Bloomberg Businessweek, December 2017

Check out this article from December 11, 2017 in Bloomberg Businessweek. Zoe was featured and illustrated!

Game Changer

This 11-Year-Old Philanthropist Helps Girls Love the Skin They’re In

Zoe Terry and her mom have built a franchise that gives out dolls of color to kids who could use a shot of self-esteem.

By Nikita Richardson
December 11, 2017, 12:00 PM EST
Illustration: Sam Kerr for Bloomberg Businessweek

Zoe Terry’s first day of pre-kindergarten at Miami Country Day School in 2010 didn’t exactly go well. “I was bullied because of the color of my skin and because my hair was so puffy,” says Terry, who arrived to find out she was the only black girl in her class. “I didn’t want that to stop me,” she says.

Not long after, Terry—who’s now an exceedingly polite and energetic 11-year-old—told her mother, Nakia Bowling, about an idea she had: to give out dolls of color to other black and brown girls who were less fortunate than she was, so they could feel beautiful and less alone. Six years later that idea has grown into Zoe’s Dolls, which posts Toys For Tots-style collection bins at public sites in Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas, in addition to Terry’s home state of Florida. “We already have a list of about 60 places just in Miami alone,” says Bowling, who handles the day-to-day administrative duties and runs a Zoe’s Dolls after-school program in Miami. So far the program has distributed almost 20,000 dolls to 4,000 girls in the U.S., Haiti, and Zambia.

“Anywhere a girl needs a doll, we deliver to,” Terry says. “It doesn’t matter how little they are, how old they are.” She and her mother soon expanded Zoe’s Dolls to include a Girl Ambassadors program, which undertakes community projects. This year they started Girl Fit Experience, to teach Miami’s young nonwhite girls about healthy eating habits, and Love Letters to Black Girls, which solicits stories, poems, and notes of encouragement from adults to send to young women of color nationwide.

All that work attracted the eye of the Nickelodeon network, which this year selected Terry as one of four recipients of its Helping and Leading Others (HALO) awards. “Zoe really exemplified all the things that we think our audience can relate to,” says Jay Schmalholz, senior vice president for live events and unscripted development at Nickelodeon and executive producer of the awards. “Just her maturity and her level of confidence and her playfulness and her energy.”

With the award, Terry received a $10,000 scholarship and a $20,000 grant, which she’ll put toward giving away more dolls and producing her own proprietary line, Simply Zoe. Each doll will come with a book that tells Terry’s story, and for every one sold, Zoe’s Dolls will give another away.

Compared with the work Terry is doing on Zoe’s Dolls, school politics seem irrelevant these days. “People know that certain things won’t bother me as much,” she says. “Like, if you make a mean comment, it won’t bother me, because I have so much confidence in myself.”

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