OUR COLLECTION: The Big, Beautiful Ones

3 Feb

The big, beautiful ladies - Edna, Raven, Mimi, Rosie, Tracy and a standard-sized doll for comparison.

I’m finally doing a post on the Plus-sized Ladies of Leah’s Barbieland. I’d waited until I had them all (or all I could get my hands on).

To recap:

This post is not about dolls I made larger, this post is about dolls that were born this way.

The ladies used in comparison are (L to R):

Edna Turnblad: Made by Jakks Pacific. Promotional tie-in with the movie Hairspray. 2007

Galleria Garibaldi: Character in a movie about the Cheetah Girls.  Raven-Symoné played the character Galleria Garibaldi.  Mattel also released a Raven doll but used the standard body and a head mold called Mbili that is a beautiful African American head mold, but looks nothing like Raven Simone. Iow, if you want a doll that looks different than Mattel dolls, don’t bother with their Raven doll.  That said, if you are seeking a plus-sized doll, this doll barely makes the grade. The doll shown here is made by Play Along Toys in 2007 and part of the Fashion Collection and not the “Concert” collection (my doll doesn’t sing) – the variations are detailed in this Wikipedia entry.  (may thanks to D7ana)

Mimi Bobeck: Character in the television series The Drew Carey Show. Made by Creation Entertainment in 1998.

Rosie O’Donnell, Friend of Barbie: Made by Mattel. Promotional tie-in with the old Rosie O’Donnell show (here’s a link to the new Rosie Show.) 1999.

Tracy Turnblad: Made by Jakks Pacific. Promotional tie-in with the movie Hairspray. 2007

Mammy from Gone with the Wind: Pictures of her will appear lower in this post. Made by World Doll (?), 1989. The company that made them doesn’t seem to have lasted long.

The point of this post is to let people know what’s out there and provide comparison photos about their sizes relative to standard barbie dolls. That’s a question I often have about non-standard dolls. Since I want to provide the best information possible and so I photograph the dolls naked. I think it’s easier to see the real difference when their clothes are off.

Edna Turnblad, Raven Cheetah Girl, Mimi Bobeck, Rosie O'Donnell, Tracy Turnblad, Old Barbie Body, Current Belly Button/ Fashionista Barbie Body

Sitting is a bit of a problem for the girls with the largest bellies. Not sure if a creative doll designer could overcome this problem.

I always appreciate underpants. Raven, Mimi, Edna, Rosie, Tracy.'

I received my Mammy doll after I took pictures of the other dolls together. Mammy is significantly different so I kept her in her own set of pictures.

Mammy in btw Mimi and Tracy. Tracy is wearing a Hearts 4 Hearts ensemble.

An Aside: I have Tracy in a Hearts 4 Hearts ensemble and I will be covering alternative clothing for plus-size barbies in a future post. Finding alternative clothing for these ladies is no easy task

Mammy naked, Edna wearing Mammy's dress.

Now you can see that Mammy’s body is made of cloth, overstuffed with cotton. She can’t sit or change positions at all. I have removed her head and will remove some of the stuffing. Then I’ll add thick wire to her arms, legs and body so that she can hold a position. At least that’s the plan for now. Stay tuned.

I will work on the body and possibly add hair.

I think the only plus size 1/6 scale doll I don’t have, and can’t show you – is a Big Beautiful doll, as shown here and detailed in my earlier post called “Someone Needs to Create an Anti-Barbie“.

Big Beautiful Doll - Madame CJ Walker Tribute Doll

If any readers know of any additional plus-sized dolls please comment and let me (and other readers) know. Of course I know of the various other Anti-barbies like the Get Real Girls and the G5 – I am speaking strictly of true plus-sized – Rosie or bigger. Thanks.


27 Jan

Lola's collection of plus sized dolls. She's thrown in a BBBBarbie for comparison. L to R: Rosie body wth substitute head, Tracy Turnblad, BBBBarbie, That's So Raven - Non-Mattel version, Mimi Bobeck and ?. The last one may be Happy Family Mom body with substitue head.

It happened like this.

