(NEW YORK) — Meet the 11-year-old philanthropist and entrepreneur who is collecting and donating dolls of color to little girls in need, telling ABC News that she wanted to “let little brown girls know that their image is beautiful.”
Zoe Terry, 11, and her mother, Nakia Bowling, launched the nonprofit “Zoe’s Dolls” in 2011 when Zoe was just 5 years old. The group gives out dolls of color to young girls whose families may not otherwise be able to afford them.
“I started Zoe’s Dolls when I was 5 years old because at that time, I was bullied because the color of my skin and because my hair was so puffy,” Zoe told ABC News.
“It really made me feel really bad,” she added of the bullying. “It made me feel like I couldn’t do anything.”
Bowling, Zoe’s mother, told ABC News that she tried to turn the bullying Zoe experienced into a teachable moment and encouraged her to be confident in her own skin.
“When she was bullied, she said, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m going to do something positive about it,'” Bowling said. “She doesn’t let her situation determine her outcome, she determines her outcome.”
Zoe then decided to do something to help make sure no other little girls ever felt the same way she did.
“I really wanted to find a way where I can let little brown girls know that their image is beautiful no matter what anyone else says,” Zoe said. “And I thought, ‘Dolls in their image would be a great way to show them that.'”
“I think its important that everyone gets a doll that looks like them,” Zoe added.
Bowling told ABC News that Zoe will “be the first to tell you it’s not about me, it just has my name on it.”
Now a sixth-grader at the same school where she was initially bullied, Zoe is thriving.
“Me and my girl our now friends and she donates to Zoe’s Dolls every year. I think how we came to that was that my school and my mom really helped me and the girl understand that our differences are what make us special and we should celebrate our differences,” Zoe said Friday on “GMA.”
Her work has sparked an important conversation at her school.
“Not only does she spread a message of diversity and inclusion,” Karen Davis, a teacher at Zoe’s school said. “She really does feel that we are all beautiful.”
Zoe told ABC News that she wants “every little brown girl” to “know that nothing is impossible.”
“The word itself says I’m possible,” she added.
Zoe has already helped collect and distribute 20,000 dolls. In addition, she is creating her own line of “Simply Zoe” dolls, and she said her goal is that for every one sold, one will be given away to a family in need.
Debbie Sterling, the founder and CEO of the toy company GoldieBlox, surprised Zoe on “Good Morning America” on Friday with the news that she was going to help Zoe launch her “Zoe’s Dolls” line by donating 5,000 GoldieBlox dolls so that Zoe can spend her time focusing on launching her own line rather than collecting donations.
“I wouldn’t have as much success today if I didn’t have mentors along the way, so today I would like to sign up to be your mentor,” Sterling told Zoe on Friday.
In addition, Sterling announced that she would mentor Zoe as she worked to launch her doll line, and pledged that for every doll purchased in February on GoldieBlox’s website, the company will donate another doll to Zoe.
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