One of the best parts of the Women of Dartmouth event I recently attended was meeting a young alum who wanted to connect me with a friend of hers from Tuck Business School. The Tuck alumna also happens to be a brilliant woman of color, and recently started a line of multicultural dolls called My Muse Dolls, along with three of her closest, most amazingly driven friends and classmates. I had a chance to catch up with the four founding ladies of My Muse Dolls to ask them a few questions in true Women Who Werk fashion. Their answers were incredibly thoughtful, inspiring, and truly encouraging. The work they are doing to help children realize their dreams is incredible. Check out what they had to say about their work below. And don’t forget to visit the My Muse Dolls website if you’re looking for the perfect gift for a special child in your life this holiday season.
Question for Ebele Kemery, Madame Chief of My Muse Dolls: Why is education for young girls so important, and how do you highlight education in the design and concept of My Muse Dolls? Where did the name of your company come from?
I am extremely passionate about female education because I believe it is the most powerful tool a girl can acquire in the fight against poverty, disease and malnutrition. [There are] so many bad decisions that can be thwarted with knowledge! How many times have you said to yourself “If I knew then, what I know now”?
My Muse Dolls created the Your Muse™ collection to teach girls to accept and celebrate their own beauty; by choosing a doll that looks like them, they reinforce the truth: “I am Beautiful.®” We also celebrate education, and inner beauty, through the personas and stories of our Featured Dolls: Keva™, Liliana™, and Adamma™. Each feature doll’s story is one of ambition and drive, consistent with our wish: For every girl to see her beauty. For every girl to seize her dream.™
As education and mutual understanding are central to navigating this rapidly globalized world, we have created our line of feature dolls to educate girls around the world about each other’s customs, while nurturing and celebrating the narrative of global sisterhood.
Our dolls were created to inspire young girls; in a sense, be their muse. We figured, why not name the company My Muse Dolls?
Question for Torlisa Jeffrey, Marketing Maven of My Muse Dolls: Talk about a time when a role model helped to positively impact your life, and how you envision My Muse Dolls inspiring confidence and resilience in the children who purchase them. Why are confidence and resilience important to you?
I have been beyond fortunate to have a number of role models throughout my life, guiding forces to help me achieve my personal and professional aspirations. My main champions have been my 82-year old grandmother, Big Mama!; the founder of the Emmanuel Episcopal Center in Memphis, Father Hubbard; and my 8th-grade history teacher from Vance Middle School, Mrs. Evans. These advocates were my constant reminders that academic excellence, confidence, and resilience were the keys to success whether in inner-city Memphis, boarding school in East Tennessee, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, or Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in New Hampshire.
The importance of academic success is self-explanatory, but confidence and resilience are constantly works in progress. Lack of confidence stems from a belief that you are not enough, and that you do not matter. This often results in the feeling that you cannot persevere. Life throws enough punches to make us stumble already; no need to fuel the flames of self-doubt by giving in to these sentiments!
My vision for My Muse Dolls is to be a positive reinforcement for children to believe that they are enough and that they matter, just as they are. Our hope is to achieve this through our dolls which personify childhood aspirations, showcase our real-life Muses in pursuit of their dreams, and [highlight] our partnerships with charities that focus on empowerment and education of youth.
Question for Jullin Egbuji, Operations Angel of My Muse Dolls: How has being affected by war as a child impacted your work at My Muse Dolls? Do you see your work at My Muse Dolls as promoting healing?
As a child born during the war, I was completely deprived of toys. Even after the war, my parents could only afford the bare necessities. I still vividly remember how badly I longed to play with a doll. At My Muse Dolls, I am driven to provide children not with just a doll, but a first class product they can treasure as they grow up.
I was [still] very little, even after the war, and have retained very few images of the war; perhaps I blocked them out. However, having grown up with very little toys, I am honored to be part of a team that can put a smile on a child’s face irrespective of their background. My Muse Dolls is a project that transcends [the effects of] wars.
Question for Amaka Cypriana Uzoh, Digital Strategy Diva of My Muse Dolls: Why is high achievement and global citizenship important for children to understand, and how do My Muse Dolls address or promote those ideals to the children who play with them?
Amaka Cypriana Uzoh:
I’m the middle of three daughters, and when I reflect on our upbringing, I can absolutely appreciate how much our exposure informed our imaginations, and eventually our aspirations. My hand shot up in the air when a middle school teacher asked the room if anyone wanted to take home a flyer for Summer STEM camp, in large part because watching Nova and the Discovery Channel with my engineer father when he came home from work was such an important household ritual. I went to Harvard already knowing science was something I loved thinking and talking about, and this enthusiasm led me to doors that hard work would open for me. The fact I even knew what Biomedical Engineering was to write about it in my college applications as a 16-year-old is a testament to the privilege of early exposure, and for that I thank my parents and outstanding teachers. The recent proliferation of jumpstart programming to introduce young girls to computer science and STEM fields at-large is a huge step in an encouraging direction; I’m emboldened by these efforts to get girls [into] these technical fields that can sometimes seem obscure and intimidating. This isn’t about getting girls to pigeonhole themselves from an early age, it’s about getting them the full information to exercise their right to choose how they will make a mark on this planet.
As for the global citizenship piece, our current Feature Muse Dolls are global citizens to begin with! Keva™ from Atlanta, GA; Liliana™ from New York, NY; and Adamma™ from Lagos, Nigeria aspire to be a lawyer, movie director, and mechanical engineer, respectively. We used the Feature Muses not only to introduce young girls to traditionally challenging careers, but also to narrate how their diverse livelihoods, favorite subjects, after school activities, etc. set the stage for their future successes. We want girls to understand that dreams and career aspirations aren’t to be tucked away for later. Their achievements today, whether in Nature Club, the school paper, the Spelling Bee, or organized sports, are helping them get there. The second piece of the global citizenship surrounds social impact. Through play, we open the floor for conversation about the ripple effects our individual actions have on others somewhere else in the world. Muse Dolls are social change vehicles because they’re [affording] transformative experiences for girls, [who are] served by organizations in our social impact portfolio. How incredible that an action as simple as purchasing a doll for a loved one transforms our customers into social change agents! This, to me, is a thing of beauty.
Question for all founders of My Muse Dolls: What is the most important aspect of My Muse Dolls in your work, and how do you see My Muse Dolls growing and changing in the future? What’s next for My Muse Dolls?
We believe the most important aspect of My Muse Dolls is Impact. Our mission is Inspire Pride, Ignite Choice, and Institute Change through the products we sell and the charity partnerships we establish. Childhood is when beliefs and expectations are set–we strive to have a transformational impact on children so that they can reach their personal and professional aspirations.
Our growth efforts over the next few years will focus on expansion of our offerings, establishing an international presence, and partnering with more social impact organizations. Specifically, we hope to provide dolls which will be inclusive of more children of color, broadening our reach to other ethnicities as well as blended backgrounds. We aim to reach international markets in Africa, South America, and Asia. Last but not least, we intend to increase our partnerships to support more social impact initiatives focused on providing children what is needed to succeed.
You can follow My Muse Dolls on social media:
Website – mymusedolls.com
Facebook – facebook.com/mymusedolls
Twitter – twitter.com/mymusedolls
Instagram – instagram.com/mymusedolls
Pinterest – pinterest.com/mymusedolls.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org