I was emailing with a doll friend, Lola, and she said, “I personally collect Barbies but since my quest is to own every plus-sized fashion doll, a lot of mine aren’t Barbie brand.”

It was a record-scratch moment.

Every plus-sized fashion doll? There exists such a thing?

Lola laid it out for me: Edna and Tracy Turnblad, Mimi Bobeck, one version of That’s So Raven.

She pretty much gave me the list and I got to work assembling it.

In the meantime, I was inspired by the pictures Lola sent me of her collection. As she tells it, her interest in starting a collection came about like this:

“I never played with barbies as a kid–I loved My Little Ponies,” Lola explained, ” It wasn’t until my 6 year old had her own barbies, and traded some with a neighbor.  I realized she had traded one of MY favorites. [That’s when] I knew I needed my own:)  I traded back for the traded barbie (a portugese princess) and so my little collection started.”

Lola’s collection, and her personal interest in the Plus-sized dolls (and other miscreants) reminded me of the true diversity of adult-barbie enthusiasts.

Lola sent me this picture of her Motley Crew and I knew right then that this was a woman I HAD to be doll friends with.

Lola did not, at that time, have a blog. But she does now, and her blog is a great one to follow.

While some blogs by adult-barbie-enthusiasts operate more as marketing vehicles for etsy shops or “look what I bought” or “look what I made even though I don’t care to share with you how,” Lola’s blog is truly one where a person can learn something.

Information is shared. Tips are given. Tutorials are offered.

Lola performed surgery on a Rosie Body and a Fashionista head. She made this wonderful plus-sized beauty.

And given Lola’s interest of dolls that are outside the Glam/Slutty Mainstream, you can bet her tutorials are too. Lola’s interest in Rosie O’Donnell bodies led her to find a way to replace the head.

This brought a discussion and wider enthusiast interest out into the light. As it turns out, the Rosie O’Donnell doll body is highly appreciated by more people than just Lola and me.

We heard talk of people buying a Rosie, then buying a second Rosie — in hopes of giving Rosie 2 a different head.  People either wanted to do this, or attempted to do it and failed. And all the while none of us realized there were others out there that liked Rosie’s body and wanted to do more with it.

Now, thanks to Lola and her blog,  if there are people out there wanting to do it but not feeling certain of how to go about it, Lola has a tutorial for it.

So this post is part Resource Link (go check out Lola’s blog), part Player Profile (Lola is an inspiring player), part Love Letter/Shout Out/Thank You (because Lola woke me up to the world of Plus Sized ladies) and part Preview (next up is an in-depth review of the Plus-Sized players I’ve purchased thanks to Lola sharing info with me).

So, with all that said, I hope you are inspired to go buy two Rosies. Keep one as Rosie herself, and maybe give her a Michelle Doll wife.

With the other, replace her Rosie head and make her just one of the gals.

As always – please comment. Kudos, corrections and additional info is always welcome. I see the comments section as an addendum to my post. Any info you can add for other readers only makes the blog more valuable to readers who might stumble across this post in the future. I am never offended when people say, “Yes, but…what about…and did you know….and you forgot to add” – those are my favorite kinds of comments.

CUSTOM: Rosie O’Donnell Update and Michelle Rounds

23 Jan

Michelle Rounds and Rosie O'Donnell

Leah’s barbieland is all about reflecting the diversity of the real world.

I’ve wanted to include LGBT characters for a long time now but was having trouble deciding how to go about choosing a doll or dolls to send the clear message about L, G, B or T.

Would I start with two gay guys? That would have been the easiest because I could just choose two effeminate Kens (stereotyping of course). For whatever reason though, starting with the guys didn’t feel right.

Leah's Barbieland Michelle and Rosie

I gave it a lot of thought and decided finally that adding a married lesbian couple, and have them raising their children, was ideal.

Back in 1999, Mattel had released its one and only plus-sized doll. That doll was “Rosie O’Donnell – Friend of Barbie”. And because she was plus-sized, I had to have her. It was a given that I would purchase her, lesbian or not.

I’ve had Rosie in Leah’s Barbieland almost since I got started building it a year and a half ago. Whenever I put Rosie in one of Leah’s scenarios, I knew she was a lesbian.

