Writing this article, I can’t quite believe that I’ll be 20 in less than a month. I don’t feel 20 and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 whole years since I was playing with Bratz Dolls in my bedroom, combing their hair and dressing them just right.
I loved all my Bratz, but my favorite was Yasmin. The reason why was without a doubt because I bore a resemblance to her. She had brown skin, and so did I. To me she was practically sacred. I mean where else was I going to find a brown doll? Barbie’s of color (though in production) were not as easy to find in my part of the world back then. I only had Yasmin because my aunt sent her to me from America. On a slightly unrelated note that was probably one of the best days of my young life.
So why is it, looking back, that I feel so conflicted?
Perhaps it’s because, although Yasmin looked like me, she was simultaneously a world away. Whilst the Bratz Dolls came in several different skin tones, their body shape remains- in my opinion- a huge issue. At 10 years old, having the same skin tone as Yasmin made me insanely happy and I couldn’t wait to get older and look like the rest of her too. To look like all the Bratz Dolls in fact, because they were all the same perfect size. Skinny, narrow, petite. I didn’t want to look any other way, I literally couldn’t imagine how else I’d be considered beautiful. Already, beauty in my 10-year-old mind was one very specific thing. So whilst I loved my Bratz Dolls, they set me up for one hell of a disappointment.
Like many teenagers, I struggled severely with the way that I looked. If you haven’t guessed by now: I had not turned out like Yasmin. I was neither tall nor skinny, but instead, short, chubby and dismayed. This difficult time was made worse by the dreaded experience of buying clothes. Shopping would mean being surrounded by next level Bratz Dolls; the girls who’d managed what I had only dreamed of. The girls in the posters were always tall, always slim, very often white, and very often blonde. Before I’d even stepped into the shop, the mannequins had me feeling like an imposter.
Now I’m older I’m glad to say that I know different. I know about Photoshop and the maltreatment of models in the fashion industry. I know that despite how I felt, I certainly wasn’t alone thinking that I didn’t fulfill the criteria for ‘beautiful’. Statistics show that, of the 95% of people between 12-25 who suffer from an eating disorder, 50% of them are female (https://casapalmera.com/teens-and-eating-disorders-get-the-facts). Most importantly, I know that, to use model Iskra Lawrence’s (https://www.instagram.com/iamiskra/) hashtag ‘everyBODY is beautiful’.
But diversity is still an achievement, something of a novelty. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that it’s happening, but it is not yet ‘the norm’. There’s a long way to go. And as for changing my way of thinking, that was by no means easy. It was a constant struggle that very often left me confused, exhausted, and extremely frustrated at the MGA marketing team. Why couldn’t I have just been shown diversity? All types and shapes and colors and abilities of human? Why was I denied it?
Why are we still denied it?
Whilst the world may be adapting, progress is slow, and it’s a frightening yet undeniable truth, that there are still little girls, who can’t wait to grow up and look just Yasmin too.