Art doll

Datreese Thomas started a doll company to empower black girls

When the news of Breonna TaylorDeath passed on television screens, Datreese Thomas was trying to set up his first business venture. What she came up with not only helped her, but empowered young black girls.

Thomas, who was struggling in his freshman year at the University of Houston, wanted to empower black girls and help them build self-love and give them something to look up to. So she created The Melanie Dolls.

“I wanted to help black girls feel beautiful, gain courage, and build self-esteem. I do this by providing a product that helps young black girls see themselves better individually. I truly believe that the business I have created is a clear reflection of the journey I had to go through myself,” Datreese Thomas told AfroTech.

Thomas applied for various grants and start-up funds, but was unable to obtain any. As a result, the economics major created The Melanie Dolls from scratch, saving the money she earned from an internship to launch the business in 2021.

Thomas’ Taylor doll sold out almost immediately after a TikTok post featuring the doll went viral earlier this year. The Houston Cougar plans to use a portion of its proceeds from The Melanie Dolls to launch its non-profit organization, The Melanin Movement, which will strive to financially empower and help creative talent in black communities.

Currently, The Melanie Dolls is taking pre-orders for its flagship Breonna Taylor doll. Her second doll is inspired and designed after author and civil rights activist Angela Davis. Thomas said she was inspired by the style of Davis and the Black Panthers, who all wore black afros and sported.

“I’m just glad people are realizing the lack of black representation in retail,” Thomas told ABC7NY, adding that she created each doll from a truthful point in herself that represents correctly blacks.