First Lady Not Happy With Sasha, Malia Dolls

Monday, Jan 26, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 PM PDT
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First lady Michelle Obama is not pleased about the marketing of a pair of dolls that bear the same names as her daughters.

"We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes," Ms. Obama’s spokeswoman said.

Ty Inc. has released the 12-inch plush dolls as part of the company's "TyGirlz Collection," introduced in 2007. The Sasha doll has pigtails and wears a white and pink dress with hearts. The Malia doll has a side ponytail and a long-sleeve shirt with capri pants.

The Oak Brook-based company chose the dolls' names because "they are beautiful names," not because of any resemblance to President Obama's daughters, said spokeswoman Tania Lundeen.

"There's nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls," Lundeen said. "It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not."

Public figures have a legal right to control how their images are used, but Lundeen would not comment on legal issues or if the company's lawyers have become involved with the dolls.

"I'm not an attorney. I can't answer that," she said.

The dolls have "real doll hair" and the suggested retail price is $9.99, Lundeen said. The dolls were introduced in early January and a limited supply has been shipped to retailers.

Beanie Babies, small plush toys that developed a cult following after they were released in 1994, have reportedly generated sales of at least $6 billion for Ty, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

In the real world, 7-year-old Sasha and 10-year-old Malia have been the focus of intense interest. A throng of reporters followed their first day at school. News reports detailed what they wore on Inauguration Day.

That fascination will make the Ty dolls a success, said Denise Gary Robinson, president of DollsLikeMe.com, an online specialty doll boutique that specializes in ethnic dolls, toys and gifts.

"Girls all over the world, of all colors, will be looking for these dolls. They want to identify with these two girls," Robinson said.

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