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Not Found In Stores: Dolls Celebrating Diversity Created By New Berlin Mom

Popularity Of Dolls Points To Lack of Representation In Media, Retail Industries

Amy Jandrisevits, A Doll Like Me, diversity, dolls, New Berlin
Amy Jandrisevits. Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

There were no dolls with prosthetics or missing fingers or casts on their feet. None on the shelves reflected albinism or came with an attached blind cane.

So New Berlin mother of three Amy Jandrisevits began to use her sewing skills to celebrate the diversity the child not well-represented in toy stores.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

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A former pediatric oncology social worker, Jandrisevits has spent the past four years making custom dolls with characteristics that match their owners. Through her business, A Doll Like Me, Jandrisevits said she can continue her childhood hobby of playing with dolls, now in a more “socially appropriate” capacity.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

The interest in creating a selection of more diverse dolls began with an inquiry from a friend of a friend, Jandrisevits said. That woman’s daughter had her leg amputated and wondered if Jandrisevits could make her a doll with a similar physical appearance.

Within two months of operating, she had 200 doll orders.

“I’ve never been on top of it,” she said about fulfilling the orders.

Even with all the dolls that she’s sewn, Jandrisevits said she hasn’t actually been present when a child receives one of her dolls. Instead, she relies on videos and pictures to see their responses.

“There was one just the other day of a mom opening a doll of her son that died of cancer, and it just broke me,” she said. “Watching that was just — I don’t even know how to describe it.”

Jandrisevits said it’s important for children to have something to relate to, and said they tend to internalize the standard of what they think they should look like.

“You look at, for example, a child of color or a child with some type of difference, or maybe both, and you realize that they will never see themselves on a store shelf,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

A GoFundMe page for her business has raised $77,703 since it was established about four years ago. On her fundraising page, Jandrisevits writes that the dolls cost about $100 each, including shipping. That’s either paid for by family members, or Jandrisevits tries to figure out a way to pay for it herself.

“In my mind, none of these families should have to pay for a doll like this,” she said. “It should be a gift on behalf of our community that we say, ‘Look, we’ve done you a disservice. We really do support you.’”

The dolls have also played a role in sparking conversation about changing the diversity of children represented on commercials, in movies and on toy shelves.

“I think we’re at the point where we’re hungry for a different narrative,” she said.

Photos courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

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