Grandfather with vitiligo made dolls for children with the same condition

A Brazilian grandfather has created a line of crochet dolls with one thing in common – they all have vitiligo.

Sep 22, 2019 |
3 min read

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Barbie has a lot to answer for. Ever since Mattel launched this doll in 1959, America’s most famous blonde has been held up as the gold standard in beauty.

While the manufacturers have taken admirable steps forward in recent years, diversifying the skin tones and appearances of Barbie’s cohorts, some children still feel underrepresented by this hugely popular toy line.

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

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Take children with vitiligo, for example. This skin condition is rare, only impacting between 1 and 3% of the world’s population. Unlike the clear and immaculate skin of mainstream dolls, people with vitiligo live with patches of skin that lack any form of pigmentation.

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Children living with vitiligo may already feel like outsiders in a world that focuses on aesthetics. This inspired a Brazilian grandfather took action. João Stanganelli Junior took up crochet upon retiring. The result is a line of dolls that show young people that vitiligo does not equal imperfection.

That’s sweet. Are people buying these dolls?

They most certainly are. As Stanganelli explains, he is struggling to keep up with the demand for his toy line. Thankfully, he has the time – and the passion – to dedicate to his hobby.

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

Initially, Stanganelli only intended to make one doll. Upon retiring, he was looking for a new hobby to take up. He decided to attempt crochet and make a doll with vitiligo. This was a gift for his granddaughter, so she’d always have a memento of him – hence the unique approach to the doll’s physical appearance.

Stanganelli found that he enjoyed his work and saw the value. He decided to make more dolls with attributes rarely found on the shelves of a high street toy store. He created a doll in a wheelchair, and one to signify visual impairment.

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

Stanganelli first developed vitiligo in his 30s and vowed never to let it get him down. He intends to help young people enjoy the same strength of character.

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Once Stanganelli began sharing his creations on social media, things really took off. These days, he’s busier than ever creating dolls. Happily, it appears that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

An ambassador for vitiligo

Other figures in the public eye have begun teaming up with Stanganelli to spread awareness surrounding vitiligo. More importantly, these people are working to end the social stigma that surrounds the condition.

Brazilian author Tati Santos de Oliveira is a prime example of this. Her daughter developed vitiligo at the age of three. This made her old enough to understand that something was different about her – and young enough to be deeply troubled by it.

Discovering no literature or discussion around vitiligo in children, Santos de Oliveira took inspiration from Stanganelli. Within two days, she had penned A Menina Feita de Nuvens or The Girl Made of Clouds.

While no English translation of this children’s book yet exists, we’re all hopeful that this will change. Countless children would benefit from this delicate and kind-hearted explanation of the condition. Stanganelli is clearly a fan, and the feeling appears to be mutual.

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

No end in sight

João Stanganelli Junior has no intention of hanging up his crochet kit anytime soon. He has long since adapted to the long hours and calloused fingers that his hobby causes. He now spends north of 90% of his time keeping up with the requests for his dolls.

Photo by Instagram/joaostanganelli

We could all learn from Stanganelli. He has taken a situation that some would find troubling and turned it to his advantage. He refuses to be browbeaten or railroaded by the skin condition.

Perhaps more importantly, he is determined to ensure that no child ever feels this way in the future.

It’s always heartwarming to see people turn adversity into triumph, so it should be encouraged. Give Stanganelli a follow on Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to like and share his latest creations. Why not place an order while you’re at it?

You may need to wait a while – Stanganelli is a busy man. All the same, a custom crochet doll may help somebody in your life feel as special as you know them to be. If mainstream society leaves them feeling otherwise, this could make all the difference.

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