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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Flavas

"Tell me, what's yo flava...tell me, what's yo flava..."  Dang, that commercial was catchy!  Hi, it's RagingMoon1987 again, with a doll line that I completely eschewed when I was a kid.  This is a Mattel doll group that was available around the Millennial era, a somewhat unusual breed of doll called the Flavas.  I didn't know I had a Flavas doll until I started doing research for a What's Her Face review...one that I'm still trying to put together.  I found this doll in a thrift store, liked her hair, brought her home, and put her in a Barbie outfit that didn't quite fit.  I've since thrown away her body, which was highly articulated but broken in a few places, but I still have her head.  Here's Biker Date Happy D.
I was surprised to learn this doll's identity, as the Happy D I'm familiar with had an intricately braided blonde fall.  Of all the Flavas produced, that first Happy D was the only one I ever wanted, because I knew a lot of work had to have gone into braiding all that hair.  I had been calling my particular doll "Domino" due to her own unusual hair, so it's good to know her proper name.  I can always pretend that the "D" in Happy D stands for "Domino."  The name "Happy D" throws me off a little, though; being a NASCAR fan it makes me think of my favorite driver, Happy Harvick!  LOL, I'm getting bad about tangents!

Flavas were a fairly large group of streetwise friends hailing from multiple races.  Liam and Tre were the boys of the group, while the girls were Happy D, P. Bo, Tika, and Kiyoni Brown.  The Biker Date lines appear to imply that Tre and Kiyoni were an item, as were Happy and Liam.  One line replaced Kiyoni Brown with a new character, Tawny.  I wasn't aware of Miss Tawny when she was available so thanks to D7ana for that little tidbit.  The line did very little for me as a tween; I hated most of the names, and I didn't like the dolls themselves much either.  They reminded me too much of rap music, which I was forced to listen to at school and despised.  Even at the age of eleven I was choosing Chicago and the Who over Diddy and Bow Wow...or whoever was trendy at the time.  Anyway, consumers apparently weren't sold on these dolls either, because the Flavas weren't around very long.  The Chicago Tribune accused the dolls of being stereotypical, and somewhat dated stereotypes at that, as each doll came with an old-school "ghetto blaster" boom box.  The same article singled Tre and Kiyoni Brown as being particularly bad, attesting that Tre looked like a "drug-dealing pimp," while Kiyoni Brown's blonde locks and white makeup looked ridiculous.  I give them that second one; Kiyoni was rendered in a lovely dark brown shade of plastic and had the potential to be a gorgeous black doll, but the first wave's paint job and the hair made her look cheap instead of hip and stylish.  Later waves were kinder to Miss Kiyoni, making her the pretty girl that she could always have been, but again I digress.  The dolls were around for about a year (give or take a few months) before fading from toy shelves.  While I wasn't too sad at the time, I can't help thinking now if the dolls would've caught on had they been left to their own devices.  One writer thinks the Flavas would've eventually found a niche market, and I have to say I agree.  Hip hop became more popular with children as the decade progressed, and those children likely would've been attracted to the Flavas.  Perhaps the dolls were simply a bit ahead of their time, or maybe they were outshone by the Bratz, which made an appearance shortly after Flavas' release.  Maybe it was both.  I myself have warmed to the unusual crew; the worst criticism I can muster now (besides my continued hatred for rap music) is that Tre and Liam were a bit effeminate looking.  Mattel had a better boy doll when they released Blaine with the Generation Girls.  The old Blaine head would've been great for Liam...OR for Tre!

Alrighty, so I've given you more information than you ever wanted to know about another obscure doll line.  Since this IS Throwback Thursday a review comes next.  I can't review Happy D properly because her old body is gone.  Too bad too, because the joints were great.  No, in order to find an all-original Flavas doll I had to browse eBay, and they came through.  Small wonder I'm broke!  Anyway, here's good ol' P. Bo.  I got the sports version, one of the first waves to come out.
I wonder what "P. Bo" is short for?  Maybe Mattel wanted the kid to pick the name, like they did with P.J. back in the seventies.  For some reason I'm constantly wanting to call this doll P. Boz, even though she looks nothing like T-Boz (LOL).  I like the idea of picking this doll's name myself, but for now I'll just stick with a simple "Bo."  I almost hate deboxing this gal since I got her NRFB, but dolls are for playing with.  Right?  Right!  Out you come, Bo!
Now that I've actually deboxed one of these I get a sense of what a nice product Mattel was trying to make.  This doll is accessorized and articulated!  But first things first.  Bo is a redhead...and it's a style that I absolutely LOVE!!!
Bo reminds me of someone, but I'm not sure who.  Some sort of character from a cartoon or some sort of actress, maybe?  She does bear a passing resemblance to Kyoko Sakura with that hairstyle, but there's someone else.  I can't put my finger on it.  Anyway, Bo's hair is ginger red with blonde highlights and bangs up front.  It mostly hangs loose, but there are two sections that are done up in braids...
...and a little topknot in the center.
Bo's eyes are beautifully painted.  They're two shades of blue with matching eye shadow and long lashes.  They are similar in shape to a Bratz doll's eyes, but they're not quite as saucy.  They have a surprisingly warm expression.
Strangely enough, Bo's other incarnations came with gray or brown eyes.  Changes in hair color I can understand, but I wonder why her eye color changed from doll to doll?  Oh well, doesn't matter much.  Mine has blue eyes, and that's what matters.  They're also the best eyes in my opinion, as the other two P. Bo dolls are huge and look vacant.  Bo's eyes are highly made up, by the way.  She's got brown, blue, and copper eye shadow, plus dark eyeliner and thick lashes.  Her eyebrows are thick and have hairs painted in, which is more detail than I'm used to seeing on dolls this size.

