Thursday, February 23, 2012


They're ba-ack!

In response to extreme public demand (okay, three people), I present the 2012 Academy Award Best Actress nominees, Barbie-style.

This was a challenging year. Among the five nominees are a middle-aged woman passing as a man (Albert Nobbs), a severely pierced and tattooed Goth (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady).

One of the self-imposed rules of Oscar Barbies is I never permanently alter or deface any of my dolls for their one night of glory on the Red Carpet. Another rule is, I never go out and buy clothes or accouterments; I either Frankenstein together what I have on hand, or make new stuff.

So let's start with the easy ones. Dress a Barbie to look like Marilyn Monroe; ie: Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn? No problem! I have plenty of blonde Barbies, the doll is anatomically correct for the part (for once), and this vintage dress and accessories from my childhood collection are exactly the right period.

(I did break down and cut her hair, however. But I do have a surplus of long-haired blonde dolls that have been donated to me over the years, so I figured I could give this one a trim. Besides, willowy, long-haired blondes rarely become Best Actress nominees.)

And dressing a doll to look like a middle-aged Southern maid, the Viola Davis character in The Help, wasn't impossible. I have a black Barbie, and I even found a blue dress with a white Peter Pan collar, and an apron, in my collection, although I had to frump it up a bit with a sweater.

Of course, the hair is ridiculous. Barbie dolls have more hair than Rapunzel, but I like this doll's long hair most of the time, so I gave her a ponytail and a Trump-worthy comb-over in front for the look of a black woman in the early '60s who has to straighten her hair into a bouffant for work. Not entirely successful, but you get the general idea.

 For Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, the hair was the easiest part.  This vintage doll comes with short, painted-on hair and three wigs, so I put her red wig on sideways to get that extreme, Thatcher-esque sweep off to the side. I also had this tweed business suit and pearls on hand. Couldn't do anything to de-glamorize her face, though.

As for Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs, I totally lucked out finding this male doll's dress suit and black jacket  stuffed in one of my doll trunks. (The character is a mature woman passing as a male waiter in an Irish hotel, ca. 1900.) I taped up the pants cuffs, made a tea towel out of an old T-shirt scrap, and gave her a pair of vintage white gloves.

 But the piece de resistance  is the bowler hat.  Kudos to Art Boy for suggesting the pliable lead sheath that covers the top of a champagne bottle for the crown. I cut off  some of the the selvage and rolled what was left up into the brim, Art Boy spray-painted it black, and voila! Of course, in "real" life, a waiter would never wear a bowler hat while serving, but in Oscar Barbie World, it's all about the props.

(I'm also fortunate to have this doll head with the short-short hair that my friend Faye Augustine found for me years ago in some hidden cranny of her assemblage art studio. Then I needed it to dress up a doll like cross-dressing Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, and it's come in handy many times since then. Last year, this doll was Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right.)

At last, we come to Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. For this one, I broke my "no shopping" rule & went hunting for a cheap, used doll I could mess up.  I found a large bin of discarded Barbies and Bratz dolls way in the back of that junk store on Front street, next to the New Leaf parking lot, but, typically, dark-haired dolls were in short supply. (I found one Bratz doll whose black hair was already mostly chopped off, but she wouldn't have fit in any of my Barbie clothes.)

 Finally I chose this one. Her expression is more serious, her lips are less red, and she doesn't have that mindless, toothy Barbie grin. She already had dangly faux-metal earrings, and some child had already cut severely short bangs above her forehead. All I'd have to do was give her an asymmetrical haircut (long in front on one side; boyishly short on the other), and put her in the "leather" jacket and black boots I have on hand

She is also, as you'll notice, a doll of color—not quite black, but the "silver" earrings suggest some sort of Native American. But because so much of her hair had already been lopped of, I thought it would be easier to repaint her complexion to emulate a fair-skinned Swede than buy a Caucasian doll and try to color her (almost always) blonde hair. At least her eyes are brown, not typical Barbie blue.

But once I paid my buck-sixty-two, got her home, and cut her hair, I liked her too much to alter her skin. I took an eyebrow pencil to give her the giant Goth raccoon eyes, and added a few facial "studs" and "rings" with a silver gel pen. Then I gave her neck chains and a razor blade pendant I cut out of a tea light candle holder.  The finishing touch: a black laptop under her arm,  for any hacking emergency that might arise.

Okay, so she's not strictly the right color. (Although I could argue that Lisabeth Salander would be black if she could!) But she's definitely true to the spirit of the character—and that what Oscar Barbies are all about.

(For a peek at some Oscar Barbies from years past, click here and here.)

Also, check out my Oscar predictions in this week's Good Times, or online.

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