My favorite toy as a little girl was a Barbie. When I tell you, I had every kind on my Christmas list each year, believe me. The Barbie dreamboat, the Barbie convertible house, the pink Barbie corvette… My young world revolved around a white women with unattainable measurements. Then one day my mother got tired of me chopping up her socks to make dresses for her 39″ bust, and introduced me to a new doll. The Kenya doll. Taken aback by her ethniticy and less than developed shape, I realized she was brown like me. And resembled something close to an image I resonated with (minus the light brown eyes and medium-to-blonde hair).
Kenya was originally launched in 1992. She sold over 4.8 million dolls, 2.1 million fashion and accessories in 48 months while licensing over 75 items in the market with sales over 62 million approaching the Fall of 1996. The 2012 re-launch of the product features several new unique lifestyle components, which includes an entertainment component as well as additional characters, fashion items, merchandise and 63 items more than the original brand.
Now she’s back, to have that effect on the next generation of young girls. Singer, actress–Shanica Knowles–has been given the honor of taking on the Kenya Doll image. Best known for playing Amber Addison on Hannah Montana, and for playing Shauna Keaton in Jump In! We caught up with the 21-year-old, who dished on what she brings to the role, how Kenya and Barbie differ and the positive affects Kenya will have on a young black girl’s self-esteem.!
How honored are you to be the face of the new Kenya Doll?
Shanica: I am extremely honored. I’m privileged to become a role model for this generation of kids, especially when it comes to the African-American community.
HB: What do you bring to the role?
Shanica: I feel as though Kenya and me are very similar in a sense where we share the same interest and share the same personality. She loves absorbing knowledge, plays the guitar, sings, is a social butterfly, and loves to rock on stage! So to answer the question what do I bring to the role…I bring her life.
HB: How does the Kenya Doll differ from Barbie?
Shanica: Simply there is no comparison. Kenya is a doll that has been created and designed to promote all of the characteristics mirroring an African-American figure, lifestyle and culture. It’s a doll that the kids can truly say, “this doll looks just like me”. Each doll comes in three different skin tones-light, brown and dark, which truly represents all of the African-American skin tones. Kenya will soon extend its brand to the Hispanic culture set for a launch sometime in 2013. With its same message of “Pride”, this line will strive for the same attention to detail and cultural significance pertaining to the Hispanic community. By no means is the doll or the brand limited to people of color but will provide an alternative to the market for all to choose to partake in a quality product with a strong universal appeal.
HB: Do you think the Kenya Doll will help boost young black girls self-esteem?
Shanica: Absolutely! This isn’t just about have a doll to play with…this is about a movement to generate positivity in not just African-American girls but all for every kid around the world.
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HB: Tell us about your song “Proud” and how it fits the Kenya doll…
Shanica: The song proud is the theme song and first digital single release from the project. The music and the lyrics were selected to provide a commercial sound that would appeal to both the kids and the mom’s. A song that is HOT can be played on the radio, have a great video, send a positive message and be current to the Urban Lifestyle and culture. It fits the message of the doll because Kenya and her friends are cool, have a great sense of fashion and want to share a positive message with their community. The real life-recording artists reflect the same attitude for the project and in their own careers. We are a perfect match for each other.
Being “Proud” in my opinion means that no matter what your religion is, ethnicity, or culture…we all should be proud of being who we are and what we stand for. Being “Proud” is really the theme for the Kenya doll. Not only is it a message we are trying to gratify, but it is also the title of the theme song! The songs basically talks about “Kenya’s” dream coming to life and inviting others to dream big with her. Being a bookworm by day and a rock star by night is what any kid would want right? We also shot our first music video that gives you more of a visual and detailed outline of what this movement is really about. It’s about touching the lives of millions of children, and showing them what it really means to be proud…just like me.
HB: What’s next for you?
Shanica: Working on the Kenya tour this year, second single, and a promotional tour for the Kenya project. I’m also working on my personal Shanica Knowles project. In the studio working with Grammy Award Producers, so an EP should be coming out next year. Also my music on I tunes are coming out soon as well as my web series Pretty Tough that airs Dec 3 on www.hulu.com. You can find more info about Kenya and my self on our websites.
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