Leah didn’t know because all we ever had Rosie doing was buying a pet at the Petshop or eating at the bakery. Lesbians don’t buy pets in a particularly lesbian-ish way. They don’t buy bakery goods in a lesbian-ish manner. So Leah had no reason to know she was a lesbian.

So much like life, right?

Rosie Doll was going to be a lesbian doll whether she was out about it or not, so she was the obvious choice to be part of my married lesbian couple. There was a problem though– the last thing I’d heard about her personal life was that she was divorcing Kelli Carpenter. This was a bit of a problem for me because I felt the best way to have a lesbian couple in barbieland was to give them an analog in human scale. Kinda like we do with POTUS and FLOTUS.

Imagine my delight at hearing recently that she is engaged to be married!!

I’m glad that she’s found love and happiness but I am even more happy for myself! This means I can make her part of a married couple in Leah’s barbieland. Her doll wife will be Michelle Doll.

This post then, is about the steps  I took to make my lesbian couple, Rosie and Michelle, and integrate them into Leah’s barbieland.

Rosie's outfit from 1999

I started with Rosie Doll’s clothes.  She only has one outfit and it’s pretty dated because its a decade old.

I’ve been resisting having to sew entire outfits but I was seriously considering sewing her an outfit until I realized I could just dye her original outfit black.

I could also change the neckline of the shirt. The original neckline resembles a mock turtlneck. No good.

Rosie Dolls clothes after dying and drying

I used a bottle of Black Rit Dye and dyed outfit the for about 15 minutes in a small pot on the stove.

Next, I poured vinegar on the clothes (someone told me vinegar sets the dye) and after letting it soak in that for about 15 more minutes, I rinsed the pieces in warm water.

I didn’t want to wait for them to dry overnight so I used a blowdryer to dry them.

The stitching retained it’s red color so I used a Sharpie marker to color over the thread.

I also needed to change Rosie’s lipstick. I looked at recent pictures of her and indeed, she’d chosen to tone down her color considerably since 1999 (haven’t we all?).

Original face. Loud lipstick. Forced smile?

I used a chocolate brown Sharpie to color over her lipstick. Since it was hard for me to get the underside of her top lip without coloring a little of her teeth, I ended up making her lips slightly fuller and her smile a little less toothy.

This picture shows both the revised makeup and the stitch I used on the new neckline.

I would have preferred to give her a much less bold lipstick, something way toned down, but I’m still not really feeling capable of a repaint so she’ll have to live with dark lipstick for now.

Now it was time to change the neckline on her shirt. I cut out a small scoop. It’s important to go small first, because you can always go bigger but not vice-versa (duh). Then I put the pantsuit onto Rosie Doll to check the neckline.

It looked good so I decided to finish the edge while it was on her. I started with a straight stitch and then went back over it with an overcast stitch.  It’s not perfect but it will do just fine.

Next it was time to make Michelle Rounds. I bought my first Star Doll – the red-head, just so she could become Michelle. The hair is much darker red than Human Michelle’s, but the facial structure is similar and the doll face is really beautiful. Recently in the news, Rosie compared Michelle to a Barbie, but I think she got it wrong – Michelle is clearly this  Star Doll.

A doll from the new Star Doll line by Mattel

I like the Star Doll faces, but I don’t like their bodies. Don’t get me wrong – they are stunning bodies – but i don’t need my five-year-old to be stunned. I want her to have a doll that looks at least a little more like women of the real world.So, of course, Michelle Doll got rebodied with a LIV body.

Those bodies have much smaller boobs and more realistic boob to waist ratios. Their hips aren’t very womanly but they are actually marketed as Teens so I give the manufacturer a pass on the hips. Plus, of course, LIV bodies are articulated so the dolls can actually have a life.

Articulated LIV bodies don’t just strike a pose and stand stiff for the rest of their lives. (Star Dolls can’t even sit down!!).

So Michelle got a LIV body and she was close to ready. But I looked at the length of her hair compared to the human Michelle. Of course, the length of hair on the doll was, as always, impractical.

Who wears their hair this length? Not many. Even if you go to a mall frequented by Trophy Wives, you won't see waist-length hair!

