Toys have come a long way since the days of the traditional Barbie, whose appearance resembled only a tiny minority of women and girls. In 2019, you can walk into any toy shop and you’ll see dolls of various skin colours and shapes – not with only Caucasian skin and hourglass figures.
Amy Jandrisevits, a social worker who worked in paediatric oncology during the 1990s, used play therapy with dolls during children’s time with her. She noticed that the dolls – often Cabbage Patch Kids – were a mainstream representation of what society saw as ‘typical.’
“I thought, these kids need something that looks like they do,” Jandrisevits told People last month.
But it wasn’t until 2015, when a mother whose daughter lost a leg to amputation asked if she could make a doll that looked like her daughter, that the long-time hobby craftswoman started her non-profit organisation, A Doll Like Me.
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I feel that this is long overdue. This is me…I am A Doll Like Me. I am quite sure that the younger version of me is thrilled that the adult Amy still gets to play with dolls! In fact I think she would approve of me taking professional photos with my dolls ♥️ While this technically is a business, I like to think of it more like a ministry or a mission. I laugh when people say – can someone from your company contact me because 90% of the time I look around and it’s my Labrador and my three year old ☺️. “Who is going to field this request?” I ask them. When these media pieces talk about me sewing at my dining room table, it’s the truth. These dolls are very much a part of our family and I work on them at our kitchen counter and in the room that used to be the dining room! We haven’t eaten at that table in years. LOL. ???? I know that the word “representation” is used a lot but it’s very important to me. And obviously it’s very important to the little people that I make these for. This is genuinely a labor of love and my goal is to raise as much money as I can through my go fund me campaign so that for the next several years I can help families who aren’t able to pay. I wish I could do it for free, but fabric and stuffing and doll clothes are pretty expensive. I am so honored to be a part of these kids lives, in such an intimate way. None of their stories are lost on me and behind each doll is a sweet person who longs for a place at the table. One of the most exciting things that has happened over the course of the last three months is that I have been able to advocate for the kids who don’t see themselves on the store shelves. It’s so exciting and I am incredibly grateful for all of this media exposure. I hope that I am representing them in a way that is just and kind and dignified. #thisisme #representationmatters #gofundme #womeninbusiness #customdoll #adolllikeme #changethenarrative #dosomething
Jandrisevits later posted her creation on Facebook and received an overwhelming response, and many orders. Since then, she has dedicated her life to making dolls for children.
Every doll is carefully handmade by the now 46-year-old mum of three, usually from a photo sent by the parents. Jandrisevits pays close attention to the detail that makes each child unique, and designs their doll accordingly.