A mother’s love can inspire great change, in the case of this Qween, it inspired a business specializing in creating dolls like they have never been made before, with dark skin and kinky hair. Two years ago Charlotte Francis decided that there needed to be more representation available for little girls, like her daughter, who aren’t seeing themselves in their earliest forms of media, toys. Five weeks ago Biankha and Friends officially began trading in the UK, and here’s how it all started.
What was the inspiration behind Biankha and Friends?
I started the business due to 3 reasons:
1) My self-esteem and confidence growing up really suffered due to lack of representation around me.
2) I started a mentoring program called the Young Queens Project (YQP) with a group of teenage girls. Their issues and lack of self-worth could have been prevented, I believe, if they had more intervention at an early age with aspiration, self- worth and representation.
The biggest reason was:
3) After starting school, my daughter came home and started wishing for “straight, yellow hair” and questioning why she was brown. She had fallen out of love with her natural hair as few people look like her in her school.
What was your initial response to hearing her say that?
I made some instant changes at home such as putting artwork featuring positive black images up on the walls, buying black empowerment books and enrolling her in an African/ Caribbean Saturday school.
I also went to my local high street toy store to buy a black doll, but could not find one amongst the vast number of dolls on offer. Feeling defeated we returned home, watched Moana and the idea for my doll just came to me. I drew out the ideas that were in my mind (those sketches are still hung on our kitchen door) and the very next day started researching and developing.
What is the inspiration behind the name, Biankha and Friends?
Biankha is named after the Egyptian symbol the ‘ankh’; a feminine symbol for everlasting life. Attaching Egyptian symbolism to Biankha’s name gives children the constant reminder of the majestic ancestors they descend from.
What do you think your dolls are teaching young girls?
Our dolls teach young girls of colour to embrace themselves, they also teach black history pre-slavery, when people of the African diaspora ruled Kingdoms, were inventors and pioneers.
Who inspires you the most?
My daughter, Cali inspires me the most. I have seen her consistently choose to challenge herself in tasks some adults would shy away from and succeed. She has empathy so beyond her years I’m sure she has lived before and has achieved everything she set her mind to do. She is beautiful inside and out, I am very lucky she chose me to be her mama.
What is one thing you tell yourself to stay motivated?
I always have to remind myself how far we have come. Two years ago this dream was just a sketch on paper, I now can hold my own branded doll in my hands.
I also remind myself that my little girl is watching this all unfold and I am showing her in action that hard work and perseverance does pay off.
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