CUSTOM: Rosie O’Donnell Update and Michelle Rounds

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.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Danielle says:

    Wow, great work. Do not be afraid of repainting! If you can use a sharpie, then you can at least do a “face-up”. I doubted myself too but it’s not half as hard as I thought.

    I love how Leah takes diversity to the next level with her inter-species family!

    1. I have some of those magnifying goggles bc I have forty-year-old eyesight. I might just try an overpaint.

      As our scenario progressed, Leah had the rock-star daughter switch to being Rosie and Michelle’s daughter. The rock-star had grown up and was a doll that looked a lot like Leah. I made it where when Rosie got home from work she kissed Michelle on the cheek. I watched to see if the kiss made Leah blush or giggle. Nothing. To her it was completely normal. Score!!

  2. Paulette Richards says:

    Thanks for the engaging post about incorporating lesbian characters into Leah’s doll world. I also really appreciate the tips on how to dye Rosie O’Donnell’s outfit. I have three Rosies (two of them now have different heads) and I had been thinking about dying some of their clothes but I have never dealt with fabric dye before. Now I have a better understanding of how to do it.

    1. Paulette,

      I use black dye all the time to rejuvenate black clothing. I wear a lot of black and lots of it is either cotton or cotton blend, so it fades.

      When stuff starts to look too greyish I just put a big pot on the stove, pour in the black dye, bring it to a boil and put in my stuff. I leave it in for about 30 mins then take it out, pour vinegar on it, let it set.

      Rinse it, wash it in the washing machine (on cold) and it looks brand new.

      You can also dye light-colored clothing that gets a stain. Like Leah’s white shirts, those can be made purple and Voila! no stain.

  3. Lola says:

    Ah, that awkward moment when you realize your neighbor is married to a mermaid.

    And don’t forget Rosie can wear Ken pants and some of the stretchier barbie tops. I hate to see her stuck in her sensible pantsuit forever.

    1. Lola- I did forget that. I was trying different things on her – but not Ken and Barbie. I was trying Hearts 4 Hears and some other doll brand (can’t remember the name). I am working on some patterns now, bc it’s just not going to work, having all these ladies in their original outfits. At least not for me.

      1. Lola says:

        Some company, I think TY, makes these cloth dolls with “real” hair and their clothes seem like they would fit Rosie too. Although, some of them are kind of bratz-y.

  4. Carrie A says:

    How cool is that! I love that. I know the real Rosie would have loved that. Thats when you know mom had just scored and the daughter is embracing it like nothing odd. I remember watching this one show on TLC, one husband with several wives, and the kids were playing with dolls. They had one husband, and several wives. I remember reading somewhere that the average girl has at least seven dolls. Looking at my collection from my youth and in between youth and adulthood, I took out one male doll, and seven girl dolls, and asked my friends “what do you see?” I use to do this to my friends somethings, give them a scenerio and ask “what is your perspective” -and then I told them that to most of us, this shows we have a problem. Seven women and one man, one of this women is dating that guy. However, in another cultural perspective, Seven women ARE dating this one guy and THEY all know about it. Imagine being that child who sees this as normal, while most households have the guy doll be fought over. It was an intriguing concept that I had to replicate and ask my friends, “What do you see”- I took a few shots, with seven girls and one guy, then I added equal amount of guys. One of my friends made the comment she had a doll just like my blonde doll lol. When I was Leah’s age, I didn’t know anything about LGBT, or even multple marriages. She’s blessed to know this at such an early age, that lesbians exist, and they are just like any other couple. Good for you, for going that extra mile and making a woman for Rosie. Too bad more adults were just as accepting and approachable 🙂

  5. D7ana says:

    Wow, your Rosie is lucky! Mine is still in her red pantsuit. I thought I detected some eye-rolling from mine, lol.

    The mermaid mother is precious. I love how kids don’t have the biases that adults have.

  6. Cerise says:

    It makes me kinda sad that you deemed the Stardoll’s hair length ‘impractical’.
    I have red hair, like her, and it’s even longer as it reaches past my tail bone.
    If I wanna go and have my hair styled or trimmed, pretty much no salons will do it as it’s ‘too long’ for them to deal with.
    I like my hair long and I don’t want to cut it shorter as I’m incredibly proud of the colour and I don’t want to bend to other people’s will.
    I don’t find it ‘impractical’ either…. Sorry, I just had to vent…. 😦

    1. I vent here, too. I think there’s nothing wrong with long hair. Nothing wrong with long nails. Nothing wrong with high heels. However, as women, I think we need to pick one or two “inconveniences” and quit. Your hair sounds amazing. If I saw you IRL I’d probably be in awe. However, if you had that hair, plus a boob job and a fake tan and false eyelashes, I don’t think I’d be in awe at all. I think I’d feel sorry for you. So, long hair takes extra work but if you value it and you don’t turn your appearance into a part-time job, then I think it’s great because it makes you unique without inadvertently dis-empowering you.

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