Monday, July 30, 2012

Patrick Kelly ~ A Son of Ellis-Inspired Post

Circa 1930s celluloid black babies in bunting, made in Japan, surrounded by a collection of colorful buttons

Friend-on-Facebook and fellow blogger, Son of Ellis (SOE) has created a tribute doll of the late fashion designer and black-doll collector Patrick Kelly.  Prior to completing and sharing the tribute doll of Kelly, SOE changed his Facebook profile image to an image of Kelly that includes a black doll.  At the time of this writing, another Kelly-inspired image has become SOE's profile image.  (See Yahoo images of the real Patrick Kelly here.)

This Kelly resurgence, prompted me to retrieve a June 15, 1987, People Weekly article to re-read about the young African American fashion designer who, by the time the article was published in the People Weekly's Style section, had taken Paris by storm.  "In Paris, his slinky dresses have made Mississippi-born designer Patrick Kelly the new king of cling," headlines the article, written by Bonnie Johnson, reported by Cathy Nolan with photographs by Vladimir Sichov.  See link to entire article below. 

Patrick Kelly (c. 1954-1990) began designing and sewing clothing when he was a teenager in Mississippi. Although he had some formal fashion training, many of his skills were self-taught. While in his twenties Kelly moved to Paris, started his own design company, and quickly established himself as a reputable designer. [His] clothes were colorful, fun, and unusual and often had a Southern influence. Large, bright, plastic buttons were his trademark. Kelly was the first American to be allowed into the elite Parisian fashion designer's organization called Chambre Syndicale.
Read more:

The late-Patrick Kelly is shown above with some of his black dolls in an image published in the June 15, 1987 issue of People Weekly.

My interest in Kelly is not because of his fashion designs and use of colorful mismatched buttons, but because he was also a black-doll enthusiast.  "When I was little I never saw any black dolls," said Patrick, who had been collecting four years at the time the 1987 People article was written and had amassed some 3000 dolls in such a short period.  Kelly's collection included early black dolls, many of which were stereotypical caricatures of black people.  "I don't know if the NAACP would like my dolls," he said in People Weekly, "But they give me pleasure."

According to a May 31, 2004, Washington Post article by staff writer, Robin Givhan, "Whenever he mounted a show, Paris-based designer Patrick Kelly would walk onto the runway dressed in the baggy overalls of a furtive street artist and spray-paint a large heart on the stage set. He would always give everyone in his audience a tiny brown doll with molded black hair that could be most accurately described as a pickaninny.

"Kelly's mascot was the kind of poorly wrought Negro doll that black children of a certain generation refused to play with and whose parents could scarcely blame them. While the fashion industry was ignoring questions of race, he was embracing the doll as a totem."

Like Kelly, I also incorporate dolls that fall into the black memorabilia/Americana category into my collection.  They are reminders of how some manufacturers and artists perceived African Americans during the time of their manufacturer.  They are part of American history -- the way things were -- and the way things never should be again.  Patrick understood this, too.

Read the People Weekly, June 15, 1987 article here.
Read the entire Washington Post article here and more information about Kelly at the following links:
Brooklyn Museum: Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective 
Today in African American History


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Black cloth dolls growing in collector popularity - Entertainment -

A variety of cloth vintage cloth dolls from the collection of Leeanne Simpson, Australia

On July 17, 2012, Janet McConnaughey contacted me for a phone interview in preparation for an article she was writing on "A Stitch in Time" black-cloth doll exhibit.  The exhibit was part of the recently concluded UFDC Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Unfortunately, due to work constraints and being in the midst of training on a new platform,  I was unable to accommodate McConnaughey's phone interview request.  I am happy she was able to gather information from other black-doll enthusiasts, including Joyce Stamps (exhibit curator), for the following Associated Press article:

Black cloth dolls growing in collector popularity -


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White Mother Buys Black Dolls for Latina Daughter

Princess Tiana by Robert Tonner

Princess Tiana (although not this exact one) is discussed in the article, "I’m White, My Daughter is Latina, and I Buy Black Dolls."  Last night I stumbled upon this April 11, 2011, article published by New Latina while searching for something else and thought I'd share the link here.


