Monday, November 22, 2021

Rainbow High Dolls, Part Two: Vanessa Tempo

I'm back, as promised, to follow up on my previous review of Rainbow High dolls.  It's been really fun to read through the comments on the last post.  I love hearing about everyone's personal reactions and interactions with these dolls!  It's also neat to learn that many of the Rainbow High fashions are based on iconic outfits from the real fashion world.  Thank you for this revelation, WigglyWogglyWaffles, I had no idea!  Although Sheryl's outfit did look familiar (Sév filled me in that it's one of Cher's outfits in the movie Clueless).  It'll be fun to look at the dolls through this lens from now on--to see if I can identify any of their copycat fashions.

I'm reviewing a second Rainbow High doll in this post because it's always nice to look at two examples from a certain doll line, just to make sure any flaws or highlights aren't flukes.  I chose one of the newest dolls I could find for this addendum because I figured there'd be some interest in her, and also because she's presumably a good representation of the current level of quality.

Meet Vanessa Tempo:

Rainbow High's Vanessa Tempo, $49.99.

This doll is shockingly expensive, so I'm going to be looking carefully at whether the quality and contents of this set justify nearly doubling the price of a regular Rainbow High doll like Georgia Bloom.

Here's Vanessa's box:


She's part of the three-doll Rockstars wave that I mentioned in my last review.  This collection is exclusive to Target.

The trademarked phrase for the Rainbow High dolls is "Collect the Rainbow."  


Collecting the entire Rockstars rainbow would cost $150.  That's more expensive than an American Girl doll or a Maru and Friends Mini Pal (or a full-sized Maru doll, for that matter).  It's more expensive than most of my favorite dolls.  But I digress.

Vanessa is a music major at Rainbow High, which makes sense:


I like the art on the back of the box:

Although Lyric is gonna smack Vanessa in the face with that mic cord!
It's interesting that the Rainbow High characters get depicted in three different ways: the box art, the TV animation, and the dolls.  None of the three interpretations are the same, but the TV animation is more similar to the dolls than it is to the box art, which is not typical.

Here are all of the separate compartments that I removed from Vanessa's main box:


In addition to a stand, two hangers, a comb, and a second outfit, Vanessa also comes with a drum set and drum sticks:


But stop for a second here and look at that previous picture.  What do you notice?  What I notice (with glee) is that Vanessa is standing solidly on her own!  Hurrah!  It must be because of her heavy boots, but I'll look into that more later.

The drum kit is simple, but very colorful.  There's a color spectrum pattern decorating the side of each drum, and the connecting frame is painted gold.  All three drums are made out of hollow plastic and sound like hollow plastic when you tap on them.


It's a very limited drum kit, with no cymbals and no snare.  I don't think that this would cut it in a standard rock band.

The bass drum comes with a foot pedal that can be attached at the bottom.  The attachment is imperfect and so the pedal causes the drum set to pitch forward a bit:


The pedal mechanism works in that pushing on the pedal moves the drum stick forwards to tap against the drum, but the noise is hard to hear.


The drums are a fun accessory, and the working foot pedal is great, but this isn't enough justify the $23 price hike.

I think if I'm going to find any way to justify the $50 price, it will be something about Vanessa herself:


She comes in a three-piece outfit just like Georgia, but she has a lot of little extras, too, like gloves, three bracelets, a choker, and drumsticks.

But the most stunning thing about Vanessa is her full head of rainbow-streaked micro braids!  They're amazing:


And I thought Malik's hair was impressive.


The braids are not perfect, mind you.  There's something wonky going on with this purple braid:


And there's a snag in this braid that's hard to ignore:


And several of the braids in this red area are messy:


The braids also feel stiff, not soft.  But the overall effect is wonderful, and they are fun to play with despite their unusual feel.

I'm not positive that the hair will hold up to rigorous long-term play, but there seems to be some kind of glue securing the ends of the braids.  The ends feel hard and look shiny, and when I tried gently to undo a few of the braids, I couldn't.


Here's a peek at the rooting pattern:


The braids are rooted in pairs, so there are some gaps on the scalp, but the hair is thick and heavy overall.  It doesn't feel skimpy or thin in the least.

