A few years ago, Yelitsa Jean-Charles, the 20-something founder of Healthy Roots Dolls, was pleasantly surprised to see Serena William’s daughter Olympia photographed with Zoe, the Healthy Roots signature doll. As she tells The Root, “I look at all of my orders and obviously I would have noticed the name,” she says with a laugh.
The Haitian-American founder of Healthy Roots grew up in New York and has lived, studied and worked in a few different places including Rhode Island, North Carolina and Ohio. Jean-Charles now calls Detroit, Michigan home. While her mother always lovingly braided and took care of young Yelitsa’s hair when she was a child, the pressure from societal beauty standards made Jean-Charles feel some kind of way when it came to fully loving and appreciating her curly and kinky hair. “It wasn’t until college that I started unpacking a lot of those feelings,” she says, finally realizing that she had options when it came to her own hair care. The problem was that she didn’t know how, until she started teaching herself healthy hair care.
After completing a student project at the Rhode Island School of Design, Jean-Charles felt strongly how important it was to design a black doll with realistic hair that can be styled. That’s when she decided to start her own company. Zoe, an 18-inch doll, serves as a learning tool that supports healthy self-esteem in young girls of color. After receiving significant seed funding from various sources, Jean-Charles landed a partnership with P&G’s My Black is Beautiful campaign.
These days, Jean-Charles knows that the Healthy Roots doll Zoe is a must for any young girl. It’s an added bonus that available hair care products sold with Zoe can actually be used with human hair as well. Jean-Charles provides customers with a wealth of how-to information online on Youtube when it comes to the Zoe doll’s hair care needs, dos and don’ts of styling, and inspirational funky hairstyle ideas like box braids or extensions. Jean-Charles also tells the The Root to watch for upcoming the Fall/Holiday 2021 season news and announcements.