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Friday, July 27, 2012

Kayla's Reveal

The rollers are out and Kayla has donned her new clothes (formerly worn by a Mattel Stardoll).  See how she looked originally in the first two pictures of my post on July 25, 2012

Kayla's feet were wrapped with several layers of Saran wrap to increase the girth and prevent her new shoes from wiggling and/or falling off.  She may eventually get a new body, but for now, she is keeping the original.

By rolling the loose ends of her ponytail to the front, sides, and back, I attempted to create a loosely curled, upswept style.  It lasted for about 24 hours until some of the curls loosened more than others causing an asymmetrical effect.

Kayla and I thought she'd look better with her hair worn loose.  I removed the rubber band.  There are no visibly uneven ends thanks to the Eco Styler gel and rod rollers.  She now has a nice, slightly curled-under 'do.

Kayla looks ready for a business meeting or perhaps a lunch date with a friend.

How do you think she looks?


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kish's Jimi and the UFDC Jambalaya Jubilee

Thousand's of conventioneers have converged in New Orleans, Louisiana to attend the 2012 United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) Convention.  Their "Jambalaya Jubilee" commenced on July 24 and will end on July 27, 2012.

Seminars, workshops, competitive exhibits, junior collectors events, luncheons with souvenir dolls, today's public sales day in the doll room, and Joyce Stamps' "A Stitch in Time," black cloth doll exhibit are just a few of the wonderful activities collectors will experience at the UFDC convention this week.

A host of vendors -- doll shops and artists -- are there.  Helen Kish, of Kish and Company, the artist of the newest member of my Kish doll family, is there.

In June, after reading the most recent Kish Collectors Society (KCS) newsletter, I preordered Jimi 'Goin' Fishin', at the club price which included free shipping.  Jimi arrived this week.  He is #7 of an edition of only 80 dolls produced.  Remaining quantities are probably there with Helen at the UFDC Convention and possibly sold out by now. 

Jimi 'Goin' Fishin' by Helen Kish

Jimi is a 7-1/2-inch, all-vinyl tyke with jointed elbows and knees.  "Shirtless on purpose," he is dressed in his light blue shortalls that are enhanced with red stitching.  Jimi also wears a hand crocheted hat made of Japanese paper yarn.  His brown mohair yarn wig is also hand crocheted.  Individually hand painted by Kish, Jimi has brown eyes and a multicolored, cloth knapsack over which his tan sandals are slung.  Jimi's outfit would be incomplete without his handmade fishing pole that reportedly was made by Helen's husband, Tamas.

Isn't he just the cutest little thing? 

In 2007, I missed out on purchasing the first Jimi, a UFDC luncheon souvenir doll dressed in denim jacket and jeans that was inspired by Jimi Hendrix.  After learning about Jimi's return, I did not want to miss getting this one.

I may not be in "N'orleans" enjoying many of the aforementioned UFDC convention events, but I am enjoying Jimi 'Goin' Fishin'.


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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No, Danielle Has Not Left Morristown for Texas

After "meeting" Danielle Harper through Fashion Dolls at Van's Doll Treasures in November 2010, I have followed Vanessa's well-written stories and videos about Danielle's courtship, marriage, honeymoon, and her most recent return from honeymoon.  Through these photo and video stories, I was able to really "get to know" Danielle as a charming woman, single mother, and now wife.  I liked her and wanted to add my own Danielle to my collection.  I kept forgetting to ask Vanessa to inform me of Danielle's manufactured name.

Her origin was unveiled after I read Ebony Nicole's April 29, 2012, "for sale" post for Fashion Fever Kayla.  From there I immediately went to eBay and quickly found my own Kayla never removed from box, (whose name will remain Kayla).  Kayla arrived in May of this year.

