CUSTOM: The making of Michelle Obama

So I bought the Obama True-Type Action figure. And since I spent way too much money on him, I felt it was important for us to work him into our play scenarios. To do that, I felt I needed a Michelle Obama.

MO- an inspiring First Lady for sure!! And not just because she is so beautiful.

So I set out to create one.

I started with  Barbie Basics 1.0, Model #10. She was a nice match for Michelle’s beautiful skintone.  But Model #10 would need a haircut and re-style.

Promo shot of Barbie Basics 1.0 Model #10
Original Eye Makeup on the Barbie Basics 1.0 Model #10

She would need her makeup toned down and she would need those weird gray eyes made a proper, beautiful, Ebony.

In order to tone down her make-up I started with Non-Acetone nail polish remover and a small paintbrush (not small enough actually, I just couldn’t find one smaller at that time).

Non-Acetone Polish Remover Pad and Paintbrush

I used the polish remover to “paint” the glitter off her eyes.

The polish remover actually did a great job of softening the paint decals (I think Mattel actually lays down decals instead of paint) and I was able then to scrap off the outer eye-lashes with a kitchen knife.

My handiwork is actually quite poor now that I see it enlarged. You can see I went astray with my red marker. I didn’t quite fill in the iris and I didn’t scrape the outer eye area as cleanly as I imagined. No matter, it looks fine from a distance.

I also colored over her green eye-shadow with a red pen, giving the lid a copper color instead. I then used a black marker to fill in her iris. I tried to preserve the white dot, because it gives the eye a certain depth.

This was another case of me not having the best possible tools. I should have used magnifying goggles– because my work would have been much more precise. One reason I didn’t do this is because I get a lot of people saying that my blog is obsessive and hardcore so I don’t want people to feel they have to invest too much money in order to make Michelle happen.

Frankly, what shows up as flaws in this extreme closeup don’t register when using the doll for play.

So the next step was to style her hair. I wanted to give her a better trim (initially I just chopped her hair off with little precision). I put a silicone hair band over her head and arranged the hair around her face the way I wanted it.

Place the rubber or silicone band on the head.

Once the silicone band was in place I was able to cut her bob much more precisely. Then, I boiled some water in the microwave. I poured the boiling water over her forehead ONLY.

She was prone over the sink and I hit only her upper head, the portion above the band, with the water. This will ensure that her hair lays down around her face. If you dowse the whole head, the place with the silicone band will end up with a dent in it. So you must not wet the area of the silicone band.

Next I let her hair air-dry.  Later I will style it using q-tips dipped in boiling water. I use the Q-tip to paint the hair into compliance. It works okay but it’s not great. Someday I am going to try using Gum Arabic.  I am going to follow the tips of FashionDollFoto on using Gum Arabic to style doll hair.

Be sure to get DARK Alexis if you want to use her body for your Michelle.

After Michelle’s hair is dry, I have to (want to) rebody her on a Liv Alexis body. Liv Alexis can’t decide whether she is Mexican or Black (that’s a joke, albeit not a very good one). In order to make Michelle you will want dark Alexis not light Alexis.

If you have never re-bodied a doll before, be sure to check out the post on this blog with instructions for the re-body process. We rebodied Michelle for the usual reason of wanting her to be fully poseable but we chose a Liv Body so that she would be the right height for Obama’s Action Figure body.

Action Figures are notorious for being too short for barbies. An excellent post on the Stinker’s Stuff website will tell you what you need to know about Action Figures.

So the Obama’s are among the shortest people in our barbieland – but at least they look good together.

You can see from this photo that Michelle and Barack are a much better height match once she is on a LIV body. It bugs me a bit that two people we know to be tall in real life end up being short in barbieland, but I can get over it, I guess.

In the end, what I have are my favorite First Couple of all time and height issues aside, Leah and I are ready to use them play scenarios as the loving couple they are!!

POTUS + FLOTUS = Love 4 Ever

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Danielle says:

    Awesome! I’m very big on using the tools you have so this post is close to my heart! And why is it that all black barbies have light eyes? That’s ridiculous! I love your first couple! Maybe we can get a Malia and Sasha soon? Wait, I never see black Skipper type dolls anymore…What’s up with that?

