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- American author and former model
What does the real Santa look like?
With a notable lack of diverse Santas everywhere, from shopping malls to ornament shops, kids may wonder ... does the man in red look like them?
Redd says the illustrated holiday story is based on her 10-year-old son's constant quest to figure out what Santa really looks like. In the book, a Black child questions his family on Christmas Eve about Santa's appearance, comparing his mental image of Santa to figurines and holiday decor that show St. Nick's likeness.
"For him to go through this process and to question, 'Does [Santa] have a gray beard? Does he have a white beard? Does he have a satchel or a sack?' is very much a mirror of my children's experience as well as the experience of millions of children around the world." Redd tells Yahoo Life. "But times are changing, everything's evolving and Santa is part of that."
"In my household, Santa is Black," Redd continues, "and I really wanted my children to grow up with a story where the characters look like them."
In Redd's sweet holiday tale, the little boy quizzes Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa about what the real Santa looks like before attempting to stay up all night to catch a peek of Santa Claus. The child falls asleep, but realizes through bleary eyes when he's lifted to bed by a Black Santa that Santa does, in fact, look like him.
"It's that kind of emotional evocative moment that really gives an opportunity to see how important representation is," says Redd, "especially with our young children because the earlier you start to fill their cup with belonging and love and security instead of otherness and exclusion, the better our whole society will be."
Redd, a mom of two, is no stranger to bringing diversity to children's books. Her book Bedtime Bonnet, released in 2020, is dedicated to her 7-year-old daughter and talks about Black nighttime hair rituals.
"She was reluctant to wear her bedtime bonnet when the time came because she only thought 'old people' wore bonnets because she only saw me and my mother wearing it," says Redd. "Now this book is literally based off of my son: He has loved Santa from the moment he could speak and every year, we'd go see different Santas and he'd always wonder what the real Santa looks like."
While the book is adorably illustrated and tells a sweet Christmas story, Redd says there's a bigger purpose hidden in its pages.
"I'm expanding the conversation about this jolly icon that no one has ever seen," she says. "I think the message is that anything is possible if you believe and we all deserve to be part of the story."
Redd says her book has a message for all households, not just ones where Santa is Black.
"You can take out 'looks like,'" she says. "Santa is you. Santa is all of us. If we lived life like Santa — giving, caring, believing, full of magic and hope and joy — the world would be a better place. We all can be Santa, we just have to choose to."
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