"Finally, a South Asian Girl Doll!"

With the amazing founders of Every Girl Dolls, they have created their own South Asian doll, Laila! To learn more about their experiences, read our interview now!

4/2/2022 9 min read

Interview with: Every Girl Dolls

Instagram: @everygirldolls

Website: https://everygirldolls.com/collections/frontpage 

Hi everyone! For this interview, I had the opportunity to interview the owners of Every Girl Dolls. They have created this wonderful business that has produced their very own South Asian doll, named Laila! Speaking with them about their journeys into making Laila was extremely insightful and empowering. While starting from an idea, into a full-blown executed vision, their message to change the doll community was truly inspirational to me. I really enjoyed the conversation I had with both Payal and Snehali and I hope you all also enjoy this interview! Scroll below to read our interview together.


Payal: Hi I am Payal Thomas! 

Snehali: I’m Snehali Patel. I am from New Jersey. And we’ve created a South Asian doll! Both of us were looking for dolls. Payal was looking for a doll for her daughter, and I was looking for a doll for my niece at the time while I was pregnant. We both couldn’t find any so we decided to create our own! 

Payal: I have two kids. I have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old. My kids are biracial; they are half Indian and half black. I am 38 years old! I work in IT. I have been an IT program manager for the government for about a decade.

Snehali: I’m an engineer. I work for the Department of Defense. I am 31 years old and I have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

What does Every Girl Dolls aim to do in the doll community?

Payal: We’re trying to diversify the doll community. So what I found really interesting while working with dolls is that the diversity in dolls hasn’t changed very much since we were kids. If we think 30 years ago, we still saw black and white dolls. People have tried to change these systems, but they aren’t long-lasting. We started with a South Asian doll because we’re South Asian, but hopefully, in the future, we can add other cultures and backgrounds. We want to make an impact on the toys our kids see. 

How did this idea of creating your own South Asian doll form? Did you both brainstorm it together or was it caused by a random idea?

Payal: We both had a similar thought “It’s not out in the market, so we should individually try to create it.” We both started our own research. The way that we both actually was that I created a survey that I posted on the Little Brown Diary on Facebook. Snehali saw it and reached out. We decided it’s better to work together to try to create one great product. We didn’t really have an exact definition of what we were looking to create; we just knew we wanted to create a doll. From the survey, we looked at the initial results we were getting. From there, we started to form our idea. We wanted to create an 18-inch doll.

How was the process of creating Laila, your South Asian doll?

Snehali: We struggled a lot with our manufacturers. The big thing is the skin color of the brown dolls, but all they had to offer were white tones or tones of black dolls. There was nothing in between. We gave them certain color tones we wanted to work with. They repeatedly told us, “We can’t work with this color.” or “We can’t do this.” They basically wanted us to pick one of the colors they already had. But obviously, we had to fight them back on it, pushing for the color to be right for the skin since it’s one of the most important things.

We tried to look at what the kids looked like, so the dolls can look like one of the children. We wanted her [Laila] to look like a South Asian kid. The long hair, long eyelashes, black-dense colored hair. We tried to make the eyes dark brown. We were actually contemplating if we should do black or dark brown, and Payal had to actually ask her kids which route we should go.

Payal: My kids basically just said that not all kids have black eyes, so we went with dark brown. I would even stare at myself in the mirror and realize my eyes were dark brown.

Snehali: I love dressing up in Indian clothes, and I love dressing my daughter in Indian clothes as well, especially with accessories. With the bangles for Laila, actually stem from the bangles my daughter owns. It was a pair that she owned, and we liked the way it was slipping in. Also, what kid wouldn’t want to match with their doll? So that’s where the matching bangles idea came from. We did a lehenga [the specific South Asian traditional dress on Laila] because she’s South Asian!

Payal: I grew up in the US, but I would only wear Indian clothes to formal Indian events. But it wasn’t something that I wore for fun. I think making Indian outfits fun to wear and something we can normalize is important. There are people different out there, and these are the types of things we wear, and it’s normal!

Snehali: We also thought that our doll is universal to all South Asian cultures.

What does the manufacturing process entail for these dolls? Were there any other challenges you faced throughout this process?

Snehali: We designed the doll while working with a designer that we found on Instagram. We put that down on paper, and then we went to the manufacturers. We shopped around a bit before we found the ones we wanted to work with. We got the mold created, so her mold features are 100% ours. That took some time because we wanted Laila to have the creases underneath the eyes that most South Asians have. It took us a while to perfect her mold. From there, the skin color was a huge trouble we went through. Her eye color and hair color took us a while because the [manufacturers] messed up on the colors we wanted. We tried to pick from the choices they provided based on paper and their lighting was terrible, so it took us a while to perfect Laila into something we liked. 

Payal: While designing, her proportions aren’t symmetrical. That was really important to us because we wanted her to look like a real kid.

Snehali: And the clothing definitely took some time as well. We were trying to tell them [manufacturers] what exact fabric we should use, what colors we wanted, and stuff like that. I know for the top, they ended up using a different color, so it took some back and forth. 