I also love that the hairstyle is topped with a perfectly-scaled denim-blue scrunchie:


So, does the intricate hair justify the price?  It helps.  I've purchased a few micro-braided wigs for My Twinn and My Way Kid dolls, and they tend to cost between $25 and $45.  Braided wigs don't always cost more than unbraided wigs, though.  As a rough guess, there's usually a $3-$5 difference.

Let's move on and look at some of the extra accessories.

Vanessa's drum sticks come rubber-banded to her hands:


But the sticks have thumb holes so that they can be held even without the rubber bands:


Vanessa has gold-colored dangle earrings in each ear:


And a matching choker necklace around her throat.

She has a plaid fingerless glove on her left hand, along with a big gold vinyl watch:


She has another glove on her right hand, plus two gold vinyl chain bracelets:


The earrings have the ubiquitous "RH" design:


Here are the smaller accessories up-close:


It's 9:12, if you were wondering:

Right twice a day.
The gloves are extremely simple, but they're a fun detail (and something drummers like to wear):


Vanessa has the same face mold as the twins (Laurel and Holly De'Vious), and her head is molded to include little tendrils around her hairline:


I'm not sure what's wrong with my observational skills, but this face looks the same as Georgia's to me.  I'm just not good at discerning the little differences.  

I often use GIFs over on the My Twinn Project Shop to show the difference between an original doll and her final look, so I'll try that here to see if I can appreciate the face mold difference at all:


Looking at this animation, I think my problem was that I was focused on the mouth.  The mouths are very similar from doll to doll, but the eyes (and even noses) are quite different.  I didn't use exactly the same photography angle in these two shots, though, so it's hard to tell for sure.

The GIF also makes Vanessa look cross-eyed, which I think she is.  I'm not sure if this is a quirk of manufacturing, or if dolls with this face mold tend to be cross-eyed.  Here's one of the twins (Laurel De'Vious), and she looks a little cross-eyed, too:

So maybe it's the face mold.
Anyway, here's a better look at Vanessa's molded hair tendrils:


The painted color of the tendrils matches the nearby rooted hair:



Vanessa has brown eyes, just like Georgia, but her eyes don't have any extra color tint.  They're a mix of medium brown and amber shades:

Beautiful!
Her eye makeup compliments her hair, with blue and purple eyeliner that fades into an outer layer of dark plum.  There's also a silver shimmer applied to the whole eye area.  I think her eyes are very pretty.

Vanessa's lips are well-painted, with a delicate line of lip pencil and no defects that are visible without a zoom lens:


Other than her minor case of strabismus, I prefer Vanessa's eyes and face paint to Georgia's.  She's just a bit more realistic and easier for me to bond with.

Vanessa is wearing two shirts--both cropped. One is a graphic tee and the other is a white denim bustier:


Here's the bustier on its own:


It has a lot of nicely-stitched details, including two working belt loops (although I don't know why anyone would want a belt around their ribcage).  The decorative silver buttons are unevenly spaced, but the effect is good.

Here's the other side:


One nice thing about this top is that, unlike with Georgia's bustier, this velcro closes in back!


But it has the opposite problem; it's too big without the tee shirt underneath and so it slips down all of the time!

Are you kidding me??
I prefer the underlying graphic tee:


The tee says Rainbow High 2021 and has a bright starburst pattern in the background.  There's an "RH" in the front with a very familiar lettering style:

Rainbow Halen.
Vanessa's jeans are made out of frayed strips and have huge holes in the knees: 


The holes at the knees are a brilliant design decision because not only do they go with the aesthetic of the outfit, but they allow the double-jointed knees to move freely!  I'm a fan.

The pockets and belt loops on the jeans are functional:


Here's a closer look at the jeans:


Another clever thing about the style of these jeans is that even if there were some loose threads or sewing flaws, they'd blend right in!



All of the clothing closes in back with velcro...and it all looks fairly secure in this configuration:


Vanessa has really interesting boots.  They're hard to remove (the vinyl is very stiff) but they look great:


The toe of each boot is a different color: one chartreuse green and the other neon pink.  There's different writing on each tongue, and together the words say "turn your color up."

Wouldn't "Turn Your Color Up" be a better slogan for the Rainbow High brand than "Collect the Rainbow?"  I think so.  It's so much more empowering and positive--rather than just "buy all of the dolls."

All four sides of the boots are decorated differently, too.  There's a graffiti vibe to the splotches of color and bold writing:



The boots have simple, thick treads:


I haven't seen shoes this fun since Monster High.  I love the attention to detail.