Bo's mouth is a riot.  It's got a subtle asymmetry so that when you view her from certain angles, she appears to be smirking.  See?
I don't have too many dolls this size that smirk, only Raquelle.
I'm beginning to think that Raquelle's head was one of those frustrating one-offs that Mattel sometimes does.  Generation Girl Mari was like that, and as far as I know so were the Flavas.  I think that's silly, as all the Flavas' heads made great dolls when properly painted.  Unfortunately in Bo's case, the paint job does her image more harm than good.  Look at the size of those lips!
I've looked at group pictures of all the Flavas, and I think I happened to get the one with the biggest danged lips.  This doll looks like she went a little overboard with collagen injections.  Collagen already, Bo?  You're only 13!  Haha, I couldn't resist.  In all seriousness this mouth makes Bo look like a murder victim that I saw once.  So I don't care for the shape of Bo's mouth much, but she's painted fairly well.  The shade is dark bronze with a slight shimmer, not unlike a Bratz doll's lips.  There are no paint gaffes anywhere near Bo's mouth (or her eyes either, for that matter), which is good because Happy D didn't fare as well in the paint department.  See her chin?
That's no birthmark, y'all!  I can pretend it is, though.  I've worked too much with Happy to be displeased with her now.  Bo isn't flawless herself, though I'm pretty sure it's due to age and not a foible with paint.  Look at her nose.  She's got a very faint dirt mark there, one that's more obvious IRL than it is in pictures.
At least I HOPE that's dirt and not paint!  It hasn't come off yet so it might be some flub-up with the paint.  Despite the cartoonish lips I love Bo's face.  Her asymmetrical smile suggests a bit of a spicy attitude, but that attitude is softened by her friendly eyes.  The combination gives Bo's face a lot of personality.  She looks like the type who would give her dolly friends a piece of her mind but would also have their backs when the chips are down.

Since Happy's head is intact let's quickly take a look at her.  She has long saran hair in black and platinum blonde.  Happy has seen hard time as a plaything so her hair isn't as smooth as Bo's, but it's made of the same stuff so it should bounce back after a night in THE PLASTIC BAG OF DOOM.  I positively love Happy's eyes, by the way.  I think they're supposed to be brown, but they look golden.
Amber eyes aren't particularly common on dolls this size, so it's a treat to see this shade of gold on a girl like Happy.  As you saw above, Happy's mouth is not perfectly painted, but the lips are more realistic in size and shape.  I like the color better too, but the shape is not as expressive as Bo's.  So these faces are a little hit and miss in the quality control department, but not terribly so.  They're more stylized than Barbie's, but less so than the Bratz and Barbie's My Scene self.