She [Laila] also has two butterflies on her top and on the nape of her neck. That butterfly is actually a symbol of our logo. We’ve been using it since day one. We picked the butterfly because no one butterfly is the same and every single butterfly is different. So, we wanted all kids to be represented. That’s why the butterfly is on her!

What were some of the best reactions you’ve seen from children who own Laila?

Payal: I have a good story. I took Laila to my daughter’s friend’s house. We live in Virginia, and it’s pretty diverse but the pocket we live in isn’t very diverse. A few of my daughter’s good friends are white, so we went to one of their houses and I took the doll to show them. She had the best reaction, and I wish I recorded it! When she saw it, she said “Oh my gosh,” and she loved it because it was really pretty. I asked her what her favorite thing about the doll was, and she said it’s because it looks like my daughter. I thought that was the best reaction because that was the goal. We were aiming to make it look like a South Asian kid. It was cute because she ran and got her doll and said, “My doll doesn’t look like me, mom. You need to get me another doll!”

Snehali: I will tell you how my daughter reacted. My daughter is very young. At the time, she was a one-year-old when she first saw Laila. It was sitting in the box, and she picked it up, and just gave it a hug. It was so cute! This girl has never seen a doll before and she even gave her a kiss! She’s been obsessed with seeing this doll. 

Recently, when we were doing the video shoot for Every Girl Dolls, we also had a white doll in the video. Laila was being used for the video shoot, and we tried giving her [Snehali’s daughter] the white doll, but she pushed it away! She wanted to go for the doll she knows, which is the South Asian one! My daughter definitely prefers Laila. 

When my niece first saw Laila, she said “Mommy, when can I take her home!” She also asked when she could have her matching Lehenga as well. She loved it. She loved the matching bangles too! She was happy that she could match with the doll.

What were your favorite moments (either during the creative or manufacturing process) while creating Laila?

Snehali: Because we were having so much trouble with the color and picking the doll’s features to exactly what we wanted, I was getting the sample, and I expected the sample to have so many issues. We were expecting to have a round 2 of getting everything fixed, but when it came, I fell in love! It was such a happy surprise. I loved this doll! We changed a few things, but it was more like the headband, and other tiny little things.

Payal: I agree. That was definitely my favorite moment because beforehand, we thought everything we received was all wrong. It was a very happy surprise once Snehali got it. It was cool to say that we created something. We thought we could create something in 3 months, and it took 9-10 months to actually get a sample. Just to finally have it and hold it was awesome.

What were some of the best things you’ve gained by creating this wonderful business?

Snehali: The best thing I gained from this is that my daughter will grow up with a South Asian doll that looks like her since day one. She will never go through the struggle of not seeing a toy that doesn’t represent her. She thinks Laila is normal, she thinks brown skin is normal, like she doesn’t know otherwise because this is what she’s growing up to see! To me, I feel like that’s one of the best things I’ve gained from creating this business. I’ve told myself, “No matter how we do, I got something great out of this.”

Payal: We sought to create this product and to be able to do it, with having other people able to resonate with it is amazing! I think another thing we really got out of it is friendships. We never would have met had we not had this idea and decided to go out and do it! We met so many other people on Instagram that are trying to diversify the toy box. Before we started this, I didn’t realize that so many people were trying to do things along the same lines as us. 

What would you tell other South Asians who want to create their own business but don’t know where to start?

Payal: I think they should just go for it! Collaboration is great and if you can find other people to work with will be helpful. Even if you want to start the business on your own, just be open to collaborating because there are so many South Asians doing things today. I feel like a lot of them are open to working together and try to help you. I’ve gotten so much advice. Everyone wants you to do well. I think, for the most part, everyone’s here to help!

Snehali: I agree with that. I feel like networking and reaching out is important. You never know if you don’t try! Most people will genuinely want to help you. One of the tips I would say is for the planning process, definitely add two months extra as a buffrage just in case. You never know when things will slip accidentally. Also, the pandemic didn’t help, it increased our costs for shipping and stuff like that. So definitely have some extra room for the planning process.

Where can we buy these amazing dolls?

It is available on our website: https://everygirldolls.com/collections/frontpage and you can also shop through our Instagram page (@everygirldolls).

Any final thoughts?

Snehali: We are excited about the way we saw people react on launch day. We are hoping everyone continues to support our small business. In the near future, we have a few plans for different things we want to bring to the table. We don’t want to say much now since it is still in the works, but we’re hoping to expand! It won’t be just our one South Asian girl doll. We’ll expand and hopefully meet everyone’s expectations!

Payal: We are hoping that we are getting our message out there and that enough people are sharing it! Supporting our small business will help us create future products for sure!

Snehali: I know the parents are excited, and I hope the kids are just as excited once they receive the doll, and they are excited to resonate with it. We hope that kids think that being South Asian is normal!

Payal: One of the most appealing things about having a doll is that my daughter can bring it to her friend’s house, and they acknowledge differences and start to have important conversations. The next generation of kids are being raised to be a bit more open, and are willing to have these conversations younger and younger. Why can’t my six-year-old daughter say “I’m South Asian and look at this cool outfit I get to wear with the amazing bangles I have.” That should be normalized in daily life.

Thank you for reading this interview conducted by Erina! Please continue to support Brown Girls Reunite in any way you can!