I've been so busy with life, work, and real-world stuff that I had not taken the time to redress Kayla or do anything with her long, but rather uneven hair until this past weekend.  After finding the perfect fashion for her, I decided to give Kayla a makeover, which has not been completed, but I wanted to share the first steps of the makeover now.

Below are two pictures of Kayla taken after she arrived in May.

Did anyone really ever wear bell-bottom camouflage pants with orange jersey inserts?

Kayla's hair has now been pulled up into a ponytail, held by a rubber band.  I applied olive oil Eco Style Gel to the loose ends and curled small sections with tiny rod rollers.  I had to use end papers in order to get the uneven ends of her hair to curl evenly.

Kayla is waiting for her hair to dry.  She and I are eager to know how her curls will look.

Next, I dressed Kayla in a lovely matching black lace bra and panties designed by the tremendously creative Limbe Dolls.  Kayla and I love it!

Kayla, still waiting for her hair to dry, is dressed in black lace lingerie ensemble courtesy of Limbe Dolls.

As soon as Kayla's hair dries and is styled, an additional post will be published to share more details about her makeover including why I wrapped plastic around her feet (as shown in the image immediately above).

Until then...


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012 Listed

I just read Terri Gold's latest blog post, followed the shared link, and discovered my blog is listed along with hers as one of the best fashion, collecting, and photos blogs on the Internet.  I was pretty excited to see mine listed (but not too excited to see my mug shot along with it).  Yikes!  Go see (and vote for this blog if you feel it worthy).  Thanks if you do!


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Monday, July 23, 2012

Queens of Africa Dolls Followup

The link to this Queens of Africa video was shared in a comment to my original post regarding the Queens of Africa dolls. After watching the video, I felt somewhat disheartened because girls and their mothers in the Western African nation of Nigeria have not been very receptive to the dolls, even after Taofick Okoya, their creator, purposefully priced them competitively.

Because little girls and often women of color worldwide are bombarded with Western standards of beauty, many have not realized and are unable to embrace their own.  Will this ever change?  I don't know if I want to cry or scream:  Wake up!

Here's the video.

I pray for a global mindset change with reference to these skewed standards of beauty and for the success of the Queens of Africa.


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Friday, July 20, 2012

Cute Black Dolls

9-inch all-vinyl babies with expressive faces by GIGO, circa 2008, found at Big Lots in 2010

I received an email from a childcare owner looking to buy "cute black dolls" for his daycare facilities. He explained, "We are looking for dolls that we can use in our childcare centers to teach multicultural ideas and concepts."  Finding the dolls in retail shops has been a challenge.   He and his wife are specifically looking for "cute black dolls."

All vinyl with molded hair, similar to the ones I have featured, and/or vinyl with cloth bodies and rooted, comb-able hair would be ideal for preschoolers.  If anyone can offer leads on where to buy large quantities of black dolls as described, please share the information in a comment.  
Thanks in advance!


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Queens of Africa Dolls

According to their (former) website,

The Queens of Africa program is dedicated, through the use of books, dolls, comics, music and animation series, to help empower children of African descent to be confident and [mature] ethically. The dolls and materials are designed, through fun and engaging materials, to subconsciously promote African heritage.Developed by entrepreneur and philanthropist Taofick Okoya, the program has reached tens of thousands of children across Africa contributing significantly to education programs, particularly in Nigeria.Queens of Africa celebrates being an African girl in the 21st century by drawing on the strengths and achievements of our ancestors and [bringing] them up to date to empower and inspire today’s generation of African girls.
There are three Queens of Africa dolls:  Nneka, Wuraola, and Azeezah.

Their Youtube video shares additional information with an interview of the dolls' creator.

Books are available on  However, I could not find purchasing information for the dolls on their website (which is no longer functional).


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Monday, July 16, 2012

Postcard from France

A recent trip to the post office resulted in a pleasant surprise letter from an eBay buyer from France.  Enclosed in the white envelope was a postcard from Musée de la Poupée Paris with a handwritten note on back thanking me for the extra doll article I sent the buyer with her magazine purchase.  Additionally, she also sent a bookmark from the Paris doll museum.

