Odessa, a character from my syndicated Kisses comic strip, was the first African American rag doll ever created for the American market. Despite the manufacturer's serious reservations, my efforts were vindicated as it had been a hit. The Chicago Tribune used the dolls as a subscription premium. I even think I caught a glimpse of an Odessa recently when Oprah's African American Doll Collection was featured on Inside Edition.
"Odessa was the
first African American rag doll
ever created for the American market."
There were lots of Odessa dolls in the world,
but the one that was stolen was much more important than all the rest—this
was the prototype of a new Odessa doll, which took me three years to develop
and design, and that was to be a new beginning for the toy manufacturing
You see, I had discovered that my Kisses dolls were being made by child
slave labor when I entered the wrong room in a Taiwan factory. I was only 21
when I began my business and totally unaware that 240 million children
around the world were slaves.
© Robin Romano
“Stolen Childhoods” is the first feature-length film
labor - Premiers May 20th, 2005
click on image above to view the story
changed my life. I quit licensing my products and began supporting
many children's charities. That is how I first became involved with
World Family, a foundation serving children and families in
Cambodia and Thailand, as well as The Foster Parent Plan,
Shriners Hospitals for Children,
"Stolen Childhoods", the
first feature length film on child labor, and Free the Children—a
phenomenal success with
children themselves helping children.
I had designed the new
Odessa with two purposes in mind: one, to license her with a company
equally dedicated to ending child labor; and two, to make a doll
that-like my inspirational writing- says you're perfect just the way
you are. Kisses characters are drawn with their eyes covered because
“All that is real is seen with the heart.”®
The new Odessa was to be the antithesis of Barbie. We don't need a
dream car, dream house, dream guy to be happy. I know. I grew up with a
single immigrant mother in an area so rough they burned my elementary
school down. But my mother was an artist who could make a garage look
like a palace. No matter how little we had, I was always rich—in love,
and in beauty.
are drawn with their eyes covered because
'All that is real is seen with the heart.'®"
I guess those lessons helped me survive
the aftermath of Hurricane Allied. I can't help but wonder if the
people of Allied Van Lines, the global moving leader in a 50 billion dollar business that
just went public with SIRVA in 2003, have
any idea how just one franchise in the form of one individual can
devalue their entire company. Just like a pinhole in a balloon.
I am writing to them in the hope they'll
live up to their promises in their annual report and help me. In truth,
it would help Allied, and all who trust their name, as I did, too.
I'm working to continue my partnerships with Free the Children
and Stolen Childhoods – wouldn't it
be great if Allied wanted to join the side of the angels and work with
image is dedicated to Shriners Hospitals for Children which provides
more than one million dollars per day in
FREE care for children.
"I'm working to
continue my partnerships with Free the Children
and Stolen Childhoods – wouldn't it be great if Allied Van Lines
join the side of the angels and work with us, too? "