If you want your tiny LEGO actors to have the widest range of emotional expression, and you want to see that expression on their faces, you can’t have minority actors, and certainly not black ones. To be precise, you’ll have to indicate that they are black using elements like voice over and costuming, but their skin will be yellow.
Maybe your goal is to collect black LEGO people for the sake of collection rather than to make a LEGO stop motion animation. Read on.
Or skip all the theory and techniques below for now and learn how to place an order for Black Superman on BrickLink.com.
Why are there no black LEGO Minifigures?
That was one of the first things I asked when I started my LEGO® journey. At the time, I hadn’t seen enough LEGO sets, and I didn’t know about licensing.
The vast majority of LEGO people, called “minifigures” or “minifigs” for short, are yellow.
The idea is that yellow is a neutral color and that children and adults around the world can see themselves in the yellow faces. Yellow represents every skin tone.
Unfortunately, many people think that LEGO faces are in fact all light-skinned.
All minifigs were yellow until LEGO started licensing in 1999. That means LEGO entered into a deal to be allowed to make products based on a brand or property. Think in terms of Mickey Mouse, Jurassic Park, Volvo, the Statue of Liberty, and a number of National Basketball Association stars.
Unfortunately, Hollywood gives us a lot of black villains, superheroes, or generally unhappy people. This is reflected in brown-skinned minifigures with masks or scowls or intense facial expressions. That’s great if you enjoy collecting them for their original design. Personally, I’d like happy faces first, then I’d like to be able to show a range of emotion.
In theory, licensing means that, as time goes by, there will be more brown minifigs.
LEGO Minifigure Skin Color
In the movies, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are portrayed by white actors, so the little plastic people who represent them are white. The corresponding, official LEGO color is Light Nougat.
In the Star Wars movies, black actors Billy Dee Williams and John Boyega portray Lando Calrissian and Finn, so their corresponding minifigs are a dark brown. The official name for that color in the LEGO universe is Reddish Brown.
Dean Thomas from the Gryffindor House and (the 2017 versions of) LEGO Batgirl are Medium Nougat in color.
Jasmine and Aladdin: Nougat
Black Friends Mini-Dolls
LEGO Friends sets appeared in 2012. The Friends have names, personalities and proclivities, and storylines. They were designed specifically for girls. To be fair, I’m not the target audience for this product.
I don’t like some of the super-girly themes (dog show, hair salon, horses), although the Friends have recently started doing more exciting things, like rescuing turtles and repairing race cars. Because of these recent themes, I no longer make gagging noises when I talk about the Friends line. Usually.
I love the fact that none of the Friends have yellow skin. I’ve seen them in Medium Nougat, Nougat, and Light Nougat.
They are taller than minifigures and their legs can’t move independently. I don’t like that their movement is limited that way. Also, they don’t have different facial expressions. Those two things mean that I’m less likely to ever make a brickfilm using mini-dolls. I just hate the fact that they remind me of old-school Barbie dolls.
By the way, not all mini-dolls are from the Friends line; there are also Elves (a retired LEGO series) and Disney characters.
Black LEGO Minifigures: How To Start Your Collection
Does collecting black figurines that aren’t as fragile as glass, ceramic, or porcelain make your heart go pitter-patter? Look no further than LEGO.
The simplest way to indicate that the minifigure represents a black person is to use a LEGO wig that looks more like a black person’s hair. Put the wig on a generic yellow minifig and you’re good to go.
To start with a stereotype, there are at least 4 big afros: black, brown, red, and blue.
The Dean Thomas minifig from the Harry Potter Collection Series has a small afro. I’ve put that wig on Black Superman for your viewing pleasure.
For female LEGO people, good wigs include the one you’ll find on Shuri, the Black Panther’s sister, and a large bun found in the Fun Fair People Pack or the programmer from Series 19 of the Collectible Minifigures.
Order Custom LEGO Minifigures
There are businesses that are not associated with the LEGO company that will create LEGO people for you. For example, you can request a male with Medium Nougat skin tone wearing a shirt that says, “Happy Birthday,” or a female with Reddish Brown skin and a bikini top so you can make a black mermaid.
If you’re a hardcore LEGO purist, you’ll think twice, because this wouldn’t be an official minifigure or minifigure assembled from official LEGO parts.
Combine Existing Minifigs
Step 1: Gather your non-yellow LEGO people or individual heads you’ve collected, and call them Group A.
Step 2: Line up any minifigures you might have that don’t show any color at the neckline, on the arms, or on the legs. Those are Group B. Hands are okay, because you’ll replace them with brown ones.
Step 3: Remove the head and hands from Group B, and replace them with heads and hands from Group A.
It’s easy to get carried away making the replacements and forget the neckline, so look for that first, because having that yellow peeking out from under the black LEGO person’s shirt looks odd unless there’s yellow in the shirt, or you’re just not that picky.
Next photo: no, no, no, no!
See what I mean?
This means that it will be easier to dress your LEGO people of color when it’s chilly outside and they can wear long sleeves. You could even argue that yellow hands are gloves.
Their wardrobes will be limited in warmer months. They’ll have to either go into hiding in the summer or cover their arms and perhaps sweat profusely in the summer.
Individual Minifig Parts
Figure out which specific parts – hair/wig, head, torso, hands, legs – you want to combine and search for them using eBay, BrickLink (a site where you can buy and sell LEGO products only), and anywhere else you can think of. Just remember that shipping charges from different vendors will add up.
Look for torsos that would look good as a black t-shirt with short sleeves and have no visible flesh at the neckline. Got any? Then you absolutely must have Barbara Gordon, the version with a SWAT vest.
Her arms are pre-printed with black short sleeves and the rest of her arms and hands are Medium Nougat color. Replacing the arms with Barbara’s gives you more clothing options for your minifig. Just remember to check the neckline!
I’m tempted to buy a fistful of Barbara torsos and have different Medium Nougat faces for each one. I’d have a family reunion of black LEGO minifigures in matching shirts!
Since LEGO minifigures are yellow by default, creating a more racially diverse collection of little plastic people will take some creativity.
Depending on your existing collection, budget, and goals, your options include:
- using LEGO hairpieces
- ordering customized LEGO
- buying individual parts, and
- combining what you already have.
To help you search for the flesh tones on diehard LEGO sites like BrickLink, BrickSet, and BrickOwl, here are the names of the colors, the color ID, and an example of who has that skin color:
- Reddish Brown – 192 – Shuri
- Medium Nougat – 312 – Barbara Gordon
- Nougat – 18 – Jasmine
- Light Nougat – 283 – Indiana Jones
I’m curious: what would you like your collection of minifigures to look like? Please leave me a comment below and let me know!
Not ready for a collection?
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