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Vol. 4, Issue 2                                            4th Quarter, 2005


Miss Cyla Whitaker

by Debbie Garrett


Cyla and (most of) her favorite dolls





For this issue of The Black Doll-E-Zine, I elected to share the profile of a Black-doll collector from a child’s perspective.  Childhood, after all, is where most doll collectors developed their first love for dolls--the precious playthings that today continue to fill collectors with so much joy.  It was during childhood when dolls were used to mimic a mother's nurturing, actual or craved.  Imaginations were used at doll play to wash and comb dolls' hair, bathe and dress them, wash  their clothing, talk to them, and perhaps (for the more creative girls) sew outfits for them! Remember sock dresses?

Because I knew of her massive My Scene Madison collection, the child chosen for this profile is Cyla Whitaker.  Cyla is a second grader who attends school within the Dallas Independent School District.  She is the bright and spunky,  7-year-old granddaughter of one of my closest friends, Leslie Whitaker.  After reading Cyla's interview, you will agree that she is a true collector at heart!

How the Idea for the Interview Originated:

In the spring of 2005, I sent Leslie a link to the headshot of the United Colors of Benetton Barbie, New York doll.  After viewing the doll’s picture, Leslie immediately decided she wanted to purchase this doll for Cyla and asked me to inform her the minute I learned of the doll’s availability.  After the doll’s release in late October, I called our local United Colors of Benetton Galleria store only to learn that they do not carry it.  I was, however, able to locate the doll at the Benetton store in Coral Gables, Florida.  I ordered two--one for Cyla and one for my collection (of course).


On the day of her interview in my doll room, Cyla was under the impression that her granny was bringing her to my house to answer some questions about her dolls for a "magazine" article.  My plan, however, was also to surprise Cyla with the Benetton New York Barbie... and surprised, she was!


The Interview:

After Cyla walked from my living room into the dining room, she immediately stopped to touch and admire Aaron by Philip Heath.  Next, we went into my doll room where Cyla was amazed at the amount of dolls that fill it.  I allowed her time to “ooh and aah” over the dolls, before asking if she did not mind answering a few questions about her dolls.  I told her there were only 12 questions.  She agreed.  The questions and her candid answers are as follows:


Q: Why do you collect Black dolls?

“The reason I collect Black dolls is because my Granny told me it would be a good idea and because I am Black.  When [Granny] took them down from the shelf, I told her I wanted to collect dolls.” 


Q:  How long have you been playing with or collecting Black dolls?

At first, Cyla did not know the answer; so I asked, “All of you life?”   She answered, “No, not all of my life.”  I asked, “Most of your life?”  She thought about it, and her granny suggested that she answer, all of her life.  Her final answer was, “Let’s go with ‘most of my life.’ ” 


Q: Approximately how many Black dolls do you currently own?

“I haven’t counted them yet, but I think I have about 100.”  (Her granny concurred.)


Q: Who buys your dolls for you?

“My Granny, my Aunt Kaye, my Aunt Ruth, and… that’s about it,” she said. 


Q: Which doll is your favorite and why?

Without hesitation, she replied, “All of my My Scene dolls, because I have so many and I have so many of her movies.”  Her Granny said Cyla also loves baby dolls.  She said she loves to push them around in strollers and carry them around. 


Q: Do you play with your dolls with your sisters or friends, or do you usually play with them alone?

“Sometimes I play with them with my sisters and sometimes by myself.”


Q: Do you talk to your dolls, if so, what do you tell them?

“I ask them if they want to play.” 


Q: What other special things do you do with your dolls, such as take them places with you, dress them up, comb their hair, etc.?

“Granny never let’s me do that [take them with her], but she does let me play with them a lot.”  After further thinking about this question, Cyla said, “Oh, she let me take my Skylar doll to the doctor with me.” 



Q: Do you display your dolls, if so, where?

“I’m not sure what that means,“ Cyla said.  I pointed to a shelf that contains a few of my never-removed-from-box Barbies, and said, “Those dolls on the shelf are a doll display.”  “Well, I don’t have my dolls on a shelf, but I have them on a table,” was her reply.



Q: What is the name of the last doll you received?

At first, Cyla gave me the name of a My Scene Madison.  Then I said, “No, that’s not the last doll you received.”  She thought about this, and after I realized she had forgotten about the Benetton Barbie, I refreshed her memory and said, “Benetton Barbie,”  and she said, “Oh, yeah!”


Q: Who purchased the last doll for you?

“My Granny,” and she gave her granny a big hug.


Q: What dolls do you hope to get soon?

I don’t know yet; I haven’t figured that out.  Then my final question was, “But you do know you will get one soon, don’t you?” to which she replied, “Yes.”


During the entire interview, Miss Cyla beamed with delight at the sight of my collection.  She actually asked if she could buy one of my dolls.  It was a Berenguer La Newborn Moments baby doll.  I told her that my dolls are not for sale.  (I didn't tell her; but if I ever decided to find a new home for it, it will be hers.) 

At the conclusion of the interview, Cyla asked me a series of questions, one of which was “About how much money did it cost for you to buy these dolls?”  I told her, “I have no idea.”  Finally, before leaving with her new doll, she scanned my doll room one final time and said, “Debbie, you collect dolls, too!”  I smiled and said, “Yes, I sure do.”




Cyla's My Scene Madison Collection




United Colors of Benetton Barbie - New York




 My Scene Madisons (on tabletop); miscellaneous Barbies, Avon Hello Kitty dolls, and Skylar (seated on floor between the Hello Kitty dolls); Bratz Yasmin, standing (far right)



Yasmin, Hello Kitty dolls, Skylar, and Various Barbies


The inanimate dolls and the living doll (notice the Madison stance on the living doll). 



Cyla and her latest doll (at time of publication), Benetton Barbie - New York


Cyla is giving her new doll one more hug!

I would like to extend a special thanks to Leslie Whitaker for allowing Cyla to share her doll collector’s profile with the readers of The Black Doll-E-Zine.  Thank you, Cyla, for being such a great interviewee!  My final thanks goes to Christopher Whitaker (Cyla's dad)  for promptly taking such great photos of your daughter and her dolls upon such short notice!  I truly appreciate it, Chris!


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