Soapbox Theory Bringing Familiar Faces to Design

 

Source: Soapbox.com
Source: Soapboxtheory.com

As a child, I vividly remember that my mom would only buy dolls, characters, or anything with a face on it that was the same color as me. I never had a white baby doll, puzzle, or any other toy for that matter. So, when I came across Kayin Talton Davis’ company Soapbox Theory, I nearly jumped out of my skin! Instantly, I was transported back to my childhood. My mother would have literally fawned over this line of adorable brown children with afro puffs. I was able to contact Kayin and pick her brain about this innovative line of products that feature beautiful brown children. 

 

YFN:

Tell me about your line of products. What does your line include, what kind of materials are they made of?

 
ST:
Soapbox Theory products include everything from t-shirts and other wearables to home decor and paper crafts. Lately I’ve been focused on children’s dining items, such as lunch boxes, cups and plates. All of t-shirts are pre-shrunk, 100% cotton. Currently the plates and bowls are USA-made, BPA-free melamine, though I am expanding into ceramics soon. The water bottles are stainless steel and BPA free as well.

YFN:
 It is a rarity to find mainstream products with familiar faces of color on them that are not racially ambiguous. Your characters have identifiable faces that look like my own son’s. Why did you decide to go with mainly black characters as oppose to a wide array of races?
 
ST:
There is something about feeling represented when you walk into a store or turn on a television; those who have this on a regular basis have no idea what it is to not have it. Our children need to know they are important enough to be represented on their day to day clothing and tools, without being just the sidekick or a friend. What has been cool is that people of all ethnicities and backgrounds respond positively to my products, because they are relatable and different from the mainstream depictions of children of color.


YFN:
While this idea seems simplistic, it is desperately necessary for our youth and, in my opinion, truly brilliant. What gave you the light bulb idea?
 
ST:
I have been wanting to make children “whole” since I was in middle school. The majority of my education, my goal was to be an engineer, designing children’s prosthetics. It was in engineering school that I decided to start Soapbox Theory, initially as greeting card business. My first cards featured Black children because I love afros and puffs on children. For a while I designed mainly for adults, but more recently, I have been seriously back to children’s items because with all the available options for personalizing items, there is usually only one shade of brown in a multitude of creams and peaches. Also, with what seems to be a rise in the trans-racial adoption of Black (American and African) children, more families are looking to make sure their children of color have items that accurately reflect their uniqueness and beauty.


YFN:

As a child, I remember my mother only buying me only black Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls so that I was able to identify them and to encourage my self-love. Did you see yourself in many of the children geared toys, television shows or media growing up?

ST:
Though we didn’t watch much TV, I grew up with the Cosby Show and A Different World, which was awesome. My other favorite shows had “the one Black friend,” but were also about being comfortable being unique, and making the hard decisions to do what is right. The majority of my dolls as I got older were Black, though as a younger child, it was mainly stuffed animals. One of my favorite books was The People Could Fly, a compilation by Virginia Hamilton, which inspired me in part to write Flying Lessons, primarily for my daughters, but also for all children of color to know they can do anything they put their minds to.

YFN:
Normalizing black culture and beauty is the key to harboring self love in our communities and certainly starts from childhood. Do you see your line of products playing a role in that? What do you want to accomplish with this line of products?
 
ST:
Most certainly. Children are influenced by so many different sources that it is imperative to make sure as many of those sources as possible are positive, uplifting, and encouraging. With all Soapbox Theory products, my goal is to instill a sense of pride and dignity amongst the Black community, young and old. I cannot count how many times I have gotten emails or had customers stop by and tell me that they wish they had the item I produce around when they were children.

YFN:
I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful natural puff girls on your products. How important is being natural, especially as a child? And what are your thoughts on the natural hair movement?
 
ST:
Thank you. I think that the most important thing for a child is to feel loved, accepted and important – as they are naturally. We learn what is beautiful and good as a child, which is why so many wait until they are adults to embrace themselves.  I wore my hair natural as a child up until I was about 11 or 12 and decided to go natural again at 17 after realizing I always preferred my hair big and was intrigued by the texture of my new growth. Before I left for college, I cut it all off. Aside from occasionally coloring it, my hair has been natural ever since.  I used to press  or twist my hair from time to time, but I’ve realized I love my hair best when it is free. The natural hair movement is pretty awesome. Though there are some debates over how coloring, weaves, and wigs fit in, a community has formed around having healthier hair practices and an overall healthier perspective on natural hair.

The beautiful creations of Soapbox Theory can be viewed at soapboxtheory.com or at the store in Portland, OR. You can also support the production of the book Flying Lessons at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-lessons .
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2 thoughts on “Soapbox Theory Bringing Familiar Faces to Design

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this find, I love, love, love seeing us take matters into our hands regarding representation.

    Like

    1. I am glad you love her collection! The little afro puff kids are irresistible and I LOVE that my son can see his face on products.

      Like

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