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Have You Seen These Wonderful Dolls? #WATWB #vitiligo

By 25/10/2019January 30th, 2020We are the World, You beneath Your Skin
Vitiligo in You Beneath Your Skin

The exploration of vitiligo in You Beneath Your SkinYou Beneath Your SKin is out in the wild. Today’s WATWB post talks about an issue covered in the book.

We are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) focuses on positive stories no matter where they’re found. It is all about spreading peace and humanity on social media.

In the spirit of WATWB, In darkness be the light, today I share the story of Kay Black, who is making diversity visible on dolls–a great way to expose our future generations to a variety of body images.

“Gone are the days of homogenous dolls that all look the same — many of today’s toys reflect the diversity of the population with nearly every skin color, body type and physical feature represented. Now one artist is taking it a step further by creating dolls with the skin pigmentation condition vitiligo.

Although the condition was thrust into the spotlight by Winnie Harlow, a model with vitiligo who appeared on the 21st season of America’s Next Top Model and has since been featured in many fashion campaigns, artist Kay Black says her inspiration came from the people around her.

“I’m motivated by everyday people I see walking up and down the streets,” says Black, who sells the dolls through her brand Kay Customz. Black tells PEOPLE that she started making dolls and earrings as a hobby on top of working an “average job.”

In addition to dolls with vitiligo, Black makes dolls with other realistic features such as freckles and natural curly hair.

And her fans can’t get enough. “People are literally in tears when they get their dolls,” she tells PEOPLE. “I want to create dolls everyone can relate to.”

One of the characters in my debut crime novel “You Beneath Your Skin“, Maya, has vitiligo. She’s a spunky woman, the head of a detective agency who grows to accept the patches on her skin over the course of the novel–the patches she has been hiding all her life. There’s shame, there’s hiding away, there’s insecurity–a myriad things she must overcome during her journey to confidence.

It is with repeated exposure to diversity that we become sentitised to and respectful of our differences. Vitiligo is simply a result of skin pigmentation, and not anything to be ashamed of–but Maya’s journey towards this acceptance takes a while because in New Delhi, she is unsure how the news of her condition would be received.

What positive stories have you come across of those making a difference through their work? Have you met those with vitiligo? Have you read You Beneath Your Skin? What do you think of Maya?


This post was the latest installment of the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday oWe Are the World Blogfest Writing by handf each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

This month’s co-hosts,Sylvia McGrath, Lizbeth Hartz, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese, and Belinda Witzenhausen welcome participants and encourage all to join in.

Here’s a sampler of this blogfest. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Personally, I wish I could have had the variety of dolls when I was a kid. Barbie was pretty homogeneous. You might get lucky and get a different hairstyle. Just her and Skipper. Made for a boring toy box!

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    That’s an excellent initiative. While growing up I could never imagine a doll looking like me. Barbie belonged to a whole different world. I am glad today’s girls have more option and a way to be more confident in their skin.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, this definitely is a great example of how to teach inclusiveness to our kids.

  • What a brilliant idea! I love when companies show diversity in the toys they make for children, so heartwarming. Thanks so much for sharing this! Have a wonderful week! 🙂

  • That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard about this. It’s a great idea.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I hadn’t either, till I started looking for positive stories for this month. This one struck a chord.

  • I love what Kay Black does with the dolls. What a creative way to point the way for people to look past appearances, to introduce us to diversity, and look at the person who lives past the body shell. I checked out her dolls on Instagram; appealing and amazing. I can see how it would be difficult to get used to the stares of others if one has this skin condition, and I applaud those who forge through it all. Thanks for sharing.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Kay Black is doing a wonderful job of promoting diversity and inclusiveness through her work. Her dolls are stunning.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I can’t believe my comment went awol … frustrating to say the least! I love that you’ve included a character with vitiligo, and added another layer to your story line. The book is so well written – and it’s a pleasure to know you’re supporting both charities. I know someone here with vitiligo – though didn’t know what it was called – but interesting you’ve found dolls with differing features – freckles, vitiligo and many other varieties … good to know about and to have in the playbox … thanks so much for all you do – Chhanv Foundation and Project Why deserve all the recognition they can get – cheers Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So sorry about the comment thing, Hilary. My site is going through redesign and hence the teething troubles. Should be sorted out soon.

      Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks (Chhanv foundation) deserve every bit of the support and visibility they’re receiving through all of us.

  • Pam Lazos says:

    Inspiring! I saw an African American Judge Barbie the other day. It was awesome!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Wow, that is an amazing doll for a little girl to play with, and hopefully, see as an example to follow.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’ve seen models with freckles recently … well they’ve been more obvious (the freckles) … but Maya is a stroke of genius to add her in to your story … highlighting yet another difference … and works so well with acid attack victims. I admire what you’ve done so much with the book – and been prepared to donate the proceeds to two such worthwhile organisations … Chhanv Foundation and Project Why … thanks again for reminding us about Vitiligo … I didn’t know what it was called … but have seen someone recently who has it … cheers Hilary

  • Pat Hatt says:

    Yeah, most look rather bland and just fake. Great that they are more representative of actual people indeed.

  • I thought it was really cool to come across a character with vitiligo in your book. I don’t think I’ve ever read any work of fiction that includes a character with that trait, but I am glad to see it more addressed and represented the way it has been lately. Good call. 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Melody, for reading. Hope to receive your feedback soon. 🙂

      I didn’t consciously decide for Maya to have vitiligo–that was her story.

  • JT Twissel says:

    I haven’t quite finished the book – we’ve had visitors, etc. But Maya strikes me as an empathetic person whose intelligence is not always recognized. I worked for years with Make-a-Wish and have interviewed children whose appearance can be painful to see – generally you have to look beyond to their soul. It’s just stepping onto a different plain.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Your read of Maya is accurate! And yes, we must look beyond appearances, into souls.

  • setinthepast says:

    That is positive. And I used to wonder why dolls always had perfect figures, as well! And never wore glasses.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    You know I read and loved your book. I’ll be giving it a shout out Nov 6 when I post for the IWSG Wednesday.

  • Most dolls look vanilla and unnatural, so good on her for making some realistic dolls.

  • Susan Scott says:

    I’m so glad that dolls with differences are being embraced so much Damyanti! Here in SA we have people of all stripes and shades and though it’s taken a while for dolls showing of their cultures it’s now going very well.

    Your book is on my kindle; I’m so looking forward to reading it. And so pleased for you that it’s the success that it is 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      yes, Susan, in a globalised world, it is all the more important to embrace and celebrate our diiferences. Thanks for getting You beneath Your Skin, and having read your female characters, I’d love to have your feedback. 🙂

  • Debbie D. says:

    What a wonderful project! Kay Black and others like her are making the world a better place. Your book is on the Kindle, but I haven’t read it yet. Maya sounds like a brave woman, as do those who have suffered acid attacks. I can’t imagine having to endure the daily stares and worse!