VoyageMIA Magazine, December 2018

VoyageMIA Magazine interviews Zoe. This article was published December 13, 2918.

Meet Zoe Terry of Zoe’s Dolls

VoyageMIA Magazine interviews Zoe Terry

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zoe Terry.

Zoe, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Zoe’s Dolls, a not-for-profit organization founded in Miami, Florida. I started Zoe’s Dolls when she I was five years old. To truly understand the Zoe’s Dolls’ story, you must first know my story. When I was two, I suffered a stroke.

While it left me with fine and gross motor skill difficulties, along with some speech impairment, I was determined to be unstoppable. After hard work and intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy, I overcame most of her physical limitations.

When I was in Kindergarten, I was bullied because of my skin color and hair texture. I was the only one in my class who looked like I did. I was also bullied because I was a bit slower riding the tricycle than other kids and because of my physical limitations. I decided to do something about how this made me feel. I decided to act.

My mother had always instilled in me the importance of paying it forward and giving back. I told my mother that I wanted to give out brown dolls to little brown girls so that they could feel good about themselves. My reasoning for wanting to do this was two-fold. I wanted to give toys to little girls less fortunate than I was and I wanted to combat bullying letting little brown girls know that they were special, just the way they are.

This was the beginning of Zoe’s Dolls. Since I started, I have given out over 20,000 dolls I have impacted the lives of over 10,000 girls in South Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Haiti, Cuba, the Netherlands, and Africa. Zoe’s Dolls has chapters in Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas. I have not stopped at just dolls. My organization has developed and runs programs aimed at empowering little girls and young ladies, to let each one know that her image is beautiful.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It was hard in the very beginning. It was hard getting people to donate dolls. It was hard getting the word out about my organization. The first year, we only collected like 150 dolls.

In the beginning, people would also say what I was doing was racist because I only gave out brown dolls. They could not understand that it was about self-love and loving the image I was in.

I also struggled in the beginning balancing school, Zoe’s Dolls and my social life but I got that together. I found a system that worked for me.

Zoe’s Dolls – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I give out brown dolls to little girls. All little girls regardless of their color. That is my claim to fame! People know me as the doll girl. That is what I specialize in. I have a book called Simply Zoe that tells my story and journey. I have a line of t-shirts. I also have programs that people have come to know me for.

I have the following programs:

-Loving the Skin: I’m In Creative Expressions Contest now in its fourth year is an annual competition open nationwide to girls 6-18 years old. The girls can submit a written or video submission on why they love the skin they are in. Winning entries are awarded cash prizes for the first, second and third place and honored at a culminating formal banquet.

-Love Letters to Black Girls is a program where Zoe’s Dolls solicits the community to write inspiring, empowering and inspirational letters to Black girls. These letters are then given out to girls all over South Florida to celebrate their beauty and power as a girl.

-Zoe’s Dolls Girl Ambassadors program allows other little girls to join in on the Zoe’s Dolls mission. Each year the program accepts 15 girls that work with Zoe throughout the year giving back through community projects, the doll giveaway and volunteering to read to little kids.

-Girlpreneur Program: Girlpreneur is a program that Zoe’s Dolls debuted in January 2016. The program accepts 15 girls between the ages of 8-13 that have an interest in owning their own business. Girlpreneur works with these girls for six months, using a kid based business curriculum designed to give these girls the foundation to starting their own business.

During the program, girls learn how to formulate their business idea, develop a business plan, incorporate their business and design marketing plans. The girls are also paired with business owners, who serve as mentors. At the end of the program, each girl will have incorporated and started their business. Each girl also receives funds towards the development of her business.

-The Girl Fit Experience: After a reading a report with her mother about The State of Obesity, in a special report called Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity, where it showed that African American girls were more obese than any other ethnic group, I decided I had to do something. The Girl Fit Experience is a fun, interactive day of fitness designed with girls in mind. Had her first Girl Fit Experience, In July 2016 I held the first Girl Fit Experience and more than 80 girls came out to get fit. The program has now expanded to a full out afterschool fitness program.

-The Living Doll Experience (LDE) now in its fourth year is the premiere, kick-off event to Doll Season. LDE features 15 girls that are transformed into “living dolls.” They are cased in life-sized doll boxes. These 15 “live” dolls represent all the beauty, grace and style that the little Black girl embodies. These“live” dolls represent the multitude of ethnicities, lifestyles, and cultures of the African Diaspora.

Once the show starts, an eclectic burst of fashion, music, and dance will collide to bring to life the image of the powerful, beautiful and undeniable Black girl. LDE is free and open to the community. The event features live music, free food, entertainment, vendors offering free items and social service agencies.

I am most proud about impacting the lives of so many girls and helping them feel good about themselves. I think what sets me apart from other is that I’m a kid that’s been doing this for over six years.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
When I look at if something has been successful, I look at if I did what I said I was going to do. I look at it if I gave it my all. I look at was I true to my mission. Even with doing all of that, the outcome might not be what I want, but as long as I can answer yes to all of those questions, I consider it a success.

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VoyageMIA Magazine interviews Zoe Terry