Two years ago, attorney Jennifer Hamlin went to buy a doll for a friend’s daughter. “I was surprised,” she says, “not to see any portraying women with careers.”
Determined to give girls better role models, Hamlin and her friend Jennifer Fine created Smartees, career-oriented dolls with names like Jessica the Journalist and Destiny the Doctor. The dolls come with résumés, work attire and accessories—that is, tape recorders and stethoscopes, not just handbags and high heels. And while they are the same height as Barbies, they have bigger waists, thighs and hips. “We want to give a healthy body image,” says Hamlin, 29.
Since last October, the Los Angeles—based partners—each married, with no kids—have sold 100,000 of the $19.99 dolls and won approval from people including Oprah Winfrey. “Smartees,” Winfrey said on her show last November, “focus on brains, not beauty.” Not that you can’t have both: The Smartees also come with evening wear (for charity events) and casual clothes (for dress-down Fridays). The message? “You don’t have to sacrifice appearance for intelligence,” says Fine, 27.
Though competitors have started making dolls with jobs—Working Woman Barbie comes with a cell phone and computer—”Smartees actually teach girls how to achieve the career,” says eToys buyer Rebecca Creamer, referring to the books that come with the dolls, explaining how Vicky, for instance, became a veterinarian. The company has a Web site, http://www.smartees.com, that offers links to universities, and it awards a $25,000 college scholarship each year based on need and academic merit. “But we’re not trying to replace Barbie,” Hamlin says. “We just want to be her smart friend.”