Toy maker strives to appeal to Latinos with "Maria" doll

A woman with a vision for enhancing the lives of Latin girls creates a doll to represent their dreams and aspirations.

There's nothing like a child's excitement on Christmas Eve, pondering what gifts Santa Claus will leave DIVA AbrielleDIVA Abrielleunder the tree for the next morning. For many young girls, the wish for a beautiful doll is usually included in their letters to Papá Noel. And for many parents, there is a growing concern regarding what dolls will mean to their child--will it encourage good character or place unhealthy expectations for an impossible appearance?

Former business professor Dr. Lisa Williams has created the "Positively Perfect" collection of dolls that not only look like the girl who will play with them, but also aims to inspire the little one to be more than just a pretty face. Following her line of self-described "chocolate-color babies, toddlers and girl dolls", this year Dr. Williams added to two Hispanic dolls: "Marvelous Maria" and "DIVA Abrielle".

"I wanted to provide a positive representation of the beautiful Latina girl…with traits that build self-esteem [in the child]," says the CEO of World of EPI, who saw the need for dolls that would represent authentic beauty and culture from her own battles with self-confidence. "I had challenges and struggles [even as an adult]. I didn't think I was smart or pretty enough, and later on realized it was my low self-esteem that got me in trouble," says Williams of what drove her to conceive her ethnic doll collection. "We have beauty in all cultures…[these] dolls add beauty to girls that are not represented."

The perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list

The two new Latina dolls follow the concept of beauty and character that inspired the collection. According to Williams, toddler doll Marvelous Maria, is the athlete of the group, and she can jump high and run fast. She plays soccer and basketball, and beats most boys in school sports. She eats hMarvelous MariaMarvelous Mariaealthy food and encourages her best friends to do the same.

As for DIVA Abrielle, she's an "A" student who loves to dance and be creative. She has long brown hair, wears a pretty lavender dress and matching ballet slippers. Abrielle also belongs to the DIVA collection, where diva is the spelling of an anagram with deeper meaning: D=dignified; I=intelligent; V=vivacious; A=attractive.

According to a Walmart PR officer, LaToya Evans, while toys like Furbee, the Leap Frog pad, the Monster High dolls and the Disney princess dolls will be among the most sought out Christmas gifts for children this year, retailers like the discount giant are making a conscious effort to offer products that will attract the Latino consumer.  Carrying the Maria and Abrielle dolls exclusively at Walmart stores is a means of appealing to shoppers at a cultural level, something which Senior VP for Brand Marketing and Advertising, Tony Rogers, finds of utmost importance and advises companies to "make multicultural a part of everything you do."   

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