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!
Earlier on Valentine’s Day, at the café:
Meanwhile, at the Panenka-Puppe home:
To be continued… Don’t miss the next episode!
It’s the August bank holiday weekend, and the Panenka-Puppe family are enjoying the sunshine and a barbecue. Amid the fun and chatter, Steffi stops for a minute to think about how happy she is. She can’t remember when she felt so contented.
She’s surrounded by her sisters…
Another tiny Panenka has entered the world…
Even Kevin seems happy and content. He’s even accepted Olly as one of the family at last.
She knows he worries about Alistair, who keeps to himself almost all of the time. She hopes that he’ll find some new friends when school starts again in September.
And best of all, her children are happy and thriving in the new beach cottage. Just look at them… Wait a minute!
“Gretchen! Stop feeding your hot dog to Honey!”
Down the road, their neighbours, the Ekpo-Holmes family are also having a barbecue. Marvin is grilling up a storm. Everyone loves his barbecued ribs. Unfortunately, a little drama is about to unfold in the kitchen.
Emma is speaking to Corbin.
“Corbin, I thought I told you that today was family only. We’ve had so much partying over the summer, I thought it would be nice if we just spent some time together today.”
“Well, it is just family,” says Corbin, trying to wield his normal charm. “You must be referring to Jazz. She IS family now.”
“What do you mean, she’s family? Have you two gone and got married without telling us!” Emma is incredulous.
“No, of course not. It’s just that she’s living here now.”
Emma is almost speechless. “What?”
“Her student accommodation was getting really expensive and since I’m living at home now to save money, I told her to move in too. She’s been here for about a month. Haven’t you noticed?”
Emma has had enough. This is the last straw. She completely loses it.
“How dare you move your girlfriend into our house, Marvin’s house, my house, without our permission or even telling us! I’m fed up with your complete disrespect for me, Corbin Holmes. I am not running a B&B or a hotel service!”
“I’m sorry, Emma,” Corbin stammers. “I hope you’re not going to make her leave. She doesn’t have anywhere to go.”
“No, I won’t make her leave! Now get out of my sight before I explode!”
Corbin has never seen Emma so angry.
Emma rushes upstairs and says a prayer. “Please, Lord, grant me patience. Grant me a peaceful heart. I can’t take any more!”
Suddenly Marvin appears.
“Emma, darling, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I thought I was seeing more of Jazmin lately. She and Corbin always seem to be eating their breakfast together when I get home from work but I didn’t realise that she was living here.”
Marvin has a morning talk show at the local television station and is up and out the door before anybody in the house. He gets home in the early afternoon, around the time Corbin and Jazmin are getting out of bed.
“It’s okay, Marvin. I’m calm now. It’s just that we bought this house thinking we’d have a little more time together and we’re bursting at the seams with our relatives. I can’t turn them away.”
“I know, darling,” says Marvin. “Maybe we need to go out on a date!”
“There is one thing you could do, Marvin, that would mean the world to me.”
“Anything, sweetheart. What is it?”
“Kick Aunt Lavinia out of our bedroom!”
“Anything for you, love,” says Marvin. “Although I expect to hear a lot of whinging!”
Out in the garden, Roberta, Erika, Aunt Lavinia, and Jazmin are enjoying the barbecue. Although they heard the row in the kitchen, Jazmin seems completely unfazed and sips her margarita as if she hasn’t got a care in the world. Suddenly Erika, who is looking at her phone, lets out a loud gasp.
“Why are you staring at that phone, Erika?” asks Lavinia grumpily. “This is a family meal, you shouldn’t be looking at that thing.”
“What’s wrong?” asks Roberta, seeing the look of shock on Erika’s face.
“Someone’s tagged some pictures of Sutton on Facebook!” says Erika angrily.
“Let’s see,” says Roberta calmly.
“Oh, come on, Erika, it’s just a selfie with a couple of women in the pub. Sutton practically lives in that place. Don’t get your knickers in a twist over nothing.”
“Not that picture,” Erika barks. “The one before it. And it isn’t just two women in the pub, it’s that tart Merida MacDonald he used to crawl all over, according to Blessing.”
Roberta gasps. “Oh, THAT picture,” is all she can say.
That’s it for Season 1 of the West Enders. We’ll be back in September for Season 2. Don’t miss the drama, the fun, and the dolls!
