Saturday, February 22, 2014

One of These Dolls is Not Like the Others

School Girl Keyshia (the doll in the center) is the newest edition to the Fashion Madness Kenya line.
 After Ms. Leo shared photos of her Special Day Keyshia, I initially thought her doll used a different head sculpt than that used for my dolls (Special Day and Weekend Fun Keyshia).

Weekend Fun and Special Day Keysia (the dolls on the far left and far right) have identical faces.  School Girl Keyshia (the doll in the middle) appears to use the same head sculpt, but she looks like a different doll.

After my School Girl Keyshia arrived from, I realized it is as Ms. Leo suggested, her doll, also sold through, was painted differently, specifically the eyes.  My doll's eyebrows are thinner than the original dolls'; the lips are painted differently, and the eyes are definitely larger.  Her face might be slightly thinner as well.  These changes give School Girl a totally different appearance, and I like it!

At the time I ordered School Girl, did not have a photograph of the doll on their website.   I ordered anyway, hoping that 1) I would like the outfit; 2) that the doll would have the same facial characteristics as Ms. Leo's doll, and 3) that she was without flaws.

Two out of three wishes granted is not bad, but I would have preferred to receive all three.  She does have flaws as shown below:

School Girl's ears are pierced, but she has no earrings -- not really a flaw, but why the holes if no earrings?
Separated leg seam -- this is a flaw!
I am not sure if it is from the lining of her black velour jacket, but the worst flaw is black staining on her fingers, hands, and arms; it is on the under surface of her right arm as well.
Argh!  I called to report the staining.  They are sending me another doll.  My fourth wish is that the replacement is not flawed, too. 

While School Girl Keyshia does not look like my other two Keyshias and she unfortunately arrived with flaws (which seems to be the case for all the dolls in the Kenya line), she does belong here.  It would be wonderful, however, if the flaws were nonexistent!


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Friday, February 21, 2014

She's Alive!

Who's alive, you might ask?  Thanks to a few enterprising Mary Englebreit doll enthusiasts and the expertise of doll artist, Berdine Creedy, Georgia and the other dolls in the Mary Englebreit doll line by Robert Tonner can now have resin ball-jointed bodies. Georgia's original 10-inch body is all-vinyl without articulation.  (Scroll down to Illustration 447 to view my two girls here.)

Georgia with new Tenner body (Photo courtesy of Roberta Regnery)

Recently I received an email from Roberta Regnery, one of the enthusiasts, who shared images and links to the website and sales site where the dolls and their new movable "Tenner" bodies can be seen and ordered.  I particularly enjoyed the blog post, "She's Alive."

Visit the website and the ordering page if interested in ordering a resin BJD body for your Georgia, Ann Estelle, and/or other dolls in the Mary Englebreit line.

Thanks again, Roberta, for sharing this information.    


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Black-Doll Cover Girls Here and There

Seeing Black dolls on the cover of major doll publications remains a rare occurrence.  This lack of representation on the cover as well as inside these publications is why I discontinued my subscriptions to all, with the exception of one.  I receive quarterly issues of United Federation of Doll Club's Doll News because I am a member of that organization through my Motor City Doll Club associate membership.

On a positive note, UFDC's Fall 2012 Doll News began what I hope will be a trend toward correcting Black cover-doll underexposure.  That issue is discussed here. In addition to the fashion doll that graces the cover of that issue, four articles on Black dolls and a Black paper doll are included within.  Now that was history that has not yet been repeated.  Perhaps others will eventually catch the wave.

February is Black History Month.  Haute Dolls magazine features a Black doll on the cover of their February 2014 issue.  Will we see more of this throughout the year?  I certainly hope so!

I now own dolls and/or fashions that have been featured on doll magazine covers in the recent past.

Wilde Imagination's All-Natural Lizette Spice has two wigs, as shown above.  She arrived wearing a simple tan dress and tan strappy high-heel shoes (the straight wig, original dress, and shoes are now stored in her wardrobe).

