A 20-year journey as the Niya Doll

By Niya A. Cotton 10/27/11

There is a saying that goes: “You only live once.” Well, in my case, I’ve lived twice.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had two lives.  By day I went to school, dance classes, choir rehearsals  and acted in plays. By night, I shrunk several feet, spoke three languages and became a best friend  to thousands of young girls all across the world. I became…THE NIYA DOLL!

This 20 year journey of The Niya Doll project has had many ups and many downs.  It’s not easy walking a path that hasn’t been paved. It’s not easy getting people  to believe in your vision. It’s not easy to be a light in total darkness.  But has that stopped my mom, Darla Davenport-Powell, the creator of the Niya Doll?  NOT A CHANCE!  I have never seen someone so adamant and ferociously tenacious about something  that they believe in wholeheartedly. My mom created a doll that looked and sounded like me.  She couldn’t find any toys that represented our experience, so she did what she knew to do…  she created one!

At one point, I remember that there were hundreds of “me” in our basement!!!  My mom has driven this NIya Doll project to schools, churches, conferences, seminars, radio shows and even to the ABC hit television show, American Inventor.  She showed America how desperately  important it is for our children to be affirmed through products and images that look  like themselves. It’s my belief that everyone just wants to belong somewhere and if our children don’t get a positive push toward their purpose…they will take it upon themselves to find a place to belong. Some would think that after becoming a finalist on American Inventor, everything would fall into place.
Companies and manufacturers would call incessantly to be the first to catapult this dream to the next level.  Million of dollars would be offered because distributors would see how financially beneficial this idea  would become…NOPE! It’s not easy getting people to believe in your vision.  It’s not easy to be a light  in total darkness. This has been a slow and steady taxiing of yes’s and no’s but I believe with all my heart that lift off is up ahead!   The Niya project is just getting started! I have a dream that one day young school children will be able to join Niya’s paper doll collection (oh yes, there are paper dolls now) and create their own paper doll  that looks like them!

I have a dream that one day Niya and her amazing friends (oh yes, she has friends now)  will take their wonderful world of imagination to the small and eventually BIG screen! I have a dream  that the innocence of children all over the world will be restored and celebrated. And my last dream  is that all of my mom’s dreams will finally come true!  I’ve lived once, I’ve lived twice, but this third time…is the charm!

Happy Anniversary NIYA!

In celebration of Niya’s 20th anniversary, I am inviting you to blog about your experiences with the Niya Doll. Here’s one from Debbie Garrett, a doll collector, with her personal Niya story.

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  • Patricia Patton  On November 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I too wish the world would soon recognize the worth and wonderfulness of the Niya doll. Not only because she is the dream of my friend but because she is so worthy. I bought her for myself and also for my granddaughters. She has a special place in my living room and has her own rocking chair. She has a new dress with a matching cap and she is beautiful. I look forward to persons coming to my home and admiring her and listening to her talk and showing off her other talents. She is precious to me.

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