Image: Tarilyn Quinn
Feature Friday Interviews spotlight rare and wonderful individuals who embody characteristics of The Liberation Artist: living outside the status quo while writing their own rules and carving a unique path to self-defined success. This week it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Marilyn Mansfield, Plus Size Alternative Model, Doll Collector, and Reborn & Newborn Doll Artist. Yet another unique and talented individual hailing from the same small NYC area so many of our other featured interviews come from! Marilyn is truly an artist living outside the box, someone who has written her own story, the way she wants to.
Evidenced by her own words below, Marilyn has pursued her passions at every turn, embracing the life of a Liberation Artist fully. Each of her creative paths seem at one moment surprising and at the next, oddly fitting in a way that makes you feel, “Of course….that makes sense.” Which is what one typically sees in someone who has found the courage to walk their own path.
If you’ve ever had dreams that didn’t make sense, or interests that others told you, “Yeah, but there’s no way you can earn your keep with that!” just look to Marilyn as your model. Marilyn has found a way to embrace her sense of glamour and fantasy in a way that works for her, and supports her life, her way.
As Marilyn has given a strong interview, as well as providing her own bio below, without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to the very unique force of nature that is, Marilyn Mansfield.
Photo: Incredible Features Jeff Werner
Marilyn Mansfield became a well known agency represented plus size alternative model having worked on various projects ranging from independent fashion runway shows, magazines, websites, to the Elizabeth & James Fall 2009 Look Book, to having posed for Mia Tyler and her amazing art gallery work.
In more recent times, Marilyn has become internationally known around the globe as a doll collector and artist. She was featured on TLC’s “My Collection Obsession” in 2011. Marilyn has also been a focus in the media for her doll collection and artistry. The NY Post, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Anderson, Good Day NY, RTL in Europe, Sunrise Australia, NBC and Inside Edition just to name a few. She has also been featured on Nat Geo’s ” TABOO”, “Oddities” on The Science Channel and much more. Marilyn is a doll collector turned Reborn doll Artist and business owner of Goo Goo Gaga Nursery, Reborn Doll Artistry by Marilyn Mansfield and UNborn Creations, Horror Art Dolls by Marilyn Mansfield. She now creates and sells dolls all over the world as well as for her own collection.
Marilyn Mansfield is 35 years old, married mother of three. She has lived in NYC all her life
Photo: Elizabeth & James Fall 2009 Look Book Roderick Angle
You are a good example of someone living the unconventional life, stepping outside the status quo and shaping a life and career that reflect who you are, as you make life fit you, rather than contorting yourself to fit into some pre-defined life. Can you share with us a bit about your journey, what has been most important to you along the way?
Since I was very young, I always did things my own way. I was never one to “follow the herd” or anything. Even if it was something that others had to take part in such as a school project or a task at work I would always put my own twist on things. I always took pride in being “different.” I think not being afraid to be yourself and putting your own unique personal touch on everything you do adds joy to your life. That is what will set you apart from everyone and everything else. So, that has always been important to me as well as my family. My children are my life. I cannot imagine my life without them. I became a parent very young and one thing I learned along the way is to have balance. You can be a responsible parent and still be yourself, as long as you have balance. Of course I am a Mom first. That is my top priority. I have always been a creative person and taking time to work on my creativity, such as making a doll or a photo shoot, it makes my happy, which makes me a better Mom. Everyone needs to be who they are. My personal journey has been an adventurous one, full of ups and downs and surprises. But on the way I have learned a lot about myself and I am proud of who I am and the things I have achieved along the way. And it’s not over yet!
How did this journey begin? Did you always live outside the box? Or was there a moment where you said, “I’m going to be the me I know I am inside?”
Yes, I have always lived outside the box. I don’t feel there was a moment where I said I’m going to just be me but more of a life long goal. I was always “the black sheep” of my family and amongst my peers, but I liked that about myself. I never wanted to be like everyone else and I was never afraid to be different. I think fear makes people conform. They are afraid to step outside the box, do something different for fear what other will think. I don’t care what people think and when you stop caring, is when you find freedom to be yourself.
You changed your name along the way - was that an important moment for you? Did it enable you to embrace your true core self more fully? How did embracing your current name impact you?
When I was very young, family members started calling me Marilyn simply because they thought I acted “ditzy” at times, like the roles Marilyn Monroe would play. They would say, “you should of been a blonde” and things like that. They even had a shirt made up for me that said “Just call me Marilyn.” It was pink with white letters. I wore it all the time. Although I cherished my birth name because I was named after my Grandfather who I loved, I always liked being called Marilyn and even back then, I felt it suited me. I learned about Marilyn Monroe quite young, I even dressed as her in the fourth grade for Halloween. None of the kids at the school knew who I was, but the teachers did! I didn’t want to be Marilyn Monroe, but I liked that archetype of a woman. I always loved the “blonde bombshell” look and wanted it. I started lightening my hair at the age of 12, wearing red lipstick etc. I came up with the full name Marilyn Mansfield at around age 18. I was working in a Goth store in NYC, sitting there one day bored thinking of a short time before when a gentleman came in and remarked about how he thought I looked like Jayne Mansfield. I wrote Marilyn Mansfield on a piece of paper, thought it had a nice ring to it, and that’s how the name came about. I thought what better two names then those of two woman I admired. I even had a pic of myself and signed it, “Marilyn Mansfield” gave it to a friend and said to him, “one day I will be signing this name everywhere” not knowing what the future held or the doors that would be opened up to me under that name. Marilyn Mansfield, that’s who I am
Photo: Tarilyn Quinn
Did you ever have a sense that you were different, or of not fitting in, or rather did it simply feel natural to be Marilyn, no matter what others thought or did?