While my newly acquired All-Natural Lizette Dionne (shown above) is not the doll featured on the May 2013 issue of Haute Doll, another Lizette Dionne by Wilde Imagination is the cover doll for that issue.  The cover doll wears the Just Peachy fashion that my All-Natural Lizette now wears below:

Although it cannot be determined from her pensive expression, Lizette enjoys seeing herself as the cover girl of the magazine that she touches ever so gently to make sure this is not an illusion.
The Limited Edition Cynthia Bailey Collectors Doll by One World Doll Project (OWDP), designed by Stacey McBride-Irby is featured on the January 2014 cover of Dolls magazine.  I fell in love with my doll and wrestled with the desire to debox her or not.  To resolve this dilemma, I purchased a second doll during a sale at AngelicDreamz.   The second doll's certificate of authenticity is number 161, so I deboxed the first doll, whose certificate is numbered 250.  I had already opened the first doll's box.  Therefore, the second doll will remain sealed within her box and her shipper.  A photo of my deboxed doll along with the magazine on which she is the cover girl (that I had to purchase individually since my subscription has lapsed) is shown below:

Cynthia Bailey Limited Edition Collectors Doll by the One World Doll Project, designed by Stacey McBride-Irby, is featured on the cover of the January 2014 issue of Dolls magazine.  Inside this issue,  OWDP co-founder, Trent T. Daniel discusses his goals for the company and the Prettie Girls line.

So while improvement has been made regarding the use of  Black dolls on the cover of major doll publications, equal representation has not yet been achieved. Magazine editors/publishers and others should realize by now that Black dolls are as relevant and as desired as others.  I personally would like to see more feature articles on Black dolls with Black dolls on the cover as well as at least one article on black dolls included in every issue of every doll publication, not just in February.  Until that day arrives, my lapsed subscriptions to doll publications will remain as such, and I will continue to write the Black Doll Collecting Blog, where vintage-to-modern Black dolls are always the main focus.   


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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Doll Griot

Before leaving for Senegal in September 2013, fellow doll enthusiast and educator, Paulette Richards, wrote a glowing and most impressive review of my three books written on the subject of collecting black dolls.   Richards' review, which compares my doll research to the research of two historians of African American history, was too lengthy to post on; therefore, she sent it directly to me.  I posted the review in its entirety on my Facebook Page:  Debbie Behan Garrett, Black Doll Enthusiast a few weeks ago.  Paulette will be a guest blogger later this week.  I thought this would be an opportune time to post the review here.  Thank you again, Paulette, I remain grateful and forever honored.

The Doll Griot
By Paulette Richards

Debbie Behan Garrett grew up during the era of the Civil Rights movement when African Americans vehemently rejected the stereotypical images of blacks that had long pervaded American mass media. Rather than purchase dolls that perpetuated negative stereotypes of blacks, Garrett’s mother provided only white dolls for her children. Yet young Debbie keenly felt the lack of “dolls that look like me.” In the early 1990s after her own daughter had “outgrown” dolls, Garrett was consumed with a passion for collecting and documenting black dolls. This passion launched her on a trajectory similar to two African American historians of the early twentieth century – Arturo Schomburg, and J.A. Rogers.

“Blacks have no history. There are no black heroes. Black people have accomplished nothing, have contributed nothing to the advancement of human civilization…” Like many students subjected to the routine “miseducation of the Negro,” Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938) heard myths like these when he was a schoolboy in Puerto Rico. Schomburg, however, vowed to prove his teachers wrong. Although he did not follow a traditional academic career like W.E. B. DuBois, he dedicated his life to the study of Afro-Latin and African American history. In 1911 he co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research. By this time, however, Schomburg had already amassed a large collection of books and artifacts documenting African diasporan culture and history.

Schomburg united scholars from Africa, the West Indies, and the U.S. in the study of African diasporan culture and history. Meanwhile, his collections continued to grow. Although he worked in modestly paid clerical jobs and had five sons to support, the New York Public Library paid $10,000 for his collection of books and materials in 1926. The collection was initially housed in the 135th Street (Harlem) branch of the library and Schomburg was appointed curator of “the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art.”

Schomburg’s obsessive pursuit of books by and about people of African descent may have seemed crazy to some, but his collection formed the basis of the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Similarly, while Garrett’s obsessive acquisition of black dolls may seem irrational to non-doll lovers, her dedication to celebrating the beauty of black dolls echoes Schomburg and Rogers’ determination to destroy myths of racial inferiority.

Garrett published her first book, The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls with Hobby House Press in 2003. This 176 page soft cover volume catalogues each doll with information on the artist and/ or manufacturer, the material, height, identifying marks, descriptions of the hair/eyes/ mouth, clothing and an estimated value. Then, following in the footsteps of J.A. Rogers, Garrett self-published her second book in 2008.

