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Serena Williams on the Qai Qai doll and wanting to 'share joy'

What started out as a fun social media project with her daughter has become a bestselling children's toy.
S By Serena - Presentation - February 2020 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows
Serena Williams has branched out to the world of toys with the release of her Qai Qai doll. Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

Not every children's doll has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram alone. Then again, not every doll gets to be a member of the Williams-Ohanian household.

The doll in question, the Qai Qai Doll, started out as an animated concept created by Serena Williams that was inspired by the first doll that her daughter, Olympia Ohanian, ever had. Qai Qai made her social media debut in 2018 and has since amassed a huge following thanks to engaging posts that often comment on prevalent social issues like mental health, race and female empowerment.

Now, children of all ages can get their hands on their very own Qai Qai doll, which debuted as the No. 1 release in kids' toys on Amazon just a few short weeks ago.

The products shown may be from a brand with which the celebrity has a financial relationship. If you buy those products through the links in this article, Amazon — which sells the celebrity's product — has agreed to give Shop TODAY a commission on the purchase.

Qai Qai Doll

"When we started telling Qai Qai’s story on social media, we weren’t sure how people would respond, but it became obvious very quickly that a lot of parents could relate with how much Qai Qai means to our daughter," Williams told Shop TODAY in an email interview. "We wanted to be able to share that same joy with others, so we decided to bring her to life!"

The doll, which stands just under 15 inches tall, wears a "GOAT" onesie and a ruffled tutu, just like the Qai Qai animation that appears on social media. Williams says she recognized that cartoons can not only teach important lessons to viewers, but also make them happy. Combine that with the fact that social media makes it easier to connect with people, it only makes sense that Qai Qai would be able to connect with her audience and share important lessons with them both online and in real life.

"I love to connect with my fans on social media and it only made sense to give Qai Qai that same platform," Williams told us.

Olympia has brought her doll with her nearly everywhere, and while Qai Qai was first a family secret, Williams shared that creating Qai Qai wasn't meant to be some kind of parenting "hack."

"I actually think we shouldn’t have 'parenting secrets' — there isn’t one right way to be a mom and no one secretly has it figured out," Williams said. "Moms set such high expectations for themselves to have it all figured out and to make it look effortless while doing it, but that just isn’t possible."

Besides playing with Olympia and Qai Qai, Williams has also enjoyed indulging in her beauty routine with her daughter.

"Olympia and I started doing our self-care routines together during quarantine," Williams said. "She likes to paint nails or we’ll wash our face together at night. It’s our special thing."

And while they enjoy giving their skin a little TLC, Williams shared that there's one beauty item she's come to appreciate a little more in recent months. Sunscreen isn't just a summer essential, and Williams has an affordable favorite.

Neutrogena Age Shield Face Lotion Sunscreen

"The most important thing you can do for your skin is protect it from the sun, so one of my staple beauty products is Neutrogena sunscreen," Williams told Shop TODAY. "But I am always trying new products; it’s one of my hobbies!"

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