*The title of this episode is from Frank Zappa’s song Trouble Every Day, performed by the Mothers of Invention, one of the favourites of my youth.
*The title of this episode is from Frank Zappa’s song Trouble Every Day, performed by the Mothers of Invention, one of the favourites of my youth.
Today I received my first doll from the Fresh Dolls line. Her name is Jacqueline and she is a lot curvier than a Barbie doll. The Fresh Dolls are “black” dolls, made to more closely resemble African American women than the typical Barbie doll. Here’s Jacqueline, whose description states that she is “mixed,” which I interpret as resembling a woman of both European and African ancestry. She will, of course, be joining the West Enders!
Jacqueline’s arrival made me wonder how many different “playscale” doll types I actually have among the West Enders. Almost all of my dolls are Mattel’s Barbie, friends, and family.
This version of Barbie is a reproduction of the doll I had as a child, the first Barbie ever produced, in 1959. Barbie will always be a brunette to me. As a child, she represented the adult world of my mother, who had dark brunette hair.
In my other universe, I am a biological anthropologist, and one of the things we concern ourselves with is human diversity. It’s been very important to me to reflect human diversity in my miniature universe; not just skin colour and geographic origin, but body shape as well. Barbie has been accused of promoting a negative body image for girls. As a person who has gone from being an excruciatingly thin young woman to a fat old lady, I definitely want to include that in my mini-universe. One of my favourite dolls is this one from the second film version of Hairspray. I love her because she is built like me.
One of the first “plus-size” fashion dolls was Dasia, one of the Big Beautiful Dolls created by Audrey Bell Kearney and Georgette Taylor. Nobody ever parts with these dolls and I was extraordinarily lucky to buy one of the 18th anniversary dolls. She’s stunning.
Another doll created to counter Barbie’s unrealistic physique is Lammily. There are three dolls, and I have been one of those who participated in the crowd funding for all of them. Lammily dolls are based on the proportions of average 18 year old Americans. The main issue with the dolls is that they are difficult to dress. Barbie’s body was actually designed the way to facilitate getting her clothes on and off rather than to reflect an actual human being! Here’s my favourite Lammily doll, and I think the most beautiful of all of them, who regular readers of the blog will know as Emma.
Venturing beyond the American doll market, there are a number of playscale fashion dolls. Here is Steffi, who readers of the West Enders will also recognise. Steffi is a Barbie clone produced by the German company Simba Toys. She is very similar to Barbie, with a male companion and a number of small children. There are clothes and lots of fun accessories for this doll line and the West Enders include quite a few of them.
Barbie is known around the world, but in China, Japan, and South Korea, playscale fashion dolls have been produced that reflect the cultural values of those countries far better than Barbie. (I might add here that I sadly do not own any of the quintessentially British Sindy dolls.) The Asian fashion dolls reflect the popularity of manga and anime. Kurhn is a Chinese fashion doll and is indescribably cute. Regular readers of the blog will recognise her as a central character in the West Enders.
There are several wonderful Japanese fashion dolls. Takara Tomy produces both Jenny and Licca-chan and her family and several of these dolls play roles in the West Enders. Here’s the very cute Jenny.
My favourite Japanese fashion doll is Momoko. These dolls are stunning, have amazing clothes, but are also very delicate – and very expensive! I have four now and I love all of them. Here’s the latest addition to the West Enders, the lovely Himari.
Pullip dolls come from South Korea and are part of a group of dolls with very large heads and big eyes. I just can’t find any enthusiasm for them. But Pullip bodies are used in J-Dolls, one of which is a character from the West Enders, our young Jazmin.
Another recent purchase of mine is a South African doll, Maisha from Malaville Dolls. This is another company dedicated to providing young black children with dolls that look like them rather than the ubiquitous “white” dolls available. Maisha is so cute and has very dark skin. She’s a delight to behold. I should mention that I love it when “black” dolls have natural hair like this. Maisha and Emma are both good examples.
Here’s another new arrival with marvellous hair. I don’t know who actually makes these dolls. I saw her in a Facebook group and hunted her down. There are a number of these available on Amazon, but they seem to come from different sellers. All I know is that they are produced in China and have articulated bodies and fabulous hair.