Joel August Rogers was born in Jamaica in 1880. Although they could not afford to provide much education for their eleven children, Rogers internalized the strong value his parents placed on learning and devoted his life to researching and disseminating as much information as he could about the history of black people. By 1906 he was living in Harlem. Later he took a job as a Pullman porter, which allowed him to comb libraries all over the country. Over the course of his life he also traveled extensively overseas, sifting “the bran of history” as he called it for nuggets of information about the historical experience of black people. Although Rogers was self-educated, self-financed, and self-published, his books eventually earned respect from academic historians. For example W.E.B. Dubois observed that "No man living has revealed so many important facts about the Negro race as has Rogers." Similarly, Garrett’s years of dedicated research and publication have earned her recognition in The New York Times and other prestigious publications as an authority on black dolls. (“The Dolls I Never Had as a Child”)

Like most of Rogers’ works, Garrett’s 450 page volume on Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion is lavishly illustrated. Full color photographs carefully document each doll. Garrett’s collection runs the gamut of materials (bisque, celluloid, composition, rubber, hard plastic, and cloth), aesthetics (artist dolls, craft dolls, manufactured play dolls), and genres such as fashion dolls, paper dolls, and celebrity portrait dolls. Since dolls are usually viewed only as toys for little girls, the “bran” that Garrett sifts might seem even more marginal than the records Schomburg and Rogers searched for evidence about black experience. Further, the bulk of Garrett’s collection consists of manufactured dolls rather than one of a kind dolls and includes play line dolls as well as artist dolls produced in limited editions. Yet, as a record of how the larger society has viewed and represented people of color, her eclectic collection probably has more value than it would if she focused only on art dolls created by black artists as more authentic self-representations.

In traditional West African societies, griots were oral historians who preserved the lineage and noble deeds of their communities. As latter day griots in a time when much of the academic establishment still subscribed to Hegel’s idea that “Africa has no history,” Schomburg and Rogers documented “who we are and where we come from.” Although women rarely served as griots in traditional African societies, in her third book, The Doll Blogs Garrett answers the fundamental questions griots are most concerned with – “Who are your people and where do you come from?” Through her meticulous research into the provenance of each doll, she provides information about the artists who sculpted the dolls, the manufacturers who produced them, the retailers that sold them, and sometimes even includes tidbits about previous owners. Anyone who has done genealogical research would be overjoyed to uncover such detailed information about the African American branches of their family tree for even when there is an oral tradition and/ or paper trail that enables us to trace our ancestors back to the time of slavery, the trail usually goes stone cold on the shores of the Atlantic.

The barracoons that dotted the west coast of Africa from the 16th – 19th centuries transformed human beings into commodities and erased their personal histories. While DNA typing can now take us further into the interior of the Mother Continent and indicate regions where our enslaved ancestors might have come from, it can’t recover the stories of how various individuals met and combined those strands of DNA. The ritual acquisition of black dolls that plays out on every page of The Doll Blogs often occurs through auctions, a scene that is fraught with the painful legacy of slavery and the forced separation of families on the block. Yet Garrett’s purchases are a redemption that gives every black body a voice and a history. Her doll room then functions as a kind of anti-barracoon where lost souls recover their identities and re-unite with family and friends.
Paulette Richards has been writing about “the serious business of doll play” on her blog, LimbΓ© Dolls, since April 2011. Formerly the Associate Director of the Nommo Literary Society/ Neo Griot Krewe writing workshop in New Orleans, she holds a Ph.D. in French Civilization from the University of Virginia. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Richards will further explore the griot tradition as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Saint Louis, Senegal.


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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Robert Tonner Celebrates Black History Month

Ready to Wear Esme

Check out Tonner Doll's African American Retrospective in honor of Black History Month. Their blog entry dated 2/14/14 showcases past African American dolls by Tonner and Ellowyne Wilde (Lizette).

Thank you again, Tonner Dolls for mentioning me in your post.

Still feeling honored,


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!


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Monday, February 10, 2014

Guest Blogger, Georgette Taylor, Shares Exciting News

A new feature of the Black Doll Collecting blog is to allow doll makers, artists, and others in the doll community with pertinent Black-doll information to share to become guest bloggers*.   In today's post, I am honored to present the first guest blogger.  
Audrey Bell-Kearney and Georgette Taylor with their Big Beautiful Dolls:  Dasia, Dawn, and Dena

Hello Everyone!  First I want to thank Debbie Garrett for allowing me to guest blog on her wonderful Black Doll Collecting blog this week.