    1. Dani –
      You are always so funny. Yeah – I am a big fan of Ebony eyes and the light eyes they come up with often creep me out. It’s kind of like the fact that Mattel cannot seem to give up high-heeled shoes. They think they know what sells but I highly doubt light eyes or high-heeled shoes factor in to children’s decisions.

      With Skipper making that recent comeback as a brunette with occaisonally articulated knees I was excited to think there might be an AA issue – but I havent seen anything yet and am pretty sure I won’t. I figure if you guys don’t see AA versions in Atlanta, they aren’t going to happen.

      As for other AA teens – I have Taylor from High School Musical and I have Calista from BFC, Ink. THey made Calista as both a 1/6 scale doll and an 18″ doll and we have both.

      I will probably do a “Merry Christmas from the Obamas” in front of a little Christmas tree for fun. I will use one of those two teens for Sasha and I will use a 1990’s Gymnast Janet Friend of Stacie for Malia.
      Sasha is so tall now – she’s almost as tall as her parents – because of that it won’t be that great – but I was going to do it more to be funny than anything.

  2. Lola says:

    Lol at your stuff being “too hardcore”! Those must be the people that don’t read a lot of doll blogs. I would say you’re slightly above “medium core”:D

    I love your michelle. I hope you put her in some nice sleeveless outfits…even if her Liv arms don’t have the right kind of definition.

    If you realllllly wanted to get hardcore, I’ve seen sites showing how to lengthen legs by cutting them in half and adding extensions. But that might be going a little far.

    I’ve gotten better at removing just eyeliner with acetone–at first I was so clumsy I could only accomplish a full erase of the eyes. Good to know about the nail polish remover softening it up enough to be scraped–that could come in handy later. I also really want some magnifying glasses…because I’m also slightly above medium core.

    1. Lola –

      So you use acetone? not non-acetone? I wondered about that. It doesn’t damage the plastic? I was wondering why it seemed so HARD to get the paint off. I am working on Mimi Bobeck’s makeup and it is just NOT happening!!

      Yeah – of course I try to dress Michelle in as many sleeveless things as possible even though LIV Alexis’ arms are paltry compared to FLOTUS.

      My blog gets almost all it’s hits from people who are decidedly NOT doll people so they don’t have much perspective on just how far you can really take this hobby.

      When you remove the eyeliner, do you use a paintbrush? I actually have to googles but since I moved to Birmingham and then moved back to Denver there are many things in unlabeled, hastily-packed boxes.

      1. Lola says:

        Over time acetone may damage the plastic, but it is widely used because BOY does it work. It will wipe the eye paint off in one clean swipe. It’s like an eraser. If you got some of that and some of those tiny-tipped baby q-tips, you could probably wipe the eyeshadow off of mimi without sacrificing her eyes–you might lose her eyebrows but those are easy enough to do. One mimi I did a complete wipe, the other I just erased the eye makeup.

      2. Andrea says:

        A good rule to follow with acetone and dolls is, if the plastic’s soft, then acetone’s OK. I’ve left so many acetone-melted fingerprints on the hard plastic bodies of Dragon Models Limited action figures when I’ve been in such a rush to customize that I didn’t want to take their heads off…

        The harm acetone can do to soft plastics is greatest if the whole head is entirely submerged in acetone: the head will first absorb some acetone, getting big and spongy and delicate, then, when the head is removed from the acetone, it will shrink to be smaller than the original size–and less squishy and more brittle–once the acetone evaporates. The amount of shrinking varies from one batch of vinyl to another, so you never quite know how much a head will shrink until you’ve tried it. (My tiger Barbie custom involved a head shrink.)

        1. Amazing that you know all of this.

          So acetone is fine for quick paint removal on soft heads. Apply it quickly and only topically to remove the paint.

          Or, if you intentionally want to shrink the head and you don’t mind that as a side effect of shrinkage you will make the head more brittle.

          This makes me realize I should use my BBBBarbies more adventurously – after all, I don’t CARE if I ruin them and there is so much to learn in the process.