Bookmark (left) and postcard (right) from France

The bookmark features a 1933 cloth and felt Raynal doll.   The postcard illustrates a little girl delighting herself in doll play. 

"Such a sweet gesture, very typical of what a 'doll person' would do," I thought.  I sent her a thank you note through eBay to acknowledge my appreciation and receipt of these two items.  This postcard and bookmark from France, reminded me of one of the oldest dolls in my collection.

Bisque and composition SFBJ Unis France doll, early 1900s
 This 8-1/2-inch (21.59cm) doll was documented as "all bisque" in my book, The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls (Hobby House Press, 2002). Re-examination, several years post-publication revealed the doll has a bisque head and composition body.  (For my future reference, I scribbled that info in the book after the discovery.)  She wears her original island-style, sewn-on clothing, which is rather tattered and torn in the back from age.  She has a tiny facial rub as shown in the image.  Her head is marked:  UNIS France 60.

According to, Union National Inter Syndicale (UNIS) dolls were made from 1916-1960.  My doll is one of their earliest.  A similar doll can be seen and read about here.  Additional information on SFBJ and UNIS France dolls can be read here.


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

African Wrap Dolls ~ The Best Kept Secret

History:  African Wrap dolls were often made by slaves using all kinds of scrap fabrics and natural materials.  The single item that must be included that identifies the type of doll is a mirror or reflective material.  The superstition behind the mirror is that it is believed if evil saw itself it would run away.  Therefore, the dolls were created to provide protection for the family.  The most enjoyable process is finding objects to use to embellish your doll.  These unique items begin the stories for your doll. (Text from African wrap doll instructions provided by Debra Britt, fellow black-doll enthusiast.)

In approximately 2004, Debra Britt sent me an African wrap doll kit that included instructions, materials, as well as a hot glue gun for making an African Wrap Doll.  The kit also contained a completed African wrap doll to use as a guide for making my own. My completed African wrap doll and the one I used as a guide for making it are shown below. 

African wrap dolls made from found objects

The above picture is from page 355 of my book, Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion (2008).

Years after making the African wrap doll, I re-read the history on the instruction sheet and realized I omitted the required reflective material from its exterior.  I will add that soon as no evil is wanted here. The sample doll has a decorated CD on the front of its body which serves as its reflector of evil.

Debra Britt and her sister, Felicia Walker, along with other movers and shakers of the Doll E. Daze Project, "began to exhibit more than 4,000 dolls of color throughout Massachusetts' libraries and schools. Their vision was to celebrate black history through the eyes of a doll collector [and] promote [cultural] diversity via understanding and doll making..."  As a result, "library patrons, children, seniors and families have created approximately 17,000 African wrap dolls. The dolls are created exclusively with recycled materials. In response, to this demand, the need to find a permanent home for the Doll E. Daze Project and Museum became evident."  (, October 2007)


By its founders, it has been referred to as the "best kept secret" and is now a dream come true for the Mansfield, Massachusetts sisters, mentioned above.  The sisters will share their now combined total of 5000 black dolls at The National Black Doll Museum.  The kick-off was held July 10, 2012.  (Congratulations DB et al.)

About the National Black Doll Museum
The museum has eight permanent galleries and one rotating gallery.
The hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.  
Their website is currently under development.

The museum is located at:
288 N. Main Street
Mansfield, MA 02048
Phone:  (774) 284-4729

$13.00 (Adult)
$6.00  (Children) 

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Quads Made it to Belgium

"Which quads?" you ask.  These would be four Mini Chou-Chou babies to replace a little 5-year-old's lost Mini Chou-Chou. 

Two Sundays past, I received an email notification of an order for one Mini Chou-Chou Baby by Zapf that I listed on a doll social networking site in August 2011.  Shortly after joining that site, my email address was compromised.  I associated the compromise with that site and never revisited.