I chopped Michelle Doll’s hair to just below the shoulders. I could have curled the hair, like Human Michelle’s in my guide photo, but I’m not an OOAK artist, I’m just trying to make lesbian couple in less than two hours.

I put Michelle Doll in a Barbie Basics 1.0 Little Black Dress and called her complete.

I also trimmed Rosie Doll’s hair a little, giving her more layers around the face but my method was too random to offer anything like a tutorial for creating said layers.

Now it was time to introduce the couple to Leah. She already knows what it means to be lesbian or gay so I didn’t have to cover that ground.  I called her over to my laptop where I showed the picture of Rosie and Michelle, both wearing all black, at an event (see above) and explained to Leah that they are real people and they are married. I told her that Rosie has children already. She doesn’t realize yet that she might someday question how two women make a baby so that part went smoothly.

Then we went from the kitchen, where I’d been dyeing cloths and swapping body parts, into her room to play.

A few months ago, Leah’s cognitive abilities reached a point where she became able to describe a rough outline of what she wants to have happen in a play scenario before we start playing. I asked her for the outline and through some additional questioning on my part we came up with the scenario that two married couples with children had just moved in across the street from each other and they needed to meet. We agreed that after the introductions there would be a birthday party for one of the kids.

I put together my family and she put together hers.

Then it happened – the moment when we had to deal with freakish nature of one of the married couples.

When Leah’s family arrived at my family’s house, I learned that her family was made up of a human father, a mermaid mother, a superhero son and a rock-star daughter.

You can see Leah is gripping the mermaid's hand because we always have the dolls shake hands when they meet

Turns out Rosie and Michelle’s family were a bunch of boring normals. I know this sounds like a contrived punchline – but it really happened exactly this way.

The Mermaid Mom thing was just too good to let pass so I begged Leah to let me get my camera and take a picture. She didn’t want to (she never does) but she let me this time and it is priceless.

CUSTOM: Give your Doll Natty Locs in 20 minutes

16 Jan

I have posted several times before about giving a doll Locs or Dreadlocks – or whatever your preferred term might be.

Corset Kitten’s Loc’ing technique has a great organic look and feel but but might be too intensive for some, and may not hold up in the hands of a five-year-old.

Ms. Loanne Hizo Ostlie’s work is beautiful but might be out the price range for most people.

I kept pondering though- hoping to devise a way of creating the locs without re-rooting, that would be cheap, easy and durable.

I had been thinking about Locs for months when the idea hit me to try using a common household iron.

I played around with different settings on my iron. The Silk setting worked but the hair didn’t melt quite enough to lock in the Loc and I had to stay on a single loc a long time.

The Wool setting did the trick but if you linger too long, you can melt right through and the hair comes off the head. The hair doesn’t stick to my iron or board, only melts to itself it seems.

If you try this method, please share your sucesses as well as your frustrations, lessons and tips.

So In Style Grace after her hair has been Loc'd

OUR COLLECTION: Fulla Remix – Rockin’ Hijabistas

4 Jan

Two lovely ladies with their prayer rugs.

We live in a suburb of Denver named Aurora, Colorado.

It took me a while to fall in love with Aurora. I wanted to be a Downtown Girl. I bought a house downtown and that’s where I met my husband. But he’d been living downtown his entire life and wanted to be a Suburban Boy.

If you can find the right suburb, it might actually be more ethnically diverse than a city neighborhood. These days city neighborhoods tend to be either entirely gentrified upper-middle class white or entirely (targeted for regentrification) working and poverty-class black and Mexican.

Aurora is more diverse both ethnically and socio-economically than almost any Denver neighborhood. I think it must be the most diverse city in Colorado.

Aurora has a lot of hijab wearing ladies.

We see women in full Abayas or even Chadors from time to time. But we see mostly Hijabs with Westernized clothing-though very modest Westernized clothing. Actually, mostly Al-Amira – since those are pretty trendy right now. Of course, the Al-Amira and Shayla are more styles of Hijab than actual differences in coverage area. The Al-Amira is what I would wear if I was Muslim. It’s just a stretchy piece worn under the more scarf-like piece.

