Drawing on inspiration from years working in her mother’s toy store, Nee drew up a series — about an African-American girl who runs a playhouse toy clinic — that quickly became the No. 1 series for children ages 2-5. Popularity of the series bridged into the adult world, as female doctors helped promote show as a positive role model for young African-American girls.
What we should know: “We really do sit around all day and talk about things like, ‘Can a doll get a cold?’ and ‘Are the Hungry Hungry Hippos ever full?’ I can’t believe the conversations I’m having — and being serious about them. You have moments where you can’t believe I do this all day long.”
Words of wisdom: “That it really functions like a small town here, so don’t be the one caught streaking in the square. You always want to be doing your best work. If you don’t give it your all, it’ll come back and bite you later.”
Smartphone vacation habits: “Do you take your arm on vacation? Our world is so freelance; it’s hard to get a clean period of time off. I definitely try to limit it — I just took my first vacation in eight years without a laptop.”
Work week: “I’m in preschool TV. I can’t count that high. Really, like anyone else who does what they love for a living, my brain is always working. Probably 60 to 80 hours a week.”
Life-work balance: “This show (‘McStuffins’) was made for my son, who is about to turn 6. I’m always including him in what I’m doing and thinking about him when I do my work and I make it home for dinner pretty much every night. It would be a terrible thing to feel like I had neglected my own child so that I could bring happiness to others. I did rock the career day at kindergarten, though — I made an entire video that sequenced how we put something together on the show with audio from a lot of the favorite characters on the show saying ‘Hi’ to the classroom. He was beaming. I win. It’s all about winning, isn’t it?”
Charitable passions: “I’m a Doctors Without Borders fan, but right now a lot of my money goes to the public school my child is at. When your principal writes that they need paper to get through the year, that becomes your favorite charity quickly.”