All six-year-old Miles wanted for his birthday was Legos and an American Boy doll. And while Gina DeMillo Wagner wasn’t surprised to see it on her son’s list — since he and his older sister play together every day, whether it’s sports, superheroes or dolls — she had no idea how to get one. Because they don’t exist.
Miles’ sister has an American Girl doll that looks just like her. Naturally, Miles wanted a doll that looked like him too. So Gina took matters into her own hands, searched eBay and Craigslist for an 18-inch doll (not an American Girl but one from the company Madame Alexander) in excellent condition that resembled her son, and gave it a makeover no American Doll salon has ever seen.
She gave it a haircut and trimmed the eyelashes, then removed the doll’s blush and lipstick with a little acetone. Then she found several cute boy outfits on Etsy. And ‘Fred’ was born. All in all, under $50 was spent on the transformation.
Wagner, a writer and photographer, has inspired her friends to do the same, and tells The Loop that some of them “are working on making their own so that our boys can play together.”
There’s obviously a market for boy dolls. American Girl has Bitty Babies but as Wagner points out, “older boys want a toy they can relate to and role-play with, just as girls do.”
As for gender-neutral toys, Wagner writes that toy aisles are moving in that direction, but “the trend has yet to trickle down into specific toy brands, especially dolls.” So in her household, she simply encourages her kids to ignore gender stereotypes.
“Both my kids would tell you that there’s no such thing as ‘girl’ toys and ‘boy’ toys in our house. They’re just toys.”
And while she may have given pre-Fred a makeover, Wagner believes many toys, in general, need a make-under.
“I wish companies would simplify toys and market them in a more gender neutral way,” she explains. “My daughter loves Legos, but she doesn’t like the Lego Friends series because there’s not much flexibility in how you play with those sets. They tell one specific story. Whereas, she can sit with a set of basic Lego blocks and figures and build anything she wants, imagine anything she wants. My son would love if there were a few boy characters in the classic My Little Pony series, too.”
That might be Wagner’s next assignment because look how great a job she did with Fred. He’s the spitting image of her son. For now, her kids can play together with their own dolls and Miles couldn’t be happier with his pal. “I don’t think he’s put the doll down since we gave it to him,” says Wagner.
Kids, take note. You just might get what you ask for — if you’ve got a mom as awesome as Gina.