Many collectors adore Integrity Toys’ various dolls, which come in 12.5 inch and 16 inch versions. I have to say that they are not my favourites. Their faces are sullen and unpleasant and I do not understand how collectors find them attractive. To each his or her own! I decided that I wanted to own one so that I could say my collection included this particular variety of playscale doll. I’m a story teller more than I am a collector, but yes, there’s a bit of “collector” in there as well! This is Liu Liu Ling and she has one of the least offensive faces among the Integrity family of dolls, in my opinion. I do hope to add some of their male dolls as one or two of them don’t look like they’ve been sucking on lemons all day!
Another recent addition to my playscale family is the WWE action figures. I don’t find them at all attractive but they make great evil enemies in my stories, like this one. I mean, face it, who wants to meet her in a dark alley?
Before I leave my female dolls, I need to add the first doll I ever collected as an adult, this Marilyn Monroe doll. I think I bought her in the 1980s or 1990s. Her outfit, the white skirt from The Seven Year Itch, has disintegrated. Both hands have snapped off. She’s not attractive, bearing only a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but I just can’t abandon her.
So those are my adult female dolls. What about the males? Trying to find male dolls is what inspired me to branch out beyond Mattel. The recent male dolls, Ken and his ilk, have horrible plastic hair and immovable limbs. They are awful, although one or two have reasonably attractive faces. I got very tired of trying to find male dolls for my ladies and in desperation, I turned to a group of dolls produced for girls who love boy bands. There are a large variety of them and I have quite a few. Here’s one as an example, a recent and quite good looking one, Max George from The Wanted. Who are The Wanted? I haven’t a clue. People, I’m 65 years old – boy bands are not my thing. I have no idea who any of my boy band dolls are in real life! They are shorter than Ken and make good partners for Momoko and Lammily dolls.
My quest for articulated male dolls with rooted hair took me in many directions. My absolute favourite, and a principle character in the West Enders, is our lad Sutton. He’s just so delightful. His romance with Merida has been a joy to write. I found him on eBay, “gently used,” which meant something very different to the seller than to me. I had to glue his waist articulation to keep him from flopping over completely, but I didn’t care. I love him!
My blog is super heteronormative. I realise that and wish that I were a better writer and could branch out a bit. Unfortunately, all my characters are heterosexual, which doesn’t reflect human diversity at all. It is a failing. That said, let me introduce my High School Musical Doll, who I call Corbin. He’s Suttons’ opposite – short where Sutton is tall, but just as loveable in his own way. He reminds me of my role as the mother of a teenage son many years ago. He’s charming and completely irresponsible – and very cute.
The lack of diversity in male dolls has been horrendously frustrating. I had no male Asian dolls – none. In desperation, after seeing a YouTube review, I turned to the World Peacekeeper series – cheap articulated 1:6 scale action figures. I’ve managed to find two “Asians” to add to my collection, the most notable of which is Tommy Lu, a major character in the West Enders.
Next come the “big head” boys. In my desperation for articulated male dolls, I turned to the Ever After High dolls. Here’s Dexter, whose head is abnormally large. But his articulation is fabulous and he plays a mean guitar.
An even more ridiculously sized head characterises poor Jake, from the Liv doll series. My husband constantly mocks him every time he comes into the doll room. Poor Jake! But like Dexter, his articulation is amazing.
Then there are the “one off” male dolls, purchased purely to move my story forward. My husband told me my blog, with its focus on romance, was dull as a soap opera. I needed a villain. Who better to be a villain than the unmentionable POTUS? He even talks, but I don’t push that button very often. I mean, is this guy not the very embodiment of evil in dolly form? But this is where I feel my age creep up on me. The white cat – Ernst Stavros Blofeld anyone?
And this character is even worse for making me feel old, even though I was beside myself when I found him. Illya Kuryakin, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. I googled it and I found him. I knew I needed a Russian spy…
But then my husband asked our grand-daughter-in-law if she knew who Illya Kuryakin was, the simple and straightforward answer was no. I feel so old.
Now that I’ve covered the adult women and men in my dolly universe, I want to touch on the children very briefly. Both Mattel and Simba Toys have children, as does Takara Tomy. So what else is out there that works as a child for a playscale family?
First and foremost are Lottie dolls. They are meant to be around 9 years old, but relative to a Barbie doll they are a bit smaller than that. Mine are all meant to be around 8 years old. They are very cute and reminiscent of the Asian anime and manga inspired dolls.
