Overcoming hurdles one doll at a time

Overcoming hurdles one doll at a time

Zoe Terry could have called it quits as a toddler. At age 2, she suffered a stroke. Doctors warned she wouldn’t develop properly, or be able to run, ride bikes and do the things that little girls like to do.
Zoe, the creator and CEO of Zoe’s Dolls, clearly didn’t get that message. Now she and her staff (yes, she has a staff) dole out more than 2,000 dolls to encourage Black and Brown girls to be comfortable in their own skin.

“I want to help others see their image is beautiful no matter what anyone says,” said Zoe. Thoughtful words for a girl who at age 9 is in her fifth year of running her company.

On Feb. 26, Zoe will be the youngest of eight young adults selected to give an inspirational speech during TEDx Youth@Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. TEDx Youth is inspired by the popular TED, a nonprofit organization that spreads ideas using short, inspirational talks. The website boasts that talks have been viewed more than a billion times worldwide since 2006.
Zoe, also will be the only Black speaker at the event. She follows in the footsteps of a young Black baker, Taylor Moxey, who spoke last year at age 8.

Zoe will speak about how she overcame the stroke, and bullying to start a nonprofit that strives to empower girls. The title of her speech is “Turn Impossible Into I’m Possible.” The stroke affected her speech and body movement. Through physical and speech therapy, plus lessons ranging from tennis and aerial exercises to dance and swimming, Zoe advanced to where she competes with kids in her age group.

Another part of her journey involves the chiding she got in kindergarten. Zoe was the only Black student in her class. She was teased because she couldn’t ride tricycles like the other kids. She endured stares and constant questions about why her hair was “so puffy,” or her skin “so dark.”

At one point, she wanted a weave, so she could have long hair, and “be pretty.” “We really had to work with Zoe in loving her hair,” said her mother, Nakia Bowling, who also is director of programs. Mom “went into overdrive” to get positive messages about “loving who you are.” Through dolls, Zoe encourages other girls to see their own beauty. “We may look different,” she said, “but we are all beautiful.”