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Inside JET

Five Things About Kenya Doll Creator Neil Levine

By// John Taylor

You may be shocked to find that Neil Levine—auteur behind the popular African-American Kenya dolls— is not, well, African-American. “Regardless of if I’m a White guy or a Black guy, we’re dealing with children who need to be inspired,” he affirms.
That inspiration is what initially spurred the launch of Kenya’s World in 1992 with the help of Levine’s father, G.I. Joe creator Don Levine. The chocolate-hued dolls addressed a glaring lack of color on toy store shelves and were enthusiastically received, until production was halted in 1996 due to licensing issues. (Kenya’s World was bought by Mattel that year.) Following a two-decade absence, the line is relaunching this winter with a touring band (including Shanica Knowles of Hannah Montana fame) and an empowering PSA. Levine insists he isn’t merely out to sell toys; he’s hoping to change communities. “The most important thing is to be able to give an uplifting platform for children.”

TO READ MORE ABOUT NEIL YOUNG’S QUEST TO INSPIRE CHILDREN, PICK UP THE NEW ISSUE OF JET MAGAZINE, ON SALE TODAY.