Another doll that playscale collectors might not recognise as perfect children is the Mini-American Girl doll, which recently evolved into the Lori Doll line.
Those are all the various types of dolls in my collection of playscale dolls. I know I am missing a few types of dolls like Sindy, plus all the 1:6 scale action figures. What do you collect? Please feel free to comment – I’d love to know how my fellow photo story bloggers deal with the lack of articulated male dolls with rooted hair, for example. Who else am I missing? I’d love to hear from all of you!
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The West Enders’ lives move from social event to social event… Don’t miss the next episode!
September means back to school for the young people of the West End. There are several schools in the village, including a very exclusive independent school, Saint Gertrude’s, which offers Reception through Sixth Form, and several state schools. The children who attend Saint Gertrude’s are easily identified through their tartan uniforms. Lara’s husband Josh, stay-at-home dad, helps his friends out by walking all the smaller children to school, no matter which school they attend. The other parents, most of whom must leave early for work, really appreciate this. After dropping off the children, Josh will shop and clean, pick the children up, and then prepare an evening meal for the family.
Ruruko and Rikki both attend Saint Gertrude’s and say goodbye to their friends Hari and Skipper at the turn off to the school. Skipper attends West End High School and Hari takes the bus to the exclusive Roberts Academy.
Alistair hangs around the High Street close to the entrance of Saint Gertrude’s. He’s been expelled from his school in Germany and sent to live with his brother Kevin and Kevin’s extended family. He’s not particularly thrilled about it. As he debates whether to go in or not, another student his age approaches. Dexter is back in Sixth Form and stops when he sees a new face.
“Hullo,” he says in surprise, “Are you new? I thought I knew everyone in the school! I’m Dexter Delaval, by the way. Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Alistair Puppe.”
“Are you related to Kevin Puppe who runs the George?”
“Yes,” says Alistair, “He’s my brother.”
“Fantastic! My band plays there on a Saturday night!” It isn’t really Dexter’s band, so to speak, but that doesn’t matter at the moment.
Suddenly Jenny joins them and Dexter introduces her to Alistair.
“Is this your girlfriend?” asks Alistair bluntly. Jenny blushes.
“No, it’s my girlfriend’s best friend,” laughs Dexter. “Here’s my girlfriend.”
Kurhn arrives and Dexter introduces her to Alistair as well. “Kurhn doesn’t go to Saint Gertrude’s, she goes to the Sixth Form at West End High School,” he explains.
“Hi,” says Kurhn. “Listen, Dex, I can’t meet up after school. I’ve got a voice lesson with Nicole. Why don’t we all meet up for a study date tonight in the library after tea?”
“That’s a plan,” says Dexter and Jenny enthusiastically agrees.
Alistair is completely dumbfounded. His academic career has been far from stellar thus far and he’s starting to understand why his brother insisted that Saint Gertrude’s would be just the thing. Study dates in the library? Could anything sound more tedious? He wonders just to what lengths he’s going to have to go to fit in and make new friends.
Once school gets underway, the High Street clears out until the shops open. Marcelo and Luna are going for a stroll when they bump into Audrey. She does not appear to be pleased to see them.
“My darling, look at you,” coos Marcelo. “You look fabulous, as always. Black and white suits you perfectly and look, you match me. Great minds think alike, wouldn’t you say?”
“I could not be less impressed, Marcelo,” says Audrey coldly. “You haven’t responded to a text or a phone call for a month. I’m sick of you, I’m sick of this relationship and it is over. Completely.”
Marcelo is completely unfazed. “Oh, what a shame, my love. I’ve been very busy with the band, you know. But, as you wish. And here we are wearing such complementary outfits.”
“You truly are pathetic,” says Audrey and walks away.
“Wow,” says Luna, “That was sudden.”
“Bitch,” mutters Marcelo under his breath.
Elsewhere, the day is off to a better start. Mira has not ended her relationship with Tommy but is taking a break. She’s teaching a one month intensive yoga course called, “Beyond Asana: Yoga’s Eight Limbs,” and has told Tommy that she needs some mental space while she’s teaching it.
Midge’s pregnancy is advancing without difficulty and she goes to the Medical Centre for a checkup. Roberta has started her new nursing job and listens to the baby’s heartbeat.
