Artist Wendy Tsao decided to give Bratz dolls a radical change: by making them over as inspiring women of the past and present! When Tsao saw Sonja Singh’s Tree Change Dolls, a project that transforms Bratz dolls into ordinary girls by removing their exaggerated makeup and redressing them in clothing suitable for rough-and-tumble outdoor play, she says, "It made me wonder about the role of dolls in a child's life - can they be more than just trendy, sexy, disposable toys? Can we inspire girls more?" So she created an art project dedicated to celebrating amazing women Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, Waris Dirie, Roberta Bondar, and J.K. Rowling - by making over dolls to look like these role models as children.
Tsao observed that “[t]he dolls we find in toy stores today are often licensed Disney characters or the heroines of Hollywood blockbuster movies that capitalize on the pull of fantasy, fictional characters to young consumers. But there are real-life people who are heroes too, with inspiring stories of courage, intelligence, strength and uniqueness.” She wondered if she could use dolls to make these women more relatable to younger girls. Writing to A Mighty Girl, Tsao commented, "I really admire the women that I featured in my dolls, for what they did or achieved and continue to do. And they should be role models instead of, or at least, alongside the products of Disney and Hollywood. But then, I’m an adult. Perhaps a child can’t appreciate these role models, because these women are famous adults. Maybe we need to show children that these remarkable women were once children too."
So Tsao’s repainted dolls represent inspiring women as they might have looked as girls. “I would have loved to play with Jane Goodall as a child, " she told us. "I wonder if a child who plays with a doll of someone who is a real person who did some amazing things when they grow up might think more about real-life things and appreciate more the real potential that lies within all of us, than when she or he plays with say, a Disney character or Bratz doll. You know how we 'outgrow' our toys... Can you outgrow Malala?"
Tsao has been thrilled by the positive response to her dolls, and says "I think that it points to the fact that many people feel strongly about these dolls and what they represent." And, that fact that "toys can become a source of comfort, pride and meaning for a child (and even adults)... As a parent, I’d love for my child to play with a young J.K. Rowling or Malala and have conversations about them."
Role Models as Dolls
Pakistani activist, youngest Nobel Prize laureate
We must tell girls their voices are important.
First female Canadian astronaut
To fly in space is to see the reality of Earth, alone. The experience changed my life and my attitude toward life itself. I am one of the lucky ones.
British primatologist, UN Messenger of Peace
I thought my life was mapped out. Research, living in the forest, teaching and writing. But in ’86 I went to a conference and realised the chimpanzees were disappearing. I had worldwide recognition and a gift of communication. I had to use them.