Many of you may know me already, but for some I may be new to you.  So here is a brief introduction about who I am.

My name is Georgette Taylor.  I am one of the co-founders of Big Beautiful Dolls along with Audrey Bell-Kearney.  Our company introduced the first line of full-figured fashions dolls over 15 years ago.  Wow, I cannot believe it has been that long and I cannot believe it has been over 6 years since I have written anything related to dolls. Our dolls were Dasia, Dawn, and Dena.  Dasia was nominated for the 2002 Dolls Award of Excellence and we have been featured in several doll magazines.

I also want to thank everyone out there who owns one of our Big Beautiful Dolls and who has supported our company and our dolls. We hope you have enjoyed them as much as we have enjoyed creating and showcasing them.  

Our dolls still inspire me to this day and it was one of the reasons I reached out to Debbie recently to share with her something I am now doing that I thought would be helpful to the doll community.  Being asked to be a guest blogger could not have come at a better time to share with you a little about where we originated, where we are going, who helped us in the beginning and what we are doing for the doll community that we hope will be another way for you to branch out and share what you love about dolls.

Although I have been out of the game for a while, I still manage to check up on things. I see Jason Wu wowing us with his meticulous and marvelous creations; Percy Newsum for his continued drive and creativity with Integrity Toys; and Robert Tonner is always doing an amazing job with his fashion dolls.  There are many other talented designers and doll makers that I have yet to discover. I absolutely just love it.

How It All Began
Speaking of Percy Newsum, I want to share with you something that you may not know about Mr. Newsum and Big Beautiful Dolls. Mr. Newsum was the person who was very instrumental in helping us get started on the right track. When we first started out, we had no clue how to do what it was we were going to do. So I thought I would start by going to Toys R Us to look at all the doll boxes on the shelves to get the names of the manufacturers. We thought we could call on a few to get some information on where to begin. I found a doll that I liked from Integrity Toys and was so excited when I realized that this company was driving distance from where we lived at the time.  So we called a few times and finally were able to talk with Percy.  We asked if we could meet with him and if he could share some insight about the doll business. He was extremely nice and said yes. We spent practically the whole day with him as he showed us his facility, talked with us, guided us and gave us wonderful resources that literally helped to create our line of dolls and doll company. We are deeply indebted to him for taking the time to do that for us.

That is how Audrey and I became connected to the doll business, but I already had and still have to this day a little doll collecting in my soul.

Today’s Fashion Dolls
When I look at the industry today and all the wonderful dolls that are out there, I realize a lot has changed since we started our company, but a lot still remains the same.  Fashion dolls have become so much more articulated.  There are so many more enhanced features and ethnicities, but one thing that has not changed much is the shape or should I say the curves of the dolls. Yes, some are definitely a lot less straight than they were, but there still are not many dolls representing plus size, full-figured women with curves.

After being the first company to introduce the full-figured fashion doll to the market, we were then followed by Robert Tonner's Emme doll, a plus size fashion model.  There is still a lack of other shapes represented in this beautiful arena. We are all beautiful and we all come in different shapes, sizes and colors.  I feel these should all be represented in the doll world.  Variety is what makes dolls so appealing. The thing that I do love and know about the doll business is that it allows you to lend your voice, opinions and express how you feel through the creativity of doll artists all creating dolls that inspire and empower. Our Big Beautiful Dolls represented, and still do today, a voice that is still pretty much silent in the doll world. 

Next on the Agenda and Current Collaboration
We will be introducing our dolls again next year in a Sweet Sixteen Anniversary Limited Edition to celebrate our dolls and company turning 16.  There will be a limited edition of 500 dolls, sold as a set of three.  We are very excited about this as well as some other news shared below.

I have been fortunate again to work with one of my best friends and business partner, Audrey Bell-Kearney, as Chief Content Officer for HerTube.TV, which Audrey founded.  HerTube is an online TV network for women and what women care about.  One of the things we care about is dolls and we want to be another platform for you to express your love for dolls on our network.

We have created the Doll Lovers Channel with shows that will allow the doll community (from business to collecting, from creators to artists) to share information about the dolls they love.  You can host your show and bring your form of creativity, artistry and love for dolls to a wider audience, not just online but in over 8 million households.