I was very surprised when I received an order through that site and rather leery about the validity of the order.  I informed the potential buyer that I no longer sold items through that site, which was almost the end of our discussion.  After she explained her dilemma (her daughter lost a doll identical to the one I was selling), I offered to send her a Paypal invoice for one of the Mini Chou-Chou dolls but first I wanted her to be certain the one I had was, in fact, what she needed to replace her daughter's lost doll.  (After all, shipping to Belgium cost more than the doll.)  She sent the following picture of the doll her daughter had once owned to assure me what I had was what she needed.

Lost Mini Chou-Chou Baby (a 5-inch vinyl and cloth doll by Zapf of Germany)

Mommy explained:
The doll is exactly the same doll as on the picture. The doll is our daughter's favorite. A few years ago there was one doll at the local store. Our daughter was 1 year old and called the doll Mouna. From that time she and Mouna could not be separated. At daytime [Daughter] plays with Mouna and takes her everywhere and at night [daughter] can’t sleep without Mouna. Mouna also went with us on holiday for several times to Spain, France, Italy and Netherlands. And then tragedy happened; Mouna was lost. And it is still a very big loss for our daughter. We searched everywhere and did everything we could to find Mouna, but sadly we didn’t find her. That’s now a few months ago. We did a long search to find another Mouna and after quite a while we are very happy to find her this Sunday afternoon on your website.

I shared the following picture of the four Mini Chou-Chou babies I had left and suggested Mommy buy two for her little one to have a backup in the unfortunate event one gets lost. 

Four Mini Chou-Chou babies, the last of my stock of approximately a dozen

After viewing the picture, Mommy and Daddy purchased all four.

So the quadruplets were sent to Belgium the next day.  Mommy sent the following note after they arrived:

Mouna and her sisters arrived yesterday in excellent condition.
[Daughter] could not believe her eyes when she saw Mouna. She kept asking in this real? This is Mouna! Look mama here is Mouna! [Daughter] is very very happy with her. She jumped and danced around for joy.
I told her that far far away, all across the big ocean at a place where they have lots of good weather, there lives a very friendly lady and that she has sent her Mouna. And that Mouna travelled by plane because it was a very long distance and journey. (Where we live it’s 68 degrees and often cloudy/rainy in summer.)
Since yesterday [Daughter] hasn’t left Mouna for one minute. She takes her everywhere just like she did with the missing Mouna. Mouna was already on the swing, on her bicycle in the garden etc.
In December Santa Claus will give her a Mouna sister as a present...
..We thank you very much to send us Mouna and her sisters. You have made [Daughter] very very happy.

All is well when the ending is as happy as this.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Van's Doll Treasures Featured in FDQ

Roderick, his ex-wife Melanie, and their 12-year-old daughter, Nicole, look comfy cozy on a sofa and chair made by Vanessa of Fashion Dolls at Van's Dolls Treasures.  -- Photograph* courtesy of  Vanessa Morrison

After "meeting" Vanessa of Fashion Dolls at Van's Doll Treasures, it did not take long for me to become thoroughly impressed by her creative dioramas using fashion dolls, handmade furniture, and often handmade accessories.  So impressed, I wanted to help share her creative genius with the doll-world at large. Writing an article for a major doll publication would be my way of doing this.  I proposed the idea to Vanessa, who readily accepted.  The culmination of our several weeks' work has resulted in the article, "Van's Treasures," which appears in the Autumn 2012 Americana issue of Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ).  This issue began shipping July 5, 2012, and I wait with bated breath to receive my hard copy!

FDQ is available by subscription, as a single copy for $10 + postage from authorized sellers, or as a digital download for $7.99 at their web site.

Stella's Treasures and Angelic Dreamz sell single copies of FDQ, but at the time of this writing, their sites have not been updated with a buy link for the Autumn 2012 issue.  As the magazines just shipped, these sites should be updated with buy links soon.  Barnes and Noble book stores should also have their copies soon.

Thank you, again, Vanessa!

