Queens of Africa dolls have managed to dethrone the ruler of the doll universe. However, they’ve only conquered one small part of Barbie’s worldwide empire — for now.
According to ELLE, Barbies are no longer the most popular plastic princesses in Nigeria. A black doll line called Queens of Africa is actually outselling Barbie in Africa’s most populous country, and the dolls are slowly starting to gain fame in other parts of the world.
Taofick Okoya created the Queens of Africa dolls because he wanted his niece to have a doll she could better identify with. The dolls come in a variety of different skin hues, and they wear brightly-colored, traditional African dresses. Some of the dolls rock braids and head wraps, and each one represents one of three African tribes: Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa.
According to Okoya, his niece wasn’t the only girl in his life who was in need of a black doll to relate to — his own daughter once told him that she wanted to be white.
“Even though we live in Nigeria, there was a lot of Western influence, which might have been responsible for her wishing she was white,” Okoya told ELLE. “It made me aware that I needed to make her proud and happy being a black African girl, and not limit it to her alone as this was a common trend amongst the younger generation. The Queens of Africa became a platform to achieve this.”
Okoya named one of the dolls Azeezah after his daughter. The other two dolls in the Queens of Africa line are named Nneka and Wuraola. There’s also a line of Naija Princesses who cost a bit less that the Queens of Africa dolls. They appear to be younger than the other dolls, and they come with fewer outfits and accessories. Their names are Aisha, Chinyere, and Temilola.
Right now, Americans can only purchase the Queens of Africa dolls online, but Okoya is fighting to help his toys make it to store shelves in the States. After Nigeria, America is the country where the dolls are most in demand.
“I have been told that our products will not make mainline stores in the States as it will be seen as a specialist product,” Okoya told ELLE. “As such, [it] will be limited to specialist stores in certain areas. I am looking to prove them wrong.”
The Queens of Africa aren’t the only dolls that are competing with Barbie by offering girls a different image to relate to. Late last year, the Lammily doll made headlines simply by looking normal. According to USA Today, the doll is designed to have the proportions of an average woman. She can be personalized with stickers that feature stretch marks, acne, freckles, and cellulite.
Queens of Africa dolls all have slim bodies that are more similar to Barbie’s svelte figure, but Taofick Okoya is hoping to change this in the future.
“What is really frustrating is the generalization that Africans all have to look a certain way or be a certain color. That is stereotyping. There are slim Africans, plus-size Africans, dark Africans, fair skinned Africans, flat-nose Africans, and pointed-nose Africans. We will do our best to represent as much of the diversity of Africans but surely not all at once.”
The Queens of Africa dolls might have Barbie beat in Nigeria, but the pink plastic addict faces a different threat here in the States (and no, it’s not Lammily). As the Inquisitr previously reported, dolls based on the characters from Disney’s Frozen movie actually managed to outsell Barbies during the holiday season last year. Okoya is hoping to turn his own creations into a similar multimedia franchise that includes a TV series and songs with positive messages.
Do you think the Queens of Africa dolls would sell well in America?