My Morrocan neighbors tell me the Al-Amira just means “like a Princess’. This stretchy jersey-like headpiece makes it easier to put on and keep in place and is more comfortable to many.

We had already purchased a full long black Abaya plus black Hijab for dolls. We posted earlier about Our Fulla in her traditional, head-to-toe-but-face-fully-visible Abaya and Hijab.

After I posted about Our Fulla, I had a message from the woman who owns MuslimToysAndDolls.com. I checked out her site and liked what I saw. They had clothing much more like what we see day-to-day around our beloved Aurora.

NOTE: Click on the site’s menu item “Dolls and Accessories” then click on “Islamic Doll Clothes” or just click HERE.

I spent about $30 on the site. I got two modern outfits and two prayer rugs.  The site owner called me to check on something and she called me, “Sister Kristl” a few times and it made me feel all warm inside. I don’t know why. I’m a pretty odd person when it come to stuff like that.

The order arrived today and I couldn’t wait to dress up a couple of dolls I’d set aside to become Muslim sisters.

I chose not to buy Fulla or Arrosa dolls (just their clothes) because, unfortunately those dolls tend to be light-skinned, and somewhat light-haired. They often even have light eyes. Not my cup of tea. I wanted light brown skin, black hair and brown or Ebony eyes.

My girls are Thrift Store rescues. Both are rebodied on light-skinned Liv Alexis dolls  (For light vs Dark Alexis explanations, see this post).

Disney's Esmerelda. Why would a gypsy woman have blue eyes in the first place? Ugh. And her hair is too long for my liking.

Both heads are Disney. One is a very early version of Pocohontas. The other is an Esmerelda. Later versions of Pocohontas have her eyes much more Native-Americanized. In other words, not with tons of eyeliner as this doll clearly had.  She’s a beautiful doll, but I find she works better as a Persian or Arab ethnicity doll.

My Esmerelda had blue eyes so I colored in the Irises with black Sharpie.

Shorter hair, Ebony Eyes. Much better.

REMEMBER: Only use Sharpies over face paint, never on raw facial plastic – as it can bleed and migrate.

Two beautiful, modern, Muslim Women for Leah's barbieland.

I am loving the outcome. I also think the outfits could work well for barbies you want to have playing older characters – mothers and such. IOW, just leave off the headscarf and the outfits are just good, wholesome outfits. Nothing like the trampy stuff we are offered in stores for BBBBarbies.

As for modern women rocking Hijabs just like my two plastic gals, a fun site to check out is called Hijabs High. It seems to be a little dormant, but even looking at older entries is fun. These human Hijabistas (that’s what the site calls them) have got it going on for sure.

A picture from the blog Hijabs High


23 Dec

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Barbieland Obamas!

The First Family of Leah's Barbieland

Barack, Michelle, Sasha, & Malia – the First Family of Leah’s basement barbieland, wish you and your’s a Merry Christmas – if you celebrate Christmas – and Happy Holidays if you do not.

The Barbieland Obamas will be celebrating Kwanzaa too, but they have to keep that on the down low in order to keep people from freaking out.

This post is actually about the children of barbieland. None of the kids of barbieland are cold, poor or hungry (unless you want them to be, in order to teach your child empathy).  The children of barbieland ARE afflicted though. Because they all have  a disease that affects the melanin in their eyes.

This disease leaves them writing letters to Santa, asking for the beautiful Ebony eyes of their owner, Leah. Thankfully, while Leah sleeps, Santa visits and grants their wishes with an Ultra-Fine Point Black Sharpie Permanent marker.

Krissy, Nikki friend, Kelly boy and Girl, SIS, Janet, Calista, two High School Musical dolls.

So let’s take a look at the children of barbieland so that you can populate your own barbieland with a kid or two or three.


The Sasha Obama above is a Mattel Janet – Friend of Stacy doll from the 1990s. More on Janet below.

Malia Obama is a BFC Ink Calista doll. More on Calista below.


Moving from smallest to largest:

Toddler from Happy Family Nikkis one year birthday party. Krissy baby from Happy Family.

