The Kenya Doll Brand Celebrates 30 Years Growing Up Proud During Black History Month

Kenya Tyco Toy Company Mattel


Tyco Toy Company debuted during the New York International Toy Fair, with their first ethnic doll line, “Kenya.” She fast became the talk of Toy Fair, with press publications in Newsday (“She’s Black Like Me”), Ebony, Essence, NY Times, Jet and other publications. Would she succeed? How would doll buyers react? Time would tell. Oct. 1, 1992, 250,000 dolls hit store shelves. She came in 3 different shades of brown skin tone, and 3 different hair colors. Tyco ran a full advertising TV campaign during Prime Time shows that kids watched, making it historically, the first time a toy was advertised to the African American audience. By Black Friday in November, the doll had sold out! Tyco had underestimated the consumer. At last there was a doll that showed representation mattered for millions of girls who previously had owned Caucasian dolls molded in brown plastic. Kenya was not only beautiful, she had African American facial features, and incredible natural curls that could be relaxed with her magic lotion, making it easier for girls to braid and bead her hair. Wash her hair in warm water, and her lovely curls returned. She captured the true life style of African American girls. Tyco continued to manufacture Kenya over the next five years with television ad campaigns until Mattel acquired the company. She then was licensed to Uneeda Doll Company and today, is licensed to Smart-Zone Ltd. She is available at fine retail stores in the USA.


This year, in celebration of Black History Month and Kenya’s 30th Birthday, Smart-Zone Ltd., launched the Proud and Pretty Kenya and Baby Keyara collection available now at retail stores. The collection comes in 3 sizes, 18”, 13” and 12”. Each doll wears a traditional African print fashion proportionally scaled to the size of the doll. The dolls continue to come in three skintones, has natural curls and 3 hair colors. Girls can choose the doll that looks most like themselves. Smart-Zone Ltd. is proud to be the Licensee of Kenya and Friends while her popularity continues to expand to a whole new generation of little girls that love the doll because she is just like they are.


Launching later this year will be the all new Kenya’s Circle of Friends Collection featuring 11.5” and 16” dolls as well as a styling head. Her big sister Ebony comes in this collection with all of her friends from around the world. The 30th Anniversary Kenya Collector Doll arrives later this fall.


Kenya is the oldest, most loved ethnic doll brand in America and has put smiles on millions of little girls’ faces. Today’s moms had Kenya as a child and now can embrace that memory with their daughters. Inclusivity matters, and Kenya over the past 30 years, has touched the hearts of so many girls. Mommy’s best friend Kenya, is now her daughter’s best friend too.


Circle of Friends Kenya