Friday, February 24, 2012

Talking with Nicole Updegraff, Owner of Cotton Candy Playground

A Little about Cotton Candy Playground,
Cotton Candy Playground is a multi-faceted collection of children's books, stationery, and apparel focused on self love and acceptance. 
It is more than a brand, it is a celebration of diversity and individuality-- a representation of ALL of us! Whether you are reading it, writing it, or wearing it, the message is the same; I LOVE me! and that's all that matters!
Our little talk, 
I was very excited when I found your book. About a year ago, my twin girls came home and said they wanted yellow straight hair. At that moment, I realized that I needed to celebrate the curls that they had. That was the moment that I decided that I wanted to wear my natural hair so that they can see that mommy had curly hair like their beautiful hair.  To find a book that is similar to my story was amazing.

So Nicole, please tell us a little about yourself.

This question is always tricky because there is so much more to people than what they can give you in a two sentence nugget... But here goes :). I'm a married mother of 3 w/ one in the oven.  I'm a former athlete who loves competition. I love good people, good food, and all things artistic. Oh, and if you're playing Dominoes or Taboo you want me on your team, lol.

hat was your inspiration to write, I Love My Cotton Candy Hair?

3 years ago, when my oldest daughter was 3 and a half, she can home from a play date crying and saying she wanted her hair to be straight and yellow. I figured there would come a time where my girls, like everyone, would struggle with insecurity but I never imagined it would begin so soon. It was heartbreaking! My husband and I started looking for books, not necessarily about hair, but about self love and acceptance but we had trouble finding them for 3 year olds. After about a year of searching I took matters into my own hands.

 How long did it take you to write and illustrate this book?
I LOVE my Cotton Candy Hair! (A girl named Charlie presents...)

It didn't take long at all to write the story but, because I try my best to do all my work when my cildren are asleep, the illustrations took a few months. I would say it took me about 4-6 months from inception to print.

 Did you have any experience in writing and illustration?

I've always been able to express myself well on paper but it was never anything i sought to do professionally until,  "I LOVE my Cotton Candy Hair!" Illustrating also just sort of fell into my lap. I started painting for fun after I graduated college and realized I was pretty good at it but again, I never anticipated on doing this for a living, it's just sort of worked out that way :).

 How does Charlie feel about being a part of such a great book?

She loves it! The most exciting thing for her is just being able to see herself reflected in this story. For all children, positive imagery is so important. She knows that the book is very special and she's seen feedback I've received from kids, parents and teachers telling me the impact this story has had, but she just turned 7 so I'm not sure she gets how big that is.

 There aren’t many books that encourage brown girls (we come in many different colors and ethnicities), were you afraid to take that leap?

Not at all. Once I realized how little there was out there, it just made me want to act on it that much more. It might have been daunting if I was writing for teenagers or adolescents... But for very young children less is more and positive imagery is really all you need.

 What advices to do you have for someone wanting to write a c book celebrating the skin they are in?

My advice for people writing anything would be that it has to be authentic. People can tell if something is coming from your heart or if it's just a bunch of fluff, even in a picture book written for 3yr olds :). For me, I thought about how I wanted my daughter to feel about herself and I put it down on paper. If you're writing about something as personal as the importance of loving and being able to celebrate who you are, and you've struggled with that, think about what you wish someone would've told you. You can't go wrong.

 When should we expect the next book in your series?

That's tough. Hopefully it will be this year. I am a self published author and because I finance, promote and market my own projects I have to be patient and make sure everything is in place. I wish I could release it now but there's still work to be done with "I LOVE my Cotton Candy Hair!" I can't begin working to push a second project when this first one still has so far to go. 

  Lastly, where can we find your book and merchandise? Yes, Nikki also has stationary and apparel. It is beautiful!

Thank you! I am so excited about the stationery and apparel lines. You can find all the goodies I have to offer at

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