curly hair is not gorgeous; we want to stop that erroneous way of thinking and actually show them the truth.”



About Fresh Dolls
Fresh Dolls are 12-inch vinyl fashion dolls with rooted hair and poseable bodies with articulation that extends to the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.  Geared toward children ages 4 and up, they have more realistic body proportions than traditional fashion dolls to include thicker waists, wider hips, and rounder bottoms.  As Dr. Lisa further described, “They are definitely not your mother’s fashion dolls.  Their facial features are beautifully authentic.  They have fuller lips, higher cheekbones, brown eyes, and beautiful noses.  They are very much representative of girls of color.  Not only are their bodies and facial features more representative, but the skin tones are, too.  We focused a lot of detail on getting the skin tones perfect.  The skin tones are custom blended and unique.  The hairstyles are different.  We have a doll with braids, a doll with an Afro, a doll with Afro puffs.”  During her description of the dolls, Dr. Lisa continued, “They give girls an opportunity to play and dream.  I want play to be an inspirational part of a child’s life so that they start to think about what they want to be.  I was a college professor.  When I was playing with dolls, I was playing dolls dreaming to be a teacher, so it did influence me.  That’s why we have the dolls with more articulation.”  Fresh Dolls can be posed as girls play and dream.

Dr. Lisa and her team have worked tirelessly for many years to perfect Fresh Dolls which, “didn’t just come around in six months,” she said.  “We started on this line about four years ago.  That’s how long it has taken to perfect it because we were doing something totally new.  We didn’t have a basis to use.  We started from scratch.  There is no doll that has a body like our doll, with skin tones like our doll, or hairstyles, features, even the packaging, even the name.   We wanted the dolls to represent a fresh approach to dolls, a fresh approach to respect and love of multicultural.”

Fresh Dolls started out with an African American doll and what the company refers to as blended or multicultural dolls.  They range from a doll with a rich brown complexion to variations of medium and light complexions.  The original dolls (Wave 1) include Mia, Tamra, and Lynette, which sold as single-pack dolls.  Indigo, Gabrielle, and Jacqueline sold as deluxe sets. 

Wave 1 from L-R:  Deluxe dolls Jacqueline, Gabrielle, and Indigo pose beautifully with single-pack dolls Lynette, Mia, and Tamra.

About Wave 1
Mia describes herself as being “extra” and “a true Diva-nista.”  She wears a huge Afro hairstyle. Per her bio, the name “Mimi” suits her much better.   

Indigo, who prefers her name shortened to “Indi,” has beautiful, long black microbraids.  She is into Afropunk dressing, which is mixing African culture with her own alternative styles. She also loves to shop. 

Tamras friends call her “Tam.”  She loves high fashion and mixing colors and prints.  

Jacqueline will not answer to anything except “Jax,” so don’t try her.  This light-complexioned doll with honey blonde hair enjoys shopping and modifying clothes to make a fashion statement. 

Lynette or “Lynn” for short has a short stature and a deep brown complexion.  With her hair pulled up into one Afro puff, she exudes confidence. 

Then there is Gabrielle or “Gabby,” who loves all shades of purple with sparkly accents.  She talks a lot because, as she asserts, she has something to say.


Front Row, L-R:  Mia, Aleyna, Aria, Froggy Fresh, and Lynette
Back Row, L-R:  Fresh Squad Fellas Malik, Daniel, and Anthony

Soon-to-be ReleasedWave 2
Aria and Aleyna join Mia and Lynette in Wave 2, which also includes the Deluxe Fresh Squad Fellas Malik, Daniel, and Anthony.  Named for guys in Dr. Lisa’s family, the fellas have extra points of articulation and real rooted hair, something that is not often found in playscale male dolls.  Dr. Lisa has also partnered with vlogger, My Froggy Stuff, to create a special edition Froggy Fresh portrait doll of the woman who shares her do-it-yourself creative genius with the doll-collecting community.  In addition to the aforementioned ethnically correct attributes and poseability, the Fresh Dolls’ unique personalities and the addition of the fellas places this line of dolls in a class of their own. 

Because Dr. Lisa wants parents of every child who wants a doll to be able to afford it, Fresh Dolls are competitively priced.  Their basic doll, also fully articulated, comes with beautiful clothes and is priced at $16.  The deluxe doll retails for $28, is also fully articulated, beautifully dressed and has an extra outfit with accessories.

Not Just Dolls
The Fresh Dolls line includes separately-sold fashions described as “elegance with an edge.”  The fashions are very respectable clothes with an ethnic flavor, “some will have an ethnic print skirt or have ethnic leggings.  They are traditional clothes that have a little something that sets the fashions apart.  Because the bodies are more representative, our clothes will not fit the traditional fashion doll bodies; therefore, we had to create a fashion doll clothing line,” Dr. Lisa added.  The Fresh Packs retail for $8 each.