Absolutely. I always knew I was different. I embraced it. I always had friends and was social, but didn’t always fit in and I really didn’t want to. I like taking my own path. It feels 100% natural to me to be Marilyn because that is truly who I am inside and out. There is no act, with me, what you see is what you get.
Can you talk with us a little bit about beauty, sex symbols, and body image? As a model, you came of age in a culture that seemed to have momentarily forgotten the delights of more traditional voluptuous beauties. How did this impact your career, and how did you manage to find a way to stand out, nonetheless?
I think beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I have a very different view on beauty then most. Things that I personally find beautiful, most would think is not. I think it’s sad when women and girls feel a need to look a certain way to “fit in” or be up to society’s idea of what is beautiful. All that happens is they feel bad if and when they don’t feel up to those standards. I personally think that flaws on people can add character to one’s look. If we all looked the same it would be so boring I think. I wasn’t always so confident but I learned that the most attractive thing a woman can put forward is confidence. When you love and accept yourself for who you are, it’s a beautiful thing, it will show and others will take notice.
Photo: Mia Tyler 2012
Would you say that there is any connection between your modeling, which is in a way delivering a reinterpretation of fantasy (possibly?) and the creative work you do with newborns and re-borns? From here, it seems almost as if all of your work is about re-defining reality, shaping fantasy and glamour. Can you talk a bit about this?
I think my modeling work shows all sides of myself, the main trait being Glamour. I have always been a glamour gal or a girly girl. I always loved to be dressed up, wearing heels, fancy jewelry, hair and make-up done and I think that shows in my modeling work. For me, it has always been a form of self expression. I like to do photo shoots in my own home so there is that aspect of reality. Fantasy shoots can be very fun and creative as well. With the dolls, the Goth/Horror related ones obviously hold a bit of fantasy. I have always been a Horror movie fan. I incorporate that in my Horror Art Dolls. I like dolls that are meant to be creepy but are cute at the same time. I like them just as much as the “normal” dolls. I am a very creative, open minded person, especially when it comes to Art. With the “normal” Reborn dolls, they are just amazing to me. They look so lifelike but they are not real. Which is why I went from collecting them to creating them. I find the whole process fascinating and luckily, I found I was good at the Art of Reborning. I love babies, always have. I love my children at every age, they do grow up so fast. With the Reborn dolls, it’s like having a baby that will always be a baby. They are weighted and made to look and feel as realistic as possible. For me, it is more like a memory that makes me happy more then a fantasy.
Photo: Incredible Features Jeff Werner
What would you say are the risks of having lived outside the box, and what makes taking those risks worthwhile?
I think the biggest risks you take when living outside the box is judgement. People will judge what they don’t understand. If you have a thick skin and can deal with criticism and judgement, then you will be OK. I know most 35 year old Moms don’t push dolls around in prams on television like I do, but it makes me happy. I don’t care what anybody thinks. My family supports me and that’s all that matters. I don’t expect everyone to accept or understand. I always get more positive feedback then negative. The pay off is when someone sees me and says something like your dolls and your work is amazing. I have received emails from around the world from others saying I used to be embarrassed to be an adult doll collector and now because of you, I’m not. Or when a gal writes me saying because of you and your modeling work, I feel proud to be a plus size woman. When I create a custom baby doll for someone and they write me with pics of them and their families with the doll saying how much they love it, things like that make me so happy and proud.
Photo: Incredible Features
Were there times where you questioned your sanity for taking the ‘‘harder’‘ path or can you not imagine living life any other way?
No. I can’t imagine living life any other way then the way I do.
How and where did you find the confidence and courage necessary to push through any sense of fear or hesitation?
It is not always easy, but I am lucky to have a supportive husband and great friends that I can talk to. One thing I learned is if you hold back all the time and remain fearful to do things, etc. then you will miss out. Sometimes you have to just let go and just do it. Every time I have done that, I have loved the outcome. I once got a fortune out of a cookie that said “only those that dare, truly live” and I kept it because I believe that. After all, you only live once!
What is next for you? If you could work on anything, what would it be, and why?
Well, I am not sure what the future holds but I know I will always continue to make dolls. I am always working on expanding my art, learning new techniques and such. I want to give sculpting a try. I would still like to model when ever I get a chance. Continue to do more TV, hopefully a lot of it and get more into acting in films and such. I would also like to do something in the medical field in the near future. I find the medical world very interesting. Other then that, I look forward to watching my children grow and of course living life to the fullest!
I encourage you to check out Marilyn’s work further! Visit her homepage (and possibly buy a doll!) at www.marilynmansfield.com and find her on Facebook: Marilyn Mansfield Fan Page. Or connect with her on Twittermissmansfield You can also email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or reach her at her Agency: www.theagencyonline.com