The first doll is from the popular 1990s collection called Happy Family. This toddler comes from a set that was designed to give baby Nikki some toddler friends on her first birthday.  The set costs $100 when it is new, complete, and still in the original box. You can get used toddlers on eBay for $10 to $15.

There have been at least five different Mattel baby styles. I only like the Happy Family era babies. I like both the newborns that are stashed inside Midge’s belly – and Baby Nikki. Baby Nikki is available in peach skin/blond, light brown skin/brown hair, darker brown skin/black hair.

The picture below shows other babies. The fifth style is the one in stores now. These modern babies look too cartoonish for my taste. They come packaged with Pediatrician barbies, for example.

Freekish Heart Family baby is as tall as Kelly. Newborn for inside Midge's tummy, Nikki and Big-Head-Rubber-Body. The Big-Head-Rubber Body doll often had a piece of hair attached that was as long as it's entire body.

Kelly’s were once a powerhouse seller. There are hundred available online. There are lots of subtle variations. The one I show above is a fairly modern Kelly. She is about the same size as traditional Kellys but her legs are leaner – Katt’s dolls (see link in next sentence) notes that this body was introduced in 2006. I think I got her in a Dentist set. She tracks as a pre-cursor to Chelsea – who came out recently. For info on all the variations of Kelly over the years – check here.

Kelly-sized boy, Kelly-ish recent doll, Kenya Kelly

So In Style kids came out before the new Chelsea dolls. Chelsea is the same size as the So In Style kids. There are four SIS girls – one for each of the SIS women. There is one boy and his name is Julian. Julian and the SIS girls can still be found in stores – but who knows how much longer they’ll be out there? Take note that Courtney is the darkest and the hardest to find. SIS girls can wear Kelly clothes. The doll shown here is wearing a Kelly dress – albeit she’s wearing it as a tunic. She’s also wearing Kelly shoes. She’s wearing SIS pants.

So In Style Julian and So In Style Girl (can't remember which). She is wearing a Kelly dress and shoes with SIS girl pants.

Janets from the 1990s are fairly easy to find on eBay. This one has had eye surgery (Sharpie). She needs a haircut. She was a Gymnast so her he knees bend. She is wearing a Bratz outfit. Shoes are not that easy to find for Janet/Stacy/Whitney/Todd.  Black Todd is pretty rare. His face paint is kind of old school. He needs eye surgery. I paid a lot to get him. If it were to do over, I would buy a Janet, cut his hair off and flock it myself or do a short re-root.  There are a few Janets with natural hair – one is bowling Janet.

Black Todd and (Gymnast) Janet, Friend of Stacy. Todd is wearing Alex Russo shorts and a Rement Police Uniform top.

BFC Ink has both a 1/6th scale doll (seen here) as well as an 18′ doll named Calista. In other words, one for barbie-world and one for American Girl world. We have both. If you are interested in the smaller doll,  good luck – I tried to find a link to one for this post and couldn’t scare up a single one.

This Calista doll has had eye surgery. She is wearing a Moxie Girls dress. She does not have any bendable joints. I know of no way to re-body her for full artculation. If anyone reading this knows of an articulated body I can give her, I would be forever grateful for that info.

BFC Ink Calista. No male dolls are made in Calista's size - as far as I am aware.

High School Musical dolls are available with three black teens. The ones shown here are Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie; and Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth.  There is also a Zeke Baylor doll available. None of these dolls are articulated and again, I have no ideas about how to go about re-bodying them to add articulation – while retaining their teenage heights.

Teens - characters from High School Musical. Black Skipper from the 1990s also exists but I don't like her head mold.

Teens shown with fully grown (Jasmine and Naveen?). Bodies are teenage-sized but heads are full-sized. Yuk.

The teens are shown next to two sample adults. The woman is a So In Style Kara, wearing a Disney Jasmine dress. The man is a  Barbie Basics, wearing a Disney Naveen jacket. This Basics doll could work as an Obama stand-in. The only reason I don’t use him as one is because he cannot bend his arms or legs. The only articulated brown male body i know of from Mattel is So In Style Darren – which would probably be too dark. I know I could re-body him on an Action Figure but then he would be significantly shorter .

