In 2012, Disney Junior ushered in a new character that looked like nothing we’d seen from the House of Mouse—an adorable Black girl with eyes big as saucers, the braided pigtails of our youth and a lab coat.
Dottie “Doc” McStuffins burst onto the scene following in her mom Dr. McStuffins’ footsteps. Full of sweetness, shenanigans and skill, Doc set out to fix all of the broken toys in her toy chest. What Disney didn’t see coming was the inspiration she would usher in for little girls—specifically little Black girls—to seek careers in medicine, and an entire movement named after her.
As the prettiest “doctor” with pigtails turns ten, MADAMENOIRE sat down to chat with a real-life Doc McStuffins, Dr. Myeisha Taylor, Chris Nee, the show’s creator, and the incomparable Loretta Devine, the voice of Nurse Hallie the Hippo.
When Doc McStuffins joined the Disney family in 2012, Dr. Myeisha Taylor was the only Black doctor working in the emergency room of her hospital. In the evenings, she was the only Black doctor in the entire hospital. She says that watching Doc McStuffins with her then 4-year-old daughter is what led to her co-founding the “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement, as well as the Artemis Medical Society which started as a means to highlight the importance of young Black girls seeing themselves represented in the medical field.
“At the time, Black women made up only 2 percent of the physician workforce, so having an image that normalizes you being the team leader in medicine was just so profound!,” she says.
Often mistaken for hospital housekeeping prior to the show’s debut, Dr. Taylor credits Disney and show creator Chris Nee for normalizing the role of Black women in the medical field.
“Before Doc McStuffins aired, I would walk into the room and introduce myself and it would be kind of weird. But then shortly thereafter the show became popular, and kids were like ‘OK!’ —And parents were watching with their children, so it just became a normal thing, which is so important. If society doesn’t allow us to see the intelligence of a Black woman in charge, everybody loses.”
A 2019 study done by the American Association of Medical Colleges Women of Color Initiative showed that the number of Black women actively working in medicine had risen to 7.38 percent since 2012. If pressed, one could assert that the creation of Doc McStuffins was the alleyoop Black women in medicine needed.
Alyssa Sapire, senior vice president of original programming for Disney Junior also sees the unexpected reward of having Doc McStuffins in the children’s entertainment space.
“Doc resonates with kids because she’s smart, nurturing, fun and a great friend,” Sapire said . “These are qualities kids want to see in themselves, as well as in the family and friends they want around them.”
She went on to say that Doc McStuffins is a pop culture icon with incredible social impact, inspiring more kids of color to pursue the medical and science fields. And we see this with the creation of more and more STEM programs aimed at young children of color – specifically Black girls. With programs like Black Girls Do STEM, Girl Stem Institute, and Black Girls Movement, there are now programs aimed directly at our young queens who might be curious about a career in STEM. Creator Chris Nee, who created the show in part to comfort her own child who was dealing with some medical anxiety, was intentional about making sure Doc was a girl. When Disney suggested making Doc a young Black girl (Nee is White), she was all in.
“I was creating Doc for my son, but I didn’t think we needed another boy leading the pack, so I made Doc into a girl,” Nee told MN. “Disney was the first to suggest making her a young Black girl. I loved the idea.”
Née continued: “As a member of the LGBTQ community, Nee did not feel as though she was able to about her own family or represent them on screen. “I knew deeply what it was to feel marginalized and unseen. I was thrilled to make the choices that would make sure someone else didn’t feel that way.”
Now, ten years later, millions of little girls who are Black, Brown and otherwise, have grown up with Doc and her rag-tag group of toys that she persistently and lovingly mends. Loretta Devine, the voice behind fan favorite Nurse Hallie, is also thrilled to have been a part of Doc’s journey. Ms. Devine has taken the role to heart. She reads to children at Disneyland, and sends voice recordings to children as Nurse Hallie, reminds them that their parents love them, to be good and sings the ever popular “Time For Your Checkup” song.
In an exclusive interview with MN, Devine shared how proud she is to have been a part of this iconic show for the last 10 years.
“I have always been extra proud of the show,” Devine said. “The scripts, the songs, the artwork and the extra bonus of Doc being a beautiful, smart, kind and sweet little Black girl with loving parents was the icing on the cake. Not to mention Michelle Obama loved the show as well and was a part of the magic [that] made it extra extra special.”
The magic that is Doc McStuffins continued on August when Disney/Disney Junior aired “The Doc is 10!” In that very special episode, Doc gets help from her friends and fans to make it her best birthday ever. Kids can expect to sing along to some favorite songs from past episodes and learn a new song, “The Doc Is 10!” The special aired on Disney+ and Hulu.
We couldn’t be happier for Doc McStuffins and the lasting legacy she has created for young Black girls around the world – Happy Birthday, Doc!