Originally from Nigeria, Nwokolo always had the dream of making her own dolls and writing her own books.
“I read a lot growing up, and I knew I always wanted to write something but I never had the time to,” Nwokolo said. “Once my son arrived, my passion to write kicked in.”
Her first series was called “Power Kids,” which she initially based off of her son’s experience of being bullied on the bus at the age of five.
At first, she found writing difficult because it was all about learning how to schedule and discipline herself. As a full-time pharmacist and mother of a young child, the only time she managed to carve out for herself to write was at 5 a.m.
So, every morning she wrote for up to an hour prior to work. Instead of mediating, Nwokolo finds writing to be relaxing and stress-relieving.
After writing her first book in the Princess Omalie series, “Princess Omalie: The Coronation and the Polka Dot Lamb,” she recently released a second book, “Princess Omalie: The Cheetah and the Chatterbox Parrot.”
Currently, she is working on a third book which she hopes to complete by next year.
“The books are meant for tweens, and I forced my son, who is 10 years old, to read it,” she said. “It’s quite a girly book so I didn’t know how he’d react, but he said, 'mom, this is really interesting.' That’s when I knew I had something going there.”
The Princess Omalie series is based on the dolls she designed. Nwokolo has woven a rich history of heritage and placed an emphasis on family for each doll.
Furthermore, it was important for her to have the dolls instill confidence, self-esteem and inner beauty.
On the Princess Omelie website, Nwokolo added a section called “Girls With a Conscience,” which teaches young girls about caring for those in need and positive activism. On the Instagram page, @princessomalie, there are posts about self-image and the importance of kindness, manners and education.
“Inner beauty, which a lot of us aren’t able to see because we’re all too busy, is one of the most important things in a young girl growing up,” Nwokolo said.
For the books and the dolls, Nwokolo has surrounded herself with a close-knit team that includes an editor, illustrator and social media assistant. Jerry Bezdikian, a Forest Hills resident and friend of Nwokolo, helped to design various aspects of the doll’s universe.
Currently, the books and dolls are being sold on Amazon and on Nwokolo’s Princess Omalie website. She’s working on getting the dolls into more online stores and is currently working on a deal with Walmart, though she is unsure if the dolls will be available on the retailer's website in time for Christmas.
The Princess Omelie dolls are actually the third generation of Nwokolo’s dolls. The original doll, Princess Zara, did quite well but production was halted after Nwokolo and her family received a letter from the clothing franchise Zara, who claimed the doll was infringing on their brand’s name.
“After years of doing all of this hard work, we received this glossy letter with a letterhead with all the names written in gold,” Nwokolo said. “It was so intimidating. In Africa, Zara is quite a common name, and we tried to explain it to the big franchise.”
For some time she was devastated, but eventually committed to Princess Omalie and the storylines that could accompany the doll.
Nwokolo has found that the dollmaking process has changed over the years. In the past, dollmakers could create molds that would be shipped to China to be mass produced.
Now, many dollmakers have closed up shop. It took about a year to see the results for the Princess Omalie Coronation doll, the first available style of many.
“One thing I learned is that you just never know, life throws challenges at you,” she said. “I worked on the Princess Omalie doll since 2015 and thought I would have them all ready by last year’s holiday season, but it just didn’t happen.
“There’s so many bumps and potholes on the road to success,” Nwokolo added.
Nwokolo is planning on hosting a book-signing event for “The Cheetah and the Chatterbox Parrot,” which will include a tea party, but the details have not been fully ironed out yet. She hopes to find a space to host the event in Forest Hills, Rego Park or Kew Gardens.
She’s encouraging young girls to attend the book-signing and tea party to learn more about the characters and themselves.
“The whole thing is about what’s happening in society and being able to relate a book in a simple way so kids can understand,” she said. “This is just the beginning, I hope this will really catch on.”