Most of the Flavas weren't the same size as Barbie (Happy was quite a bit smaller), and thus the first wave came with two outfits.  They were supposed to be wearing street clothes, but Bo's style also has a bit of an athletic "flava" in addition to the street vibe.  She arrived wearing this.
It's a sweatsuit, oddly a one-piece job rather than a top-and-bottom set.  I positively loathe sweatsuits, by the way.  When I was a kid I'd get one of those ugly things every Christmas, despite my pleas for a pair of new jeans or a cardigan or ANYTHING but another sweatsuit!  My hatred of them has carried over to my adult years, to the point that I absolutely refuse to wear them in public unless I'm headed to Wal-Mart.  Any sort of revolting attire is allowed at Wal-Mart.  But anyway, Bo is wearing a black sweatsuit.  It's not my cuppa, but it's not as bad as the hideous one-color getups I'd inevitably find under the Christmas tree.  The top part has a hood, and the hood in turn has a hole in the back so Bo can wear the hood but still hang her hair out.  The sleeves have white stripes on the tops, not unlike the white patches on a mockingbird's wings.
LOL, we're having problems with mockingbirds, so they're on my brain right now.  Anyway, the front of the top has a faux zipper
The zipper area also had a silver star charm loosely sewn in, and I initially thought this was meant to simulate a fancy zipper pull.  However, this picture suggests that the star is intended to be a pendant.  That would explain why Bo had a silver chain among her accessories...and why the stitch holding the star to the top was so choppy.  The star makes a cute necklace.
Bo's pants and top are joined at the waist, though this is done in a way that creates an illusion of two pieces.  The waist has a faux drawstring.  I thought this might work, but it doesn't.
The pants are the same as the top, black all over with white stripes on the outer seams.
On her feet Bo wears these white plastic sneakers.
These babies are way bigger than Barbie's sneakers!
Check out the details, though!  Treads on the soles, molded seams...Mattel doesn't make shoes like this anymore!
Bo's second outfit looks like a getup for playing basketball.
That's a lot of pieces!  It makes me wish that sweatsuit were two pieces so Bo could mix and match a bit.  But it's not, and that's a bummer.  Anywho, Bo's second outfit starts with this white ribbed tank top.  The upper hem is trimmed in red.
The shorts coordinate and contrast with the top in a creative way.  They're the same colors as the top but reversed, with the fabric being red and the stitching being white.
These shorts fit Bo very closely by the way, enough so that they're hard to get on and off.  The same is true for the socks; they stretch, but they're still tricky to get on and off the doll's feet.
Bo's second pair of shoes match her first outfit more than they do her second; they're black with red, green, and yellow stripes and the word "Espana" scrawled on the sides.  They're also highly detailed.
Bo's last piece of apparel is my favorite piece, one that can go with either outfit.  She has this brightly colored do-rag.
It's tight on Bo's big head, but once it's properly placed it looks very cute.

Oh yes, Bo also came with a purse.  It's your basic black plastic purse, colored in a manner similar to the second pair of shoes.
Regarding the body, Bo and her Flava friends are the same scale as Barbie and other eleven-inch dolls, but they're hardly the same size.
Happy's broken body meant that she had to be rebodied, but Bo is all original.  In addition to hips, shoulder and neck Bo has elbow and waist joints, plus click knees.  Most of her body is hard plastic, but her legs and head are vinyl.  Bo isn't as limber as Sindy or Cassandra (my Made to Move Barbie), but the motion in the joints she does have is respectable.
For me the shape of Bo's body is more interesting even than her joints.  She is obviously quite a bit slimmer than Barbie is, and her head is big, about Sindy's size.
Given the inflated size of Bo's noggin, one could say that the Flavas are sort of an intermediate between the original Barbie and the My Scene line.  Look at this!
As I said above, Bo is more stylized than Barbie but less so than a My Scene doll.  I don't know if Mattel intended this, but there's definitely a continuum there.  Also of note is the cut of Bo's waist.  It's at a slant.  Notice also that her shoulders are at a slant as well.
This isn't uncommon for the Flavas; Tika's waist slants so much that the lower part of her waist joint is set at an angle.  I can only assume that Mattel did this to make the dolls look like they were leaning against something.  I used to like Tika a lot and I still do, but having seen her body I'm glad I went with Bo instead.  Just looking at Tika's spinal alignment makes my own back ache.  On the other hand, these off-kilter shoulders and waists do add a touch of realism to these dolls.  The world is crawling with people who either won't or can't stand 100% straight, after all.

Moving on, Bo's feet are flat and much larger than either Barbie's or Sindy's.  They're about the size as an old-style jointed Barbie's feet (example is Pele, a Hula Hair Christie)
Lastly, Bo's lower arms are a different shape.  These are different from both Midge's regular arms and Pele's "chop-chop" arms.
The position of those wrists bothers me somewhat.  They're bent in a way that looks awkward.  I tried holding my wrists and hands in that position for an extended period and it got just a little uncomfortable!  Of course Bo is just a doll and can feel no discomfort, but I wonder why Mattel molded these arms in such a way.  Some online pictures suggest that the Generation Girls had these arms, so maybe Mattel had some spares and was trying to use them up?  Go figure.  These hands are graceful, though.  Graceful and delicate like a female's hands usually are.
I do wish those wrists were jointed, but jointed wrists were hard to come by back then so no biggie.  These arms do make it easy for Bo to hold her hair back in a cute way, though.  Most of my Barbies can't do that.
I had hoped that Bo could hold up her ghetto blaster, but she can't.  Shame too, because it's a cute accessory.
In addition to the ghetto blaster Bo came with a brush, some rub-on clothing decals, and a burnisher for the decals.
The decals are intended for Bo's clothes, but I suspect they could've gone on a kid's clothing as well.  I haven't tried using these decals yet, but they're a cute idea.  Bo's plain black and white track suit suddenly makes sense.