“I’d like to talk about the birth,” says Midge. “I’m wondering what the options are and whether I can have the baby at home, even though it’s my first.”
“You certainly can,” says Lara. “Roberta and I can attend you at home as easily as we can attend you here. If there are problems, we will have to get the helicopter to come either way. The alternative is a long drive to the city. The only issue will be that we can’t administer anaesthesia at home and you will have to give birth naturally.”
“I’m sure I can handle it,” says Midge.
“Many people think that until they’re in the throes of labour,” laughs Lara. “But if anyone can it will be you. I would recommend that you send Sasha over to ours when your labour begins and let her stay with Lottie and Alexandra because we don’t want her to be frightened if you start to yell.”
“That’s a deal,” laughs Midge.
Alistair is not the only new face among the West Enders. Deangelo’s brother Diondre has started his new job in sales and promotion for Barbie’s latest venture. It’s a fashion house called The Barbie Look, self-contained, with designer Liu Liu Ling, an in house photographer, and a group of well known fashion models. Barbie has hired Emma as creative director and is hosting a private launch party in the pub.
Diondre and Deangelo have always excelled in everything they do and Diondre is not particularly surprised to have landed such a fabulous job. He has to admit, however, that being surrounded by some of the country’s top models is slightly intimidating. He will not let anybody see that, however. He remains cool as can be, as if he has spent his entire life among supermodels.
And a lovely group of beautiful woman they are – Ivana Panenka, Michelle Jones, Salynda Wong, and Ariadne Kostopoulos.
Lavinia’s older daughter, “plus sized” model Faith Devine has joined the Barbie Look as well. She chats with designer Liu Liu Ling and Lilli Akana, who has left Tommy’s employ to work as Barbie’s PA.
Ken is Business and Finance Director, and chats at the bar with Liu Liu’s partner, Sam’s brother Jamie, the in house photographer.
There is another person feeling just slightly out of her depth, along with Diondre. It’s Momoko. She’s finished her degree and this is her first “real” job. She’s working as an design intern. She chats with the “petite” model, Kitty Collier, who is very friendly and does everything she can to make Momoko feel at home in this new environment.
So one relationship has ended, another is on hold – but what about Sutton and Erika? Will she forgive him for that selfie? Stay tuned to the next episode to find out!
It’s Saturday afternoon, and Tommy has invited Mira to meet him at the pub for an aperitif. To Mira’s annoyance, Lilli is there as well. Tommy buys some drinks and when Lilli excuses herself to go to the ladies room, Mira decides to confront him.
“I see you decided to bring Lilli along again,” she says drily.
“I didn’t bring her along,” says Tommy. “She just came along.”
“What do you mean, ‘she just came along,'” asks Mira in surprise. “It sounds as if she was at your house. Or didn’t you come from home?” One of Mira’s biggest annoyances with her relationship with Tommy, is that if they are ever alone, it’s always at her place. She’s never been to his house.
Tommy stares at Mira in astonishment. “Yes, I came from home. So what? Why are you interrogating me, this way, Mira? You actually sound jealous. It’s not becoming.”
Mira ignores his last comment. “Working on a Saturday?”
“No, we weren’t working.”
“What are you saying to me, Tommy? You make it sound as if Lilli lives there or something.”
“Of course, she doesn’t live there! She’s just staying with me until she gets her own place.”
“What? Lilli is staying at your house?”
“Well, of course she is. Where did you think she was staying?”
“And just how long has this been going on?”
“Since she arrived. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you, Mira.”
Mira takes a long drink of her glass of wine as Lilli joins them. “Looking as smug as ever,” Mira thinks. “Oh, this is not becoming. What am doing in this relationship? I don’t want to be part of a bloody harem!”
To make a bad situation worse, the three are joined by another beautiful woman, who Mira recognises as one of the back-up singers for the Ladies in Black.
“Tommy, darling,” she coos, “How fabulous to see you! Have you heard the news? I’m leaving the Ladies and going back to modelling. Barbie is opening her own fashion house, hired designers, models, everything. But I’m still really interested in pursuing a solo music career as we discussed earlier. I hope you’ll keep that in mind.”
“Of course I never forget you, angel,” says Tommy. Mira is feeling more and more annoyed. She tries to compose her thoughts, feeling guilty that someone who teaches yoga and meditation should become so agitated so quickly.