The party is over; the eligible bachelors have all departed, each thinking what a charming family of beautiful women they’ve just visited. Corbin is busy talking up Deangelo to Dasia.
“Oh, he’s a great guy, Dasia, and really smart. He’s about to start his PhD with Jamal Jones in the autumn. Besides being smart, he’s just a really nice guy – and he seemed to really like you!”
“He seems very nice,” agrees Dasia.
“I’ve never seen him at the pub,” adds Blessing. “That’s always a good recommendation. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Jamal there either.”
“Oh my God, Jamal!” laughs Corbin. “Did you see Monique’s face? Who knew Robbi was going to try and steal her date!”
“I don’t think it’s very funny,” says Blessing. “And I doubt Monique did either.”
Blessing is right, and as she speaks, fireworks are erupting downstairs.
“Roberta, I cannot believe or forgive what you did to me tonight,” shouts Monique. “I would never ever in a million years flirt with a date you brought home. I would never treat you that way. You two have always hated me and would do any spiteful horrible thing to hurt me.”
“Whoa” says Erika. “Leave me out of this!”
“Who’s a nasty jealous cow?” sneers Roberta. “As if I would try to steal a man who studies bugs for a living! He’s all yours. Little does he know what a praying mantis you are!”
“I can’t believe you even know what one is!”
“You’ve always thought you were better than us, Miss Smarty Pants, but I happen to be as well educated as you are. Always Daddy’s little princess, with her straight As…”
Ouch. This doesn’t look as if it’s going to end well or soon…
In the meantime, Emma and Marvin are giving Lavinia and Grace a tour of the house.
“We shared the house with several families at first,” Emma explains. “It’s owned by Barbie Roberts, like everything else in town, but as our population has grown, we’ve all become overcrowded. One family has moved out already and everyone is in the market for houses. We’ve made an offer on this one, and essentially, we’re now the only ones living in it.”
“Hmmm,” says Lavinia. “Whose room is this?”
“This was Barbie and Ken’s, and often a guest room…” Emma starts to say, but Lavinia interrupts.
“Great, it will be perfect for me, then. I’ll tell Corbin to bring up my suitcases.”
Emma frowns but remembers her manners. She and Marvin had planned on moving into this room but Lavinia is a guest. “Of course, Lavinia, while you’re here you’re welcome to stay in this room.”
“Emma, darling! Didn’t Marvin tell you? I’m not leaving – this is my new home. I’ve come to live with you two. London is impossible – it’s so expensive and now that dear Mr. Devine has left this world, I just can’t bear to stay there.” Lavinia suppresses a tiny sob, but not inaudibly. “And here Grace can go to school with Viviane. She’s already made herself at home upstairs.”
Emma and Marvin are speechless. Emma is trying to keep her face composed while Marvin wonders what Emma is going to say to him when they are alone.
Emma isn’t the only one to get a shock this weekend. The Panenka-Puppe family have moved into their new house, a cosy beach cottage. Kevin returns from work at the pub and finds Steffi outside with her sisters enjoying the nice weather. Recently sister number six, Claire, has turned up with her son, just a tiny infant.
“Ah, ladies,” says Kevin, “Don’t you love the new house? So much less crowded now, Steffi, don’t you think? But I have a bit of news. We’re going to be joined by a new family member. My brother Alistair has run into a bit of trouble at school and is going to join us to do his last year of Sixth Form here. He can give me a hand at the pub as well – he’s eighteen.”
“Oh, sweetheart, that’s nice,” Steffi responds. “It will be a bit crowded, though, with Claire and her baby moving in with us as well. And of course, Bonnie, Ivana, Katie, and Olly will be coming and going too.”
Kevin too has a moment of speechlessness. “Doesn’t Claire wish to return to the father of her child?” he finally asks, trying to think of the right way to phrase it.
“God, no,” Claire interjects. “He’s a monster.”
“I’m so happy to have Claire here! Look at little Paul, he’s just six weeks old! It will be so nice to have someone home with me and the children. I won’t be so lonely anymore.”
“And her dog?”
“And her dog.”
Kevin doesn’t know what to say. All he can do is raise his hands in despair and go into the new house, now spoiled forever by the addition of more Panenkas!!!
Stay tuned for the next episode. Nick’s job interview is coming up and the wedding of the year will soon be here!
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