This Mom of 6 Couldn't Find Characters Who Looked Like Her Daughters, So She Created Princess Cupcake Jones
Representation matters in every aspect of our lives. From boardrooms to board books, there is a serious lack of diverse characters for our kiddos to relate with and look up to. Mom of six Ylleya Fields saw this issue head on when she had her first two daughters (Donna and Dakota, now 15 and 13). She looked everywhere for a character that resembled her daughters and came up short. So what's an ambitious visionary mama to do? Do the dang thing herself! And so, Princess Cupcake Jones was born.
Anjelika Temple here, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Brit + Co, and mama to two bi-racial daughters. I'm constantly on the lookout for books and stories that feature diverse characters, and a huge fan of Ylleya's work and creative journey. Read on to hear from this powerhouse mama on what inspired her series, what her support system looks like, and her favorite childrens' books.
Anjelika Temple: Let's kick it off with more about your beginnings.
Ylleya Fields: I was born and raised until age 6 on a farm in South America — crazy right? I moved to the DC/Maryland area for three or four years, and then moved to Cleveland, where I have lived ever since. I went to Clarke Atlanta for a year, but then ended up leaving and going to a business college back in Ohio. I have 6 beautiful kids, 4 girls, 2 boys, a super cute husband, and an overall amazing life.
AT: Did you always know you wanted to be an author or writer?
YF: Absolutely not! I loved reading. And my two eldest daughters loved reading also. So that's where the inspiration came from!
AT: Tell me more about what inspired you to create Princess Cupcake Jones.
YF: At the time I created the series, there wasn't a character in children's picture books that my daughters' could physically relate to, so I decided to create my own. Princess Cupcake Jones is literally a blend of my daughters' personalities and experiences growing up.
AT: Talk to me about the importance of representation and diversity in kids' books.
YF: Representation is a necessity. It literally drives home that we can be anything we want to be, and reinforces to people of other ethnicities and cultures the same points. I think based on the climate that we currently live in, you can understand even more now the need for all of us to not only be seen - but heard.
AT: Hear hear! On that note, can you share 10 diverse books (besides your own, of course) on your bookshelf that you recommend?
1. Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler
2. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
3. Sugar Plum Ballerinas by Whoopi Goldberg
4. Curlilocks and the Three Pandas by Yolanda King
5. Penny and the Magic Puffballs by Alonda Williams
6. Summer Jackson Grown Up by Teresa E Harris
7. Corduroy by Don Freeman
8. Grace for President by Kelly Dipucchio
9. Natalie's Hair Was Wild by Laura Freeman
10. The New Small Person by Lauren Child
AT: Okay so you have six kiddos (wow!!). What are their ages? How do they influence your work? What do they think of mama the author?
YF: I have Donny (22), Donna (15), Dakota (13), Grey (6), andPhoenix and Prime (4 year-old twins).
I like to say that the oldest girls started this, and the younger ones are now finishing it. Their stories are the basis for every Princess Cupcake Jones story I write, and it's really nice to still be inspired, even though my original Cupcakettes are now teenagers! The kids, I think, are proud of the fact that not only do I write, but the stories are also based on them. And of course every time the older ones hear of a celebrity who has the book, I earn a couple cool points too.
AT: How do you balance motherhood with your work? What advice do you have for fellow mothers wanting to strike out and start something of their own?
YT: It definitely takes a village. I have a huge support system, from my husband, to my Mom, in laws, cousins, etc. that make my life possible. My advice to fellow Moms is to take time out for yourselves and go for it. As a Mom, you are constantly putting others before yourself, and when it comes to your dreams, it requires a little bit of selfishness that we as Moms tend to be uncomfortable with.
AT: Aside from writing, what creative hobbies or activities do you try to make time for?
YF: Aside from writing, my time is mostly spent with family. When you have a family as large as ours, there really isn't much time for anything else. Before Covid-19, we traveled a lot, but of course we all have had to adjust to the new normal of being at home. I actually don't mind the break.
AT: If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
YF: I would tell myself that you are worthy. I don't think I really understood my worth until I was much older. And don't stop — keep going, it's all worth it!
AT: Anything else you'd like to share?
YF: Just thank you to the people that have supported Princess Cupcake Jones for so long. It means the world to me!