These dolls just got a $200,000 investment on ‘Shark Tank’ because representation matters.

Not long ago, Angelica and Jason Sweeting were driving home when their 3-year-old daughter Sophia started crying and wouldn't stop.

When they asked her what was wrong, Sophia told them that she hated her dark hair and dark skin and wanted to look like Barbie or Elsa, with long blond hair and white skin.

She told them she'd never be beautiful because she didn't look like those dolls.


Sophia's fear hit the couple at their core. They took a hard look at the images their daughter was regularly exposed to, and they promptly saw the problem glaring back at them.

The way Sophia looked wasn't well-represented — not in the media nor in the toys she played with.

They looked everywhere for a black doll that resembled Sophia but couldn't find one.

Yes, there are black dolls and Barbies on the market, but most are simply dark-skinned versions of white dolls. Few offer features that many black girls like Sophia see when they look in the mirror — like wider noses or fuller lips — and even fewer dolls come in a variety of skin tones.

Meet my Co-Founders and biggest inspiration! Sophia + Sydney

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According to the Census Bureau, there are now more racial and ethnic minority children under 5 years old than white children under 5. While dolls have diversified significantly in recent years, it's still a struggle for many parents to find dolls that accurately reflect their children's specific demographic identities.

Dissatisfied with the limited doll options available, Angelica and Jason decided to create their own doll.

Their first 18-inch doll, named Angelica, was modeled after photos of Angelica and Sophia. Her hair was designed to look just like Sophia's, and they even made it washable so it can be styled like real hair.

Having a doll to play with that looked like her, Sophia's confidence levels improved significantly. Together with her younger sister Sydney, Sophia is learning to style her own hair by playing with Angelica's, and she's learning how much there is to love about her curly, voluminous hair.

Seeing how much of an effect the Angelica doll had on Sophia inspired the Sweetings to take their project to the next level. So they launched a Kickstarter to make more dolls. After all, Sophia and Sydney weren't the only little black girls out there desperately in need of seeing themselves represented in the toy aisle.

"Our girls need to see a reflection of their own unique beauty," Angelica explained on their Kickstarter page. "It’s time for our young girls to have a new standard."

After raising $25,000 in just 48 hours, the Sweetings started production on their new doll line: Naturally Perfect dolls.

As soon as they were on the market, kids and parents seemed to love them.

My daughter's 5th birthday was yesterday and Kennedy was one of her gifts, along with this salon chair (Our Generation...

Posted by Candace Kirkman on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Currently, there are four dolls available: Angelica, Brielle, Camryn, and Kennedy. They all have different skin tones, hair colors, and textures, and diverse careers and interests.

Image via Naturally Perfect Girls, used with permission.

Due to high production costs, the doll's retail price is a lofty $83, even with the funds raised from Kickstarter. So the Sweetings went on "Shark Tank" to try to get some financial support.

@sharktankabc set your calendars! 01/06/2017 EST 9PM Did we survive the tank?

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At first, whether they'd get funding was a bit touch-and-go. The biggest concern the "sharks" had was that Mattel is already working on diversifying its dolls — how could a small company make a dent in the market?

Shark Daymond John, who has mixed-race daughters of his own, came through for the couple, investing $200,000 for 30% of the company. In an interesting twist, the couple also agreed to give 10% of their shares to a girls' empowerment charity.

Thanks to the investment, the Sweetings can lower the dolls' cost and increase the number of dark-skinned dolls on the market.

For all the parents struggling to find dolls that resemble their kids, making the Naturally Perfect dolls more affordable will make a huge difference.

Kennedy 💓 click the link in the bio for 15% off Code = OCT2016 Receive one free outfit!

A photo posted by Beauty Doesn't Come In A Box! (@naturallyperfectdolls) on

In Nigeria in 2015, the Queen of Africa dolls, created by Taofick Okoya, started outselling Barbie because they spoke to the population majority. With the United States becoming a minority-majority nation, large doll companies like Mattel and American Girl might want to take a lesson from the Sweetings and step up their game.

Girls of all races deserve to love themselves. That starts by seeing themselves in the faces of world around them, both human and plastic.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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