Regarding clothes sharing, I had at least a rough idea about what my other dolls could wear beforehand, but Bo is an exception.  She's the same scale as Barbie so some sharing should be possible, but I don't know how much.  Maybe these Fashionista blue jeans will do...
...and maybe they won't.  They WOULD have, but Bo can't get her big feet through those cuffs.  That's a mega bummer, because jeans look fabulous on her.  I give to you another pair of Fashionista jeans.  This pair has slightly wider legs.
Thank goodness for those wider legs, because Bo can get into these with some effort on my part.  I have one other pair of pants like that, but it's currently on another doll.  So right now it looks like Bo will be largely confined to skirts and tops unless Mattel decides that bell bottoms need a comeback.  I do have some old dress sets that have an urban tone to them, though.  These are all Fashion Avenue Beat Street outfits from 2002 and 2003.
Oh, how I miss Fashion Avenue clothes!!!  All of these sets fit, but they're all big around the chest.  Not clownishly so, but enough that I feel it's worth mentioning.  The Fashionista dress below is the same, but it looks so nice with Bo's red hair!
It's cute on Bo, but I think I like it better on Chandra, who was wearing it before the review. 
But then again, Chandra looks good in almost everything I put on her.  She's made of hard plastic so she slides into Bo's clothes.  The white top is too tight for her, but everything else fits.  Here is where the "almost" comes into play; the black sweatsuit does not look particularly flattering on Chandra.
Happy D can also wear Bo's clothes due to her smooth plastic body but again, the white top is tight.  She looks better in the sweatsuit than Chandra does, though.
Just for grins, here's what Jenny looks like in Bo's duds.  They fit Jenny better than they do any of the others, including Bo!
So there you have it.  Bo can't wear Barbie's shoes or tight pants, but she can wear shorts, tops, skirts, and loose pants with no problems.  Her stock shoes are very versatile so finding shoes that both fit and match isn't a huge problem.  Barbie-sized dolls can wear Bo's outfits, but I don't recommend trying it unless the doll in question has a small chest and hard plastic legs.  Vinyl legs create a lot of friction.  Bo has vinyl legs, so it's a bit of a chore to get her redressed.  So...what do I think of Bo and Happy?

*Strange lips!!!  All the female Flavas had strange lips, but Bo's are the strangest!
*Arms are an awkward position.  It's hard to find a pose that looks natural for Bo.
*Clothes sharing isn't reliable.  Bo can wear some of Barbie's things, but not all of them.  Shoe sharing is out completely.
*Occasional paint gaffes.  Bo is flawless, but Happy is not.
*Maybe a bit fragile?  Bo's body is holding strong, but Happy's original body was missing fingers and was cracked at both wrists.  I suspect that she may have been abused, but I can't prove that so I'm listing this here.

*Hair is gorgeous.  Lovely color, lovely style, lovely quality.
*Face is expressive and well-painted.  Eyes are highly detailed and lips are a nice color.
*Body is articulated.  It's not as flexible as Sindy's or Jenny's, but it's better than the Fashionistas.
*Clothes are good quality and very versatile.  Bo may not be able to wear a lot of Barbie's duds, but the modern Barbie dolls can wear most of hers! 
*Clothing has a customization option in the form of those decals.
*Two outfits!  That's always a plus!
*Idea was original for the time.  It may not have been successful, but it certainly was worth a shot.

I've gained a new appreciation for these Flavas, and I think it's a shame that they didn't get a following.  True, I still hate rap music, but I don't guess one has to be a rap fan in order to like a street-themed doll.  Bo and Happy both have nice faces and nice hair, and Bo's body and clothes are high quality as well.  I'm particularly pleased with the quality of Bo's eyes, hair, and shoes.  I'm less enthusiastic about Bo's overblown lips and awkward hands, and Happy's paint spots are a bummer as well.  The biggest bummer was Happy's broken body, but I doubt that these dolls are as fragile as I implied above.  More likely some kid was simply a destructive little brat or had a sibling that was a destructive little brat.  Clothes sharing is not reliable either due to Bo's large feet and particular style, but that's not a huge deal since I've got stuff she can wear.  Plus Bo came with two outfits.  That's almost always a good thing, especially when the body is more specialized like this.  What stands out to me is the originality of this line.  Instead of being glamorous like Barbie or trendy and cute like the My Scene line, Bo and Happy are their own selves.  They're not dirty or trashy, but they're not 100% innocent either.  They're edgy, not unlike the Bratz.  Given the Bratz' popularity for that "edginess," I can't help wondering if Mattel was too hasty in pulling the plug on the Flavas.

God bless,

UPDATE, 5/1/2017:  Bo's arms are apparently ballerina arms.  If I'd looked more closely at my ballerina Barbies then I would've noticed this.