Betty K. Bynum's "Pretty Girl" Collection
[Black Star Interview]I had the pleasure of speaking with the multi-talented Betty K Bynum about her newest venture, the "I'm a Pretty Girl Collection". A collection of children's books, apparel and dolls that remind us of just how beautiful different can be. BSN: Good morning and congratulations on your new collection.BKB: Thanks so much! I just feel so blessed to be doing what I am doing. I wish I could say it's all me but it's mostly GOD and my belief in HIM. Not to mention a lot of help from some immensely talented people! BSN: What was the inspiration behind this collection? BKB: I was watching Julianne Moore on the Today Show. She was promoting her children's book, "Freckled-Face Strawberry". She spoke about how being a red-head little girl with freckles wasn't so popular back then and how it had made her feel like she didn't belong. It got me to thinking about how we, as Black women, have issues about how light or dark we are. We're so many beautiful colors and tones. We should be celebrating that instead of being divisive. We need a joyful, natural way to celebrate each other and be one.I had a big moment of clarity when I attended the Toy Fair at the Jacob Javits Center as Madame Alexander's special guest. After walking around the fair I realized I was the only Black person there, absent the coat check and security. I was like, wait a minute this can't be! I walked through the entire fair again and yep I was the only black person. Now if this is a representation of the people who are designing and manufacturing the toys, this is why what we see in the stores is not diversified. BSN: That being said how difficult was it to shop your idea?BKB: The credit definitely goes to Todd Williams, an amazing Black man. He is responsible for chaperoning me into the deal with Target. He really pushed the idea. Also Keith Harrison [Marketing] was instrumental in helping me close this huge deal. We have been working on this Target deal since January of 2010 with some really great people. They are very specific about the merchandise they carry and how it reflects their brand and purpose. Luckily, my products fit the niche and were exactly what they were looking for.BSN: When can we look forward to seeing your collection in Target stores?BKB: We are on schedule with Target to debut in Spring 2013. I'm so excited to see this come into fruition! I jotted down the first draft of my book in 2008. It's been a long time coming. The first book, "I'm a Pretty Little Black Girl" is available now at AMAZON.COM BSN: I had a chance to see the book cover art and it is gorgeous.BKB: I had the honor of working with an amazing Illustrator, Claire Armstrong-Parod. She took what was in my head and made it beautiful. She's such a joy to work with and an artist in every sense of the word. Claire made sure every color was perfect, every shade matched. We worked side-by-side. I wound up art-directing the entire book. Who knew I could be an Art-Director?BSN: Wow! Let's add that to your already extensive résumé? Do you have any room?BKB: I'll have to make some! [Laughs] BSN: I understand that this collection will also include a line of dolls. Tell me about that.BKB: To my utter surprise, after one meeting with Madame Alexander, they decided to come on board. I was floored! You can imagine my shock. Lawrence Christmas, a dear friend of mine, created seven dolls (one for each character in the book). It was his beautiful craftsmanship that snagged us this deal! He said to me, "Betty, this never happens. No one gets a 'yes' after a 30 min meeting. It's unheard of!" Me telling them about the dolls paled in comparison to them actually seeing Lawrence's work up close. I cried when he showed it to me for the first time. It was perfect. BSN: I love the fact that you not only have a Pretty Little Black Girl's character but you've also included a Latino, Asian and Indian characters.BKB: Actually, I have my son to thank for that. He said to me, "Mommy, I go to school with Spanish, Chinese and Indian girls too. They want to go to the library and read a book about themselves!" BSN: He's a smart boy.BKB: Yes, he is. There is a void that needs to be filled for all girls and women of color. I've read my books to grown Black, Latino, Asian and Indian women and they all cried! It's so important to me that the girls feel loved after they read my book. I want them to know that they look exactly the way they're supposed to and they are fabulous.As a dark-skinned woman in the film industry, I can't tell you how many times I've been looked over for a role for another black woman who was lighter or more caramel than me. It creates a sense of competition between us instead of a sense of community. I pray that this book series will start the healing process by teaching our young girls and women of color to celebrate each others' differences because they are what makes us beautiful and unique. BSN: Have you thoughts about bringing this book to television or the big screen? BKB: That's very interesting. Claire's five year old daughter was looking at the book and said to Claire, "Mommy, this is great! When does the movie come out?" I would love to see that happen! BSN: We are definitely lacking diversity in cartoons and animated films these days. In our era we had the "Jackson Five" and "Fat Albert" to watch. I bought a DVD box-set of "Fat Albert" and my children love it.BKB: Wow! That's awesome. You should let Bill Cosby know that! He would be so happy. I'm going to try and find that for my son too. I would love for, "I'm a Pretty Litttle Black Girl" to become an animated series for all children to enjoy. BSN: The collection is phenomenal and we look forward to its debut in April of this year. I'm sure it will be a huge success. Best of luck to you and thank you for your time. BKB: Thank you so much. I am happy to have support from people like you. I love your magazine and am honored to be in it. Note: The "I'M A PRETTY LITTLE GIRL COLLECTION" is a joyful and natural way to celebrate diversity among all colored girls and women. Filled with positive self-images and moral messages, it's sure to start a cycle of healing in our communities. She's already received accolades from the likes of Chris Rock, Debbie Allen and John Singleton. We salute you, Betty K Bynum; talented writer, actress, singer/song writer, entrepreneur for tackling this most important issue and making it PRETTY!