If interested, the first thing to do is go to  and become a free member of the community.   If you are interested in hosting your show on our network  go to  click on the tab "Host Your Own Show" and order the Premium Show Host package or  please contact me by email at: directly.

I so enjoyed spending time with you and am so glad I had an opportunity to share with others my love for dolls, a little about what I am doing now, and what we are able to bring to the doll community that we love.
I also look forward to coming back to share more about our upcoming Sweet Sixteen Anniversary Limited Edition Dolls as we get closer to the release date. You can also email me at  if you are interested in being placed on the order list for a set of three Sweet Sixteen Anniversary Limited Edition Dolls, which will be produced in a quantity of only 500 sets worldwide.

Until next time,

Georgette Taylor
Chief Content Officer

*If you have pertinent Black-doll information to share and are interested in becoming a guest blogger on the Black Doll Collecting blog, for specifics contact me at



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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dolls with Books Exhibit - Entry 5, The Finale

Little Black Sambo and Little Brown Koko and their books, part of the Dolls with Books Exhibit

The dolls in the second display case, second shelf, of my Dolls with Books Exhibit are featured in this final post.  Both dolls were inspired by storybooks that preceded them.  Their individual images (from my book, Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion), their object labels, and additional commentary is below.

This 1970s doll* is dressed as Little Black Sambo, the character in the book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman, first published in 1899.  The original character in the book was a little boy from India.  After the story migrated to America, his ethnicity was changed to an AA boy.  The book published in 1942 contains illustrations of a chubby AA boy.  The 1961 publication illustrates an East Indian boy. 

Even with the potential to spark controversy and patron disapproval because of the name "Little Black Sambo," I did not hesitate to include my doll and his books in the exhibit.  I mentioned to the library manager after the display had been set up that I hoped he did not cause alarm.  Her reply, "It's a part of history" assured me that I made the right decision to include him.  

I owned  a 1960s copy of Little Black Sambo and recall reading it with my mother at around age 6.  As an adult, I learned that the original character in the book was not an African American child as American copies of the book often illustrated.  As I documented in Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide... 

Ms. Bannerman was a Scottish woman whose husband served in the British army in India.  According to research, the term "Sambo" [was] used offensively in... British English.  Formerly (during the time Little Black Sambo was written), it had the technical meaning of a person having a mixture of black and white ancestry, more black than white.  In the early nineteenth-century, the British referred to East Indians as "Sambos" because of their dark complexion, which is the most probable reason for the book's title.  In the original story, Little Black Sambo was a native of East India as noted by his turban and curled toe shoes.  After the story migrated to America, the characters' (Sambo's and his parents') ethnicity changed from East Indian to AA to correspond with the word, "Black" used in the title of the book.  Interestingly, the [1961] copy (the smaller book) illustrates characters of East Indian descent while the1942 copy uses illustrations of a cute, chubby AA boy [and his AA parents].  

It is unknown when the first Little Black Sambo dolls were made, but documentation exists that one version was made in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  For the "Dolls with Books" exhibit, I chose a 1970s unmarked vinyl doll from my collection to represent Sambo.  The doll was given curly black, rooted hair and dressed in clothing to replicate the birthday clothing given to the character by his parents--a red jacket, blue pants, and purple slippers.  The doll adequately represents the storybook character, who outwits several greedy tigers' attempts to take away his new clothes. 

*Before my doll became Sambo, he was "Gus," named by my grandson.  His original transformation from bald to rooted hair can be seen here.

The doll, Little Brown Koko and his dog Shoog, are characters from the book, Little Brown Koko, by Blanche Seale Hunt, first published in 1940.  The doll and dog on display are reproductions of the original Little Brown Koko and Shoog.  The book that inspired the cloth doll and dog contains a series of short stories about Little Brown Koko and his busybody antics.

My Little "Tan" Koko was made from a reproduction of an original Little Brown Koko pattern that was probably offered originally as a mail order item.  I purchased the pattern on eBay and commissioned someone to make the doll for me since original versions of the circa 1940s dolls made from patterns were cost prohibitive and often in various stages of deterioration.  I was not happy with the seamstress's selection of "tan" fabric for my doll. I wanted him brown!

The original Little Brown Koko stories by Blanche Seale Hunt were published in The Household Magazine, first appearing in Volume 41, No. 1, January 1, 1941. 

These two boys and the other 20 dolls in the current Dolls with Books Exhibit will remain at the library until the first week of March 2014.


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