Babson Grad Student Uses Dolls to Address Racial and Gender Expectations
“No longer are we telling black male youth that the only path to success is through hyper-aggressive career and interest paths,” says Jennifer Pierre, a Masters in Management in Entrepreneurial Leadership (MSM) candidate here at Babson.
Stemming from her work with minority youth, Jennifer saw a need for young boys to be encouraged in whatever interests them, regardless of societal pressures they are faced with as they grow into young adults; and thus, the idea of Melanites was created.
“Melanites is a toy company combating societal pressures of hyper masculinity on minority boys by normalizing products that celebrate brown boyhood during the formative stages of identity creation,” says Pierre.
Q: What’s the “why” behind Melanites?
Pierre: My venture is a celebration of brown boys and is expanding the breadth of representation available in the toy industry. Melanites was birthed out of years of mentoring and volunteering for male minority youth; I have a vested interest because of my younger brother. I have seen the way he maneuvers through his life and it puts into perspective how different society cultivates young men and women.
Many of the kids and adolescents I mentored where stuck between a rock and a hard place because of circumstance and environment. The only real change of course happened through an intervention of a new mindset. I believe Melanites can achieve that by intercepting the glass ceiling placed on young boys mind about what they can be when they grow up and how they are supposed to express themselves.
Q: Can you describe the product you will be producing?
Pierre: It’s the first line of male dolls to enter the toy industry and the only line that specifically targets the minority market. Our 18-inch models have a diverse range of skin tone, facial features, and hair types. Each character has a persona that embraces the idea of “And.” I want to teach minority youth that they can love chemistry and the sciences, and write hip-hop lyrics in their spare time. They can be a football star, and create art pieces as an expression of creativity. Toys are more than toys; introducing a product during the prime window of identity formation is key to my mission.
Q: Why did you come to Babson? Why MSM?
Pierre: I came to Babson solely because of the MSM Program. My main interest was in finding a place where the idea of entrepreneurship was a common part of the conversation. MSM was perfect for me because it aligned with where I was in my life—Not yet a professional, but no longer an unsure student. I was impressed with the tenants of thought and action, as well as program highlights like the teaching experience, consulting project, and global experience.
Jennifer, who is passionate about combining entrepreneurship, race, and social change into her future endeavors, was accepted into the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab this year, a yearlong accelerator program for women entrepreneurs. This gives her a space to explore her entrepreneurial goals, build connections with other businesswomen and entrepreneurs, and further develop her business plan.
Check out Jennifer’s venture on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@BrownBoyhood) and keep up with the progress of Melanites at www.BrownBoyhood.com.
You can keep up with more “What’s Your Story?” Wednesday posts on Instagram at #BabsonWYS!