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From glitter to grit: meet the artist transforming Bratz dolls into feminist icons

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Harriet Hall
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What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice?

Or grit and intelligence and all things deserving reverence?

That’s what artist, Wendy Taso, wants to prove.

Taso takes pre-owned Bratz dolls – with their enormous, made-up eyes, plumped lips and preened hair – removes their make-up and transforms them into 'mighty dolls': child-versions of inspiring historical women. 

Malala doll

Malala Yousafzai b. 1997, Pakistani activist, youngest Nobel Prize laureate

The doll make-unders involve delicately painting over the loud faces of the glamorous and fashionable Bratz dolls and giving them entirely new wardrobes.

Aware that children place great meaning upon their toys, Tsao considered that this meaning can be altered, so that instead of (or even as well as) dreaming of being their favourite Disney character or Barbie, children can be inspired by real-life heroines.

Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar, b. 1945, first Canadian female astronaut

Instead of aspiring to be thin, trendy and beautiful, girls can play with Tsao’s dolls and dream of becoming an astronaut – like Roberta Bondar – an artist – like Frida Khalo – or an activist – like Malala Yousafzai. They can be empowered.

Vancouver-based Taso was inspired by Sonja Singh’s Tree Change Dolls. In a similar manner, Singh dressed-down second-hand Bratz dolls, to create down-to-earth children’s’ toys, concerned that a child’s toy could have a significant impact upon their future identity.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954, Mexican painter

Speaking to Stylist.co.uk, Taso says that she created the dolls because “these women inspired me.”

“I really admire the women that I featured in my mighty dolls, for what they did or achieved and continue to do.   And they should be role models instead of, or at least, alongside the products of Disney and Hollywood.”

“Maybe we need to show children that these remarkable women were once children too.  And that everyone has a potential,” she says. 

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, b. 1965, British novelist best known for Harry Potter series

Taso hopes that through her dolls, children might be inspired to achieve everything they want, above being simply beautiful and well-dressed.

“I don’t know the answer, but I wonder if a child who plays with a doll of someone who is a real person who did some amazing things when they grow up might think more about real-life things and appreciate more the real potential that lies within all of us,” she says. 

Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie, b. 1965, Somali model, author, social activist

Most of us outgrow our childhood toys, but, as Taso says:

“It’s hard to imagine feeling the same way about Malala. Can you outgrow Malala?”

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall, b. 1934, British primatologist, UN Messenger of Peace

We don't think so, and even at our old-age, we are dreaming of getting our hands on the entire collection. 

Taso will be auctioning-off her mighty dolls on eBay.

You can see more of her work on her website

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Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall is a former Stylist contributor.

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