  3. Paulette Richards says:

    Excellent post. I didn’t even know non-acetone nail polish remover existed. I don’t paint my nails because I can’t stand chemical odors. For a long time this kept me from attempting doll repaints but recently I have discovered odorless acrylic craft paints so I am ready to try — if only I can get the original face screening off. Hopefully the non-acetone nail polish remover will work.

    As for being hard core on the technical process, I think that one of the benefits of playing with dolls is that it provides opportunities to develop manual dexterity, crafting skills that are applicable in real world situations, and even engineering problem solving skills. Keep the how-to’s coming!

    1. Paulette-
      I lost track of this one somehow – but no matter – I found it again. Non-acetone is smelly too. I love your comment about manual dexterity. One thesis of mine is that there are too many benefits to this crazy hobby for anyone to be dismissive – manual dexterity is another thing for me to put on a long list of the benefits of playing with barbies past the age of 8. 🙂

    2. Andrea says:

      There’s a completely non-chemical way to remove doll paint, too! It’s a product called Mr Clean Magic Eraser (if you don’t already have a pack of those around for cleaning scuffs off of painted walls, then there’s another reason to acquire some!) True, it doesn’t wipe the paint away instantly like acetone, but I know a lot of people online who prefer to use Magic Erasers on their dolls. (I’ve tried off-brands for use around the house, and prefer the ‘real’ Mr Clean versions.) Mr Clean Magic Erasers are safe for use on the hard plastic parts of dolls, too, if there are any painted details there that you’d like to remove.

  4. D7ana says:

    Fashion Royalty Adele – Something So Sexy resembles Mrs. Obama but I like your BB No. 8. too.

    A doll/action figure collector once told me that painting dark eyes on small figures makes the character look hard. There do seem to be a large proportion of AA dolls with lighter eyes, but I think most dark-eyed female dolls are painted a lighter color than they would be in human scale.

    Unless the dolls have that wet-eyed look, like some doll artists produce …

  5. D7ana says:

    Once upon a time, you could “tell” the race of a doll by the complexion. Remember tan-light brown was Hispanic and medium-dark brown was Black or African American? Sigh. I’m glad that there is more variation than that today. We’ve got fairer Teresas and lighter Black dolls. Not that lighter is better. Just interesting to have range.

    Thanks for the eye painting tips, too. Very helpful to hear about the tools used.

  6. I thought it was #10 – did I get the number wrong?

    I have so many dolls I have given Ebony eyes (even darker – I have given them actual black eyes) and I find they look just great. Then again, we use them for play – not for photography – so that must make a difference.

    The whole premise of my blog is that I don’t want to sit around harping about what Mattel does wrong but it does bother me that there aren’t more dark brown eyed and brown eyed dolls. It seems like constant blue eyes isn’t considered boring for BBBBarbie, but dark brown is too boring for Asians, Lationos and blacks. See – the frustration is just below the surface for me!!

    (think good thoughts! think good thoughts!)

    Shew. Okay I’m back. (here’s my “it’s all good” self talking again)

    Well I guess it’s easier to make a light eye dark than it is to make a dark eye light so I guess it just gives us all more choice in the long run.

  7. Andrea says:

    *The Know It All pokes her nose in again*

    I’ve given countless dolls bobbed hair cuts, and I’ve found an approach that actually uses the ‘dent’ left by the hairband. What I do is gather all of the doll’s hair under her chin into the band (whether the doll’s head is on a body or not), then dunk the head/hairbanded area in boiled water. Once it’s cool and dry, I remove the band and use the ‘dent’ as the cutting line; this also adds a bit of a curve to the bottom of the hair, where it was drawn under the chin. Adding hair gel/white glue/Gum Arabic before removing the band will help ‘cement’ the style in place, too.

    1. Tami says:

      Great tip! Thanks so much. I have about 10 Barbies waiting for a new hair style and cut so this gives me an idea.

      1. Tami, would love to hear your ideas as well. Or see pics!!

  8. Andrea,

    Please do not call yourself a Know-it-all!! The information you are sharing is incredibly valuable to me!! I totally get what you are saying. I wanted to add that slight curve to Michelle’s hair but I couldn’t think of a good way. If I had known this sooner it would have been SO perfect.

    let me say again – I in no way want you to stop giving your tips and insights!! They are amazing!!

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