OPINION: Tracking Racial Self-Worth

16 Dec

My plan has always been to track my daughter’s perception of racial self-worth through her barbie-play. In other words, instead of waiting for that Mamie and Kenneth Clark moment when I sit looking horrified as I find out my kid either hates herself or has some other twisted conception of race and worth, I always wanted to get out ahead of things.

That’s the point of the dolls.

The dolls one of several mediums I use to tell her how I feel about the physical manifestations of blackness. The dolls give her a way of telling me that she hears me, and so far, she agrees.

I grab Bella (an Alvin Ailey Mattel Collector Doll) and gush about how beautiful she is (she really, really is – you should see her) and Leah chooses her as the  main doll every time we play.

[Note: Bella is the doll in the video that is wearing the purple princess gown. The one Leah chooses as the doll she’d like to have the skin and hair of.]

I did a Clark-style doll test on Leah last April and was very pleased with what Leah said and did.

She had to take a bathroom break…but when she came back we continued her interview.

[Btw, I do NOT want her to be rock star when she grows up. I was just so shocked by that answer that reacted in an overly enthusiastic way! Rock Star? no. No. NO.]

We knew she could see color as early as three years old. We were sitting at the dinner table one night and out of the blue she announced, in the most self-satisfied way, “Me and Daddy are brown.”  At the time we were living in Bermuda, a predominately black country, and the message was clear, she felt sorry for her whitey-Momma.

Leah's favorite doll. This doll was released by Mattel in tribute to the Alivin Ailey Dance Troupe. It has short, natural hair, Ebony eyes and Mahogany skin.

After we returned to the States a few months later, we saw that Leah continued to be aware of color but her sense of the differences seemed age-appropriate and healthy.

Because Leah is black, I will always have to fear the moment when mainstream messages break through and begin to influence her, because the message in the United States is that black women are less attractive than white women. That message comes at us from every corner, in every medium, and it is relentless.  There are other harmful messages too. Blacks are less intelligent. Blacks are less moral.

I will use my own opinion and my own actions to let her know that while she might hear those messages from the larger society – those beliefs do not reign in our home and they do not reign in the homes of our friends (or they wouldn’t be our friends).

Society has been telling us for decades that there is a single standard for feminine beauty.

Playing barbies with my daughter tells me where she “is” in her awareness or compliance with these messages on any given day.   Her play choices tell me in the biggest things in the smallest ways.

I know she finds black women beautiful because she chooses them. Why does she love the dark skinned, natural haired doll the most?  Is it because I do?

Probably. My favorite dolls seem to become her favorite dolls seamlessly.

That’s fine with me. It means she knows exactly what I value. If she makes other choices that’s fine too. The most important things I can do at this point it make it abundantly clear that my values are different than the values that may seek to crush her later in life.

Should we be worried because the doll our daughter loves the most is significantly darker-skinned than she is? Leah’s skin is light brown, her favorite doll’s skin is mahogany. Leah has brown hair. Her favorite doll’s hair is black.

After all, we would definitely be worried sick if she fixated on a BBBBarbie. If that happened I would probably burn a pile of plastic bodies in a front yard bonfire.

Alex Wek is beautiful. From her Ebony skin and eyes to her tiny nose, high cheekbones, very-Sudanese forehead and hairline. I even love the cute little gap in her teeth.

To understand why her adoration of Bella doesn’t bother us, let’s imagine a beauty continuum. This continuum does not address weight (that would be a whole ‘nother post) – it only address skin, hair and eye color.  Mentally place Leah in the middle of that continuum. Imagine mainstream images of beauty at the far right end – so let’s say BBBBarbie or Pamela Anderson Lee. We put someone like Alec Wek on the Left end.

We consider that society’s messages are always trying to pull her further and further right, and further and further from self-acceptance. So as long as she is Left of herself, we are dancing a jig at our house. When she starts to choose dolls on the right side of herself, we will feel we are in trouble.

Mainstream images and messages tell us that being white is supposed to be BETTER than being brown. Mainstream images and messages tell us that having long, straight, light-colored hair is better than having short, curly, darker-colored hair.

So, I do a sort of doll test every single day when we sit down to play and so far, every day, I mentally dance a jig.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159 other followers