Mala Bryan is a St Lucia-born, South Africa-based model who launched Malaville, a black doll company featuring four dolls — Maisha, Mala, Malina and Mhina — each with a different backstory and unique style.
Malaville’s Instagram account is adorable and chic, featuring the dolls posed in different scenarios, outfits and hair styles. The dolls have been featured in dozens of publications, and praised by celebrities including Garcelle Beauvais and Thandie Newton. Bryan has always been deliberate about ensuring that her dolls represent the vastness of black beauty and got the idea to start the company when she couldn’t find darker-skinned dolls for a toy drive.
But it was the deep-toned Maisha doll that recently drove a customer to make a very ignorant suggestion.
Bryan posted the comment on Malaville’s Instagram account;
“I think that one doll is a bit too dark. That’s like the Sudanese doll. I think its safe to say that’s the least best-selling… Keep the other three and create accessories etc. 🙂 Keep doing what you do sistah.”
The screenshot also includes a response from a customer who defended the company.
But in the captions of the post, Bryan chimed in with her own reply ;
“Sending lots of love to the beautiful dark skinned people out there, especially to those that share the same complexion as our #MaishaDoll just know that you black is beautiful, this comment really touched me today and I just needed to share it on here as well. Hopefully it will help us spread some extra love around… So this comment was made about my #MaishaDoll. I was thinking about just ignoring it but I’m sharing just so that people realize that our super dark people must still be facing a huge problem. This is just sad. Although I got a compliment at the end, the person had the nerve to talk about her being the least selling when she actually my second best selling. Ugh!”
The reality is that unapologetically representing dark-skinned beauty is still seen as taboo and often frowned upon, both within and outside of black culture. We are grateful that companies like Malaville continue this representation in a way that inspires and empowers.