In December, Faith Onwusa went to buy her niece a baby doll but ended up not making a purchase. She felt that the black dolls lacked complexity and variety.
“The other dolls had features that looked like they could match real girls,” she said. “Some had red hair, bows, braids, curly hair, straight hair, but the black dolls were super simple.”
As the lead curator and designer on the team developing Napturalista Moji, a new 3D emoji sticker app for black women, Onwusa has been creating what she didn’t see.
Her role consists of coming up with and designing the emoji’s expressions and sayings, hairstyles, skin tones and outfits. She puts a lot of her focus on the details.
“When I was thinking about what will appeal to black women that no other app has, it’s specifically the hair,” she said. “When you buy braids in the package, you literally can see every braid. We wanted to pay attention to those tiny details.”
The app, which took over a year to launch because it “took time to get it right,” features more than 200 stickers that can be sent via text in sizes from small to extra large. It includes four skin complexions, ranging from light brown to dark brown, and more than 40 natural and protective hairstyles — such as bantu knots, box braids and twists.
Onwusa found it impossible to highlight every single nuance of black women.
“We tried to cover all the grounds, but there’s just no way to cover every single little nuance since every black woman is so unique,” she said. “I think we did a good job capturing most things — we got a good amount of the hairstyles in. People are excited. We’re planning to expand and add more characters, like a granny giving you ‘that look’ and some aunties.”
Onwusa wanted black women to see themselves reflected in the Napturalista Moji stickers in other ways beyond just skin tone.
“Most of my friends aren’t able to find an app where they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I do or say that all the time,’ so that was really my goal, so people can identify and be like, ‘That is me.’”
Napturalista Moji, in partnership with Muoyo Okome and the development team at App Magic, was created after they spent time “looking into the world and asking, ‘How much do we see ourselves, and when we do, how are we being represented, especially in the small, everyday kind of things?’” Onwusa said. They wanted to celebrate the natural beauty of black women, from Afro-textured hairstyles to the rainbow of brown skin complexions, so black girls and women could see themselves in a positive light.
“Representation definitely matters,” said Onwusa. “It’s important for little girls, adults, everybody, to see images that look like them that are cool and funky and positive. When you see yourself over and over again in a good light, it makes a difference.”
Onwusa lives in Oakland, Calif., down the street from where a white woman called the police to report black men barbecuing in a park. Living in a time when countless situations like this occur, Owunsa says, makes the timing of the app’s release “perfect.”
“We’re trying to change our narrative and make something positive out of what everyone has been trying to say is negative,” she said, “so I think that’s really what’s important right now to have an app like this. Just positivity.”
Written by: Christen A. Johnson
Source: Chicago Tribune
Photos by: Napturalista Moji