Being a teacher/professor in her former life, Dr. Lisa loves books and would like to include books about the dolls in the future.  She would also love to include items such as comforters, towel sets, and pajamas for little girls.  She explained, “I want a little girl to be able to wake up in her own personal sanctuary where when she gets up, she sees her pajamas and slippers.  She looks at her comforter.  She looks over at her doll collection.  She goes to take her shower and there is her shower curtain, her little toothbrush, her towels; she is surrounded in a peaceful, loving cocoon where she is seeing beautiful, positive images reflected at her.  That is our dream.  That is what drives us every day, every moment of the day:  How do we create dolls and things that are honoring and loving of our little girls?  We get up every morning doing this for the little girls.  We have gone through multiple iterations and changes to perfect the dolls to honor and show girls their true beauty.  The gratitude that I look forward to is seeing little girls’ faces light up when they see the dolls.” 

Dr. Lisa’s Message to Parents and Collectors
“To parents, we want you to know we hear you and we are doing everything in our power to give you more tools in your toolkit to be amazing parents.  I think that our children are incredibly special.  They’re beautiful, they’re bright, and we are trying to provide toys and dolls that reflect that back to them.  Just like the parents that are telling them ‘you’re beautiful; you’re smart,’ and I know parents do that, they can now say, ‘You’re beautiful.  You’re smart, and see this little doll, Fresh, she reflects you.  She has your cheeks.  She has your lips.  She has your hair.  See how pretty the doll is?  That’s how pretty you are.’  That’s what we’re trying to do, and as I said, that’s what drives us every morning to go back to creating these dolls.  The journey has not been easy, but the driving force has been these little girls and being able to support their parents in raising them.  That continues to drive us. 

“To collectors, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the love and all the support that you give us.  My team and I wake up every morning with the joy in our hearts of providing products that will make you and your children proud, happy and joyful.  To see that you are responding in kind love and appreciation really makes our day.  I am again just overjoyed... We deeply appreciate you and want you to continue to tell us what you like.” 

Where to Buy
The dearth of dolls of color is a global issue that Dr. Lisa has made steps to correct.  Her first line of dolls, Positively Perfect, has gone global because the need is not just here in the US.  Although the US is where Dr. Lisa’s heart is, because those are the girls she sees, she realizes multicultural dolls are desired and sought after worldwide.   “Positively Perfect may be the first company to take multicultural dolls to the international market,” she reflected, and Fresh Dolls are soon to follow. 

Parents and collectors can shop either in person or online to buy Fresh Dolls and accessories at Walmart and Target’s physical and online stores.   Look for Fresh Dolls also on Amazon.com and at the Fresh Dolls website where some products are sold exclusively.  If the dolls are not seen on the shelves of local stores, Dr. Lisa urges shoppers to inform store managers of their desire to see them there. 

For more information about Fresh Dolls, visit their website:  https://www.thefreshdolls.com/.  Follow their official Facebook page, and follow Fresh Dolls on Instagram.  The Fresh Dolls Collectors Club on Facebook is a social media gathering of fans of Fresh Dolls where photos of dolls from collectors around the globe are showcased and discussed.   

Dr. Lisa's Upcoming Speaking Engagement



If you will be in the Oakland, California area on November 10, 2018, Dr. Lisa will be the guest speaker at American Black Beauty Doll Artists’ Annual Festival of Black Dolls.  The festival will take place at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland, 659 14th St., Oakland, CA.  Show time is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For additional information about this event, navigate here.  

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Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black extends our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Lisa for taking time away from her busy schedule to grant us this in-depth interview.  We appreciate her outstanding global market contributions of inclusive, multicultural doll lines for all age groups (to include the adult collector) that reflect beauty back to children during play.  Special thanks to Mark Ruffin of Black Dolls Matter ®Tea Party who made this interview a possibility.  

12 comments:

  1. I want to say only one thing - this is cool!

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  2. This is a well written and informative article of Dr. Lisa and her journey to creating both Doll Lines. We are grateful to know her and experience her kind spirit.

    Thank You for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome, Sandy! Thanks for taking the time to read the article.

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  3. What an inspiration!! So glad that our little girls have such wonderful dolls to inspire them to be all that they can be!! Thank you Debbie for providing this excellent article.

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    1. I share your joy! I am happy our girls have these dolls as well. You're welcome!

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  4. You nailed it! Dr Lisa is Phenomenial and your article is Phenomenial. I can not believe I missed the introduction of this fabulous collection! We must support businesses that build up our children. Also, thank you for the links !!! Bev Flowers

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    1. I agree that we all need to support businesses that build promote our children's self-esteem. Even if we, as collectors, do not collect fashion dolls, we all know a little girl or two who still loves dolls. Buying a Fresh doll or two for them will encourage their love of self.

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  5. A fantastic interview. I enjoyed it very much.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it, MDW!

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  6. I enjoyed reading about Dr. Lisa's entry to doll manufacturing. Thanks for sharing her story here.

    I have Lynette, and she definitely has slightly rounder proportions than Barbie. I'm looking forward to getting the Wave 2 guys and more of the ladies. Thanks for sharing where we can find them.

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    1. Hi D7ana,

      I am glad you own Lynette. Wave 2 can be preordered from The Fresh Dolls website here.

      Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed this post.


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