I also extend a heartfelt thanks to Pat Henry, editor of FDQ for accepting the article without hesitation!

*Roderick (Rod) and estranged wife, Melanie, shown in the associated image, were having an uncomfortable discussion with daughter, Nicole.  Rod and new wife, Danielle, had just begun dating at the time the photograph was taken and used in Vanessa's post of May 5, 2011.  This photograph illustrates one of Vanessa's many fashion doll families used in her prolific doll stories.


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

Liberty Belle by Helen Kish, 2002 is from the Club USA Collection, limited edition of 300

Liberty Belle and I wish you a Happy Fourth of July!


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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dusky Pedigree

In 2009, I began buying dolls from international eBay sellers with a focus on vintage black dolls made by Pedigree (the 1931-registered name of the doll-making subsidiary of Lines Bros, a British toy maker).  Years earlier I had acquired a pair of 1950s Pedigree-type dolls from a New Zealand seller.  That pair satisfied my Pedigree-doll thirst until my interest in these very dark-skinned dolls resurfaced in 2009.

Like my original NZ Pedigree-type dolls, my other dolls from other global areas have very dark brown to black complexions.  Made during the 1930s through 1950s, these deep hues were the norm for black dolls made in such places as New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.  They are made of composition (1930s-40s) and/or hard plastic (a new material used in doll making beginning in the late 1940s).  See a group picture of some of these dollies below.

Black dolls, most marked "Made in England," circa 1930s through 1950s; the tallest two are my first Pedigree-type dolls made in New Zealand from Pedigree (Lines Bros.) doll molds.  The seated baby, 2nd row on far left arrived from Ireland. 
Absent from my collection was a rarer, blue-eyed brown skinned doll made by Pedigree, whose complexion is often described by British and Australian sellers as "dusky."  More often the doll is described as Asian and less often as "Indian," but never black.  The doll's physical attributes do not look Asian or "Indian."  Why is this one with the lighter  brown complexion not referred to as black, like the others?  Are the blue eyes or combination blue eyes and lighter brown skin tone the reason?  Dusky... that term puzzled me.

Even so, my search for Pedigree and other dolls made in England included one of these blue-eyed, brown-skinned dolls.  Unfortunately, the price of acquiring one on eBay was usually cost prohibitive, particularly after the asking price in pounds was converted to dollars.  The Australian dollar conversion is more comparable to the US dollar, but sellers' asking prices are usually well over 100 Australian dollars.  With shipping factored into the final cost, the doll seemed impossible to find at a price I was willing to pay.  Over $100 after conversion was not my willing price. 

Finally, I located one at a reasonable price and did not use out of pocket funds to pay for it.  Instead, I used some of the proceeds from the sale of over 50 doll magazines sold on eBay in June.  Interestingly, several of the magazine buyers live in the United Kingdom.

My little, 10-inch British girl arrived during the week of June 24, 2012, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Her feet were bare. Her dress was tattered and her hair needed combing, as illustrated in the seller's image below.

I was well aware of the doll's super preloved condition before completing the purchase but could see her potential.

I have since redressed this circa 1950s/60s, 10-inch, hard plastic doll, marked "Made in England," in Helen Kish's Bitty Belle Magnifique's original fashion and shoes.  She's an inch shorter than Bitty Belle with a wider torso, but I was able to get both the white underdress and sueded blue overdress to snap closed in back.

Circa 1950s/60s, blue-eyed brown doll by Pedigree, redressed with combed hair
She looks (and feels) so much better now. 


The sun is setting as a shadow of darkness begins to appear.  That is what dusk means to me.

According to's multi-dictionary search, the adjective, dusky, means:
not very bright
dark, because of shadows or because night is coming
with dark skin. This word is now considered offensive.

The third definition, with dark skin, is why this archaic term continues to be used by some to describe this doll's complexion.  Old habits are often hard to break, even when considered offensive.

I see her as brown. 

I see her as cute.

I see her as still loveable.


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