Shani and Her Friends

Name: Shani and Her Friends Asha, Nichelle, and Jamal

Made by and When: Mattel, 1991

Material: Vinyl

Height: 11-1/2 inches (Shani, Asha, and Nichelle); 12 inches (Jamal)

Hair/Eyes/Mouth: All three have rooted, wavy textured hair with bangs. Shani and Nichelle have long black hair; Asha has long auburn hair. Their large eyes are painted brown. Shani and Asha have open smiles with the appearance of teeth. Nichelle has a closed smile. Jamal has black sculpted hair, a painted mustache, brown painted eyes, and a closed mouth.

Clothes: Shani, Asha and Nichelle are dressed in lovely gowns that transform into different fashions. Shani’s gown of purple, pink, and blue becomes a bathing suit and cover-up. Asha’s orange and gold gown becomes a mini dress and jacket. Nichelle’s fuchsia and yellow gown transforms into a ballerina costume. Jamal wears a yellow (sometimes referred to as gold) suit, the fabric of which matches the fabric used for the dress in Shani fashion #1884.   Jamal is illustrated on the back of his box with his girlfriend, Shani, seated in a yellow convertible.

Other: Designed by Kitty Black Perkins, former chief designer of fashions and concepts for Mattel’s Barbie line, the Shani collection is Mattel’s first line of African American fashion dolls independent of Barbie.  All other African American Barbies had been included in Barbie lines.  This line was completely separate from Barbie’s various collections of family and friends.  With facial features more representative of the ethnicity they represent, the other exciting feature about Shani and her friends, Asha and Nichelle, is each doll has a different complexion, which ranges from light (Asha), medium (Shani), to dark (Nichelle).  Asha’s auburn hair color is lighter than Shani and Nichelle’s darker hair.  Their varying skin tones, ethnically correct faces, different hair colors and textures, and slightly fuller bodies were all uniquely new features for Mattel to offer. 

Slideshow (Use the right arrow to advance to the next image.)

The pictures and text for this installation were shared from the curator’s Black Doll Collecting blog post, The Marvelous World of Shani and Her Friends.


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Published by DeeBeeGee

Doll collector, historian, co-founder of the first e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls; author of black-doll reference books, doll blogs, and doll magazine articles.

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