Pearl's Latest Creation Gets a Huge Deal
Big boobs. Tiny waist. Huge ass. Really long legs. Big lips. Man hands.
No, that isn’t a description of the newest queen to hit the stage at Metropolitan. It’s the description of Vladonna, a new doll created by Matthew James Lent and Gina Garan.
You may know Lent by the name of his drag alter ego Pearl, who was born from his drawings. “I was always drawing as a kid,” he told us at a coffee shop around the corner from his apartment in Williamsburg. “I always loved to draw. It was my outlet. It was my safe space. I never planned on doing drag. One year for Halloween, me and Kim Chi got together and did it together. It just took off and became its own beast and we started getting booked for gigs all of a sudden. Then there was no time to draw anymore.”
But we aren’t here to talk about Pearl, whose time on RuPaul’s Drag Race thrust Lent into the spotlight. His newest creation was also born from his drawings, and her name is Vladonna. “Vladonna has always just been another character I have had. I was never necessarily drawing her, but I was always drawing super outrageous and extreme plastic surgery victims. Botched victims or extremists. The Pete Burns of the world. I have always wanted my own doll of that.”
Lent was introduced to Gina Garan, a video producer and photographer who specializes in creating photo books of dolls photography. “Detox was staying with me at my apartment in Brooklyn and she brought Matt over. We connected right away. I am a doll photographer and have a bunch of doll lines out already. He showed me some sculptures he had done and we joked that we should work together some day. We stayed in touch and then it just sort of happened.”
The newly formed business partners then worked with an established doll maker to make the initial sculptures to present to a few toy companies. Garan looked at the possible strategic partners and decided to pitch Kidrobot first. “I wrote to them out of the blue and someone in charge there actually already knew me. So that helped. But they specialize in very edgy stuff,” she says. “So it wasn’t like approaching Mattel with, ‘We have this cute little doll.’ Kidrobot said, 'Go as far as you want with this doll.' And that really appealed to both of us because I have worked on other doll lines and you can’t do anything when you are with a really corporate company. That appealed to us and what we are doing really appealed to them.”
Kidrobot is acknowledged worldwide as the premier creator and dealer of limited edition art toys, signature apparel and lifestyle accessories. An innovative cross between sculpture and conceptual art, Kidrobot offers not only a powerful medium for today's international fashion designers, illustrators and graffiti artists, but also the creative canvas for emerging street trends and pop art. Their values on their website are listed as, “We make you react,” and, “Positive or negative but never indifferent.”
“They responded so quickly that I thought it was a bounce back,” Garan adds. “It was very lucky.”
So who is she?
“Originally, we talked about Vladonna having a tuck,” Garan responds.
“We wanted her to be very sexually ambiguous,” Lent adds. “Is she trans? Is she not trans? We changed our minds and decided to make her a woman. Full fish.”
But maybe she is post-op?
“She is whatever your heart desires,” Garan says.
“It’s up for you interpretation. Whatever your lifestyle is. Whatever suits your fancy,” Lent continues. “She is basically supposed to be mocking what beauty standards are here in America. It’s like how Barbie is so accepted as a child’s doll but really her proportions are so extreme when you max her out and scale her out to human size. Vladonna is a mockery of that. So she has a slight political statement behind her but most of it is supposed to be fun.”
Some of people have been offended by Vladonna, citing that she is an inappropriate role model for beauty standards. “They missed the joke. They think that it is being marketed as a real ideal beauty standard,” Lent says.
“We are an obvious mockery,” Garan continues. “Barbie is not. But with Vladonna, we are making it obvious.”
Many of Lent’s and Garan’s fans and followers are really excited about her. So excited, they are getting hordes of fan art designing different looks for her. The dolls will be released in limited edition batches, so there will be three or four different themes annually from Christmas Vladonna to maybe S&M Easter Vladonna. Really anything goes. The first will be designed by Lent, at the latest by summer 2017. Subsequently, different drag queens or designers will imagine future incarnations of Vladonna, adding their own fabulous flavor or flair to her identity.
Pegged as a drag queen, Lent is looking to establish himself as more than just that one identifier and evolve. Vladonna’s birth is a milestone in that process. “I am always striving to follow my own path and do my own thing. The other Drag Race girls may not understand that because they are all making an album or doing a one woman show and that is fucking awesome. Good for them. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to eventually not have to dress up every time I want to get a paycheck. I’m thinking about my future and what I really want and I want to retire one day and not have to wear a corset forever.”
“I like having my own thing. I just always have and always will. It’s never going to change if it wasn’t this doll it would have been something else. Your fans sometimes don’t want you to go away. They just want you to keep doing it but you have to embrace the evolution.”
“But this doll is a perfect amalgam of what Matt does as Pearl but also as an artist before Pearl. So it’s sort of putting it all together,” Garan confirms. “Yeah it’s not “doing drag” but it’s not like he is designing furniture. It’s still in the same space. So while it’s a step away from drag, it’s not unbelievable.”
Lent concludes, “Everybody hates change but bitches if you don’t evolve.”
Vladonna is his latest step in an important metamorphosis, and we can’t wait to see how she and he bloom.
To follow along her fabulous adventures, follow Vladonna on Instagram.