“Let me introduce you to Mira,” says Tommy. “She owns the local yoga studio. Of course, you know Lilli.”
Salynda turns to face Mira. “So nice to meet you, Mira,” she says. “I love yoga! I’ll have to try one of your classes sometime.”
“I’m sure we’d love to have you,” answers Mira politely. She hasn’t missed the fact that Tommy has not introduced her as his girlfriend.
Salynda turns back to Tommy and asks, “Why don’t we get together some time for dinner and talk over what’s required to launch a solo career?” she says. “You can come round to my place. I’m a fabulous cook and I’ll bet you’re missing some good Chinese home cooking.”
This is all Mira can take.
“Right, well, nice to see everyone. I’m heading down to the yoga studio to check up on the young people. They’re up to something down there.” She puts her drink on the bar and hurries out.
The pub sits on a hill and the yoga studio occupies the lower floor. There is an entrance to the pub on the street at the top of the hill and one to the yoga studio at the bottom. There is also a staircase from the pub to the studio but it’s usually locked. This connection makes the yoga studio perfect for Kevin to rent when he has a big event on, although Mira is very strict about not allowing alcohol downstairs.
Once down the stairs, Mira tries to compose herself. Yuki is teaching Rikki how to be a DJ. Zayn, who, unbeknownst to Yuki, would do anything for her, has promised to have some dance nights for the teens and tweens in the café when the new academic year starts. As a Muslim, he doesn’t drink alcohol, so he’s happy to host alcohol free events.
“How’s everything going?” asks Mira with false cheerfulness.
“Great!” says Ryan, who is there with Momoko. “Rikki’s going to be a fine DJ.”
“She certainly is,” adds Yuki from across the room. “And look, she’s got a following already!”
Back upstairs in the pub, more interesting conversations are happening.
Marilyn Baker has arrived, another one of the backup singers for the Ladies in Black. She’s also an aspiring actress and latches on to Liam Hemingway, who has come in as usual. He’s a regular.
“Oh, you’re Liam Hemingway,” Marilyn gasps. “I’ve seen all your films! I’m Marilyn. I’m an actress myself, although at the moment I’m not working other than singing. I’m one of the Ladies in Black.”
“All my films? I’m very impressed, Marilyn,” says Liam, eyeing her speculatively. He’s thinking something very different, however, first noticing her very low cut sundress. Is it possible that a woman is actually hitting on him instead of the other way around for a change? He can hardly believe his luck.
Behind him, Sutton, who has spent the entire afternoon in the pub chatting up a beautiful newcomer, is overjoyed to see someone he hasn’t seen in ages.
“Merida! You haven’t come here in so long! Too long. I’m so glad to see you. We didn’t really part friends and I’m really sorry about that.”
“I see you’ve met my friend Ariadne,” replies Merida drily. She’s not sure it was a good idea to come here. Ariadne Kostopoulos is an old friend from her modelling days and has arrived to join Barbie’s new fashion venture. Merida has been showing her around the village and as the George is the only pub around, it’s a natural spot in which to meet.
“Merida’s told me all about you, Sutton,” says Ariadne coyly. She’s a bit of a troublemaker and finds Sutton both attractive and somewhat silly in his transparency. And he’s also had just a wee bit too much to drink.
After another drink, Ariadne announces, “Time for a selfie!”
As they move into position, Sutton is overcome at being so close to Merida again. “Why is she so gorgeous?” he thinks somewhat drunkenly. “And her hair smells so good.”
“Perfect!” announces Ariadne. “Now I’m going to send you a friend request on Facebook so I can tag you in this photo. Then you can download it! Isn’t it good?”
“Wow, great shot, Ariadne!” says Sutton, not thinking about the ramifications of a picture of himself and Merida appearing on Facebook. He’s been dating Erika Holmes since the barbecue last May and she isn’t very likely to enjoy seeing a photo of him with Merida. She’s heard about his flirtation with Merida from Blessing. Sutton also doesn’t realise that Ariadne snapped another picture of him just before she took this one, and she’s not going to tell him.
Oh, Sutton, you’re really not the sharpest tool in the shed!
What’s Erika going to say? And what about Tommy and Mira? Is there any hope for this relationship? Stay tuned for the next episode!
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