My big question with these boots was whether or not they're the reason that Vanessa can stand so well on her own.  To test this hypotheses, I put the boots on Georgia to see if she could balance any better...

And she can!

Magic boots!
She balances just as well as Vanessa when she's wearing these boots.  So I guess the trick with these dolls is to have a nice, solid pair of shoes.  Too bad that not all of the dolls come with such a thing.

In fact, looking back at this expensive wardrobe set:


None of those shoes look as sturdy as Vanessa's boots. That might be reason enough for me, personally, to take a hard pass on this $60 toy.

Vanessa has the exact same body as Georgia, but her underpants are painted blue to coordinate with her outfit:


Vanessa's second outfit includes a shirt, a dress, a coat, and a second pair of shoes.

The shirt is a graphic (cropped) tee that says "sparkle is life:"


The black, dripping font is pretty grim for such a cheery expression, though:

Sparkle is Death.
The dress that goes with this tee is has a lot of black imitation leather straps and buckles.  It's, uh, definitely a statement:


The vinyl buckles and clasps look cool, but the figure eight bodice design is not so cool...nor is it flattering...nor is it well-made:

Infinity boobs!
Here's a closer look at some of the vinyl clasps on the skirt:


And, no surprise, the back of the dress does not close.  It's even worse than Georgia's bustier:

Not even close.
The dress only fastens in back if Vanessa is not wearing the tee shirt underneath:


This accentuates the leather straps and buckles and leaves me wondering if there's a whip accessory in this set:

Ker-snap!
Without the tee shirt, the thread ends on the straps are more noticeable, too.

The shoes that go with this outfit match the dress really well:


They're periwinkle blue and black and have painted golden clasp accents:


Both of the chunky high heels have "rainbow" written along the side:


I can't say I love the dress, but I'll admit to enjoying how nicely it coordinates with these shoes!  It's a valid look for the drummer in a rock band:


If there's a full-sized dress that this fashion was based on, I'd love to see it!

Vanessa can't balance as well in her blue shoes as she can in her magic boots, but I was able to find a few positions that allowed her to stand on her own.

The secondary outfit also comes with this army green jacket:


The jacket is covered in bright, bold lettering in a variety of styles.  The words are things like "pick your color," "sparkle," and--you guessed it--"rainbow."


The right side of the hood has a very large Mandarin symbol:


I did my best to draw these strokes into a translator, and it produced this symbol, which looks right:


Apparently this symbol means "bright color; variety; applause; lottery prize."


The left side of the jacket also has a plastic epaulet:


The back of the jacket has a vent and some decorative ties:


The jacket looks great on the outside, although the inside is really messy:

A simple liner or even some interfacing would have really helped here.
That's really disappointing.

This jacket seems like it might be copying something specific from the real fashion world, but I couldn't find an exact match.  There are certainly a lot of graffitied green jackets out there!

Here's Vanessa posing in some of her secondary outfit piecest--minus the shirt because it doesn't fit under the dress:


The jacket's zipper looks real, but it isn't functional.


The jacket has a hood, but of course it's too small to fit over Vanessa's head.  I think this is a good design choice.  Can you imagine how big a hood would have to be to fit over Vanessa's head?


I positioned the jacket carefully in those pictures so that all of the loose threads and seams on the inside were not visible.  If I'm less careful...


The jacket doesn't look as good:


Out of all the pieces in her extensive wardrobe, I like Vanessa best in her frayed jeans and bright Van Halen tee shirt:


She can interact with the drum set nicely.  It's designed so that she can use it standing up:




Most rock drummers sit down when they're playing, but that wouldn't work well for Vanessa.  She doesn't sit in a chair any better than Georgia does:


A lot of Vanessa's hair was tied back into a fairly simple high ponytail.  I took this style down to see what would happen:


Aside from a few bends in the braids from where the elastic band used to be, the hair looks totally fine when it's down.  It's nice and thick and uniform:


The hair can be pulled back into a single ponytail...


But I don't think that this looks as good as the original style.

It was pretty easy to get the hair back into its original style, although I wasn't able to recreate the twist of hair that covered the rubber band.


The new rubber band I used is visible at the top of Vanessa's head:


But the wonderful blue scrunchie covers it perfectly!


Here are a few more shots of Vanessa, showing off her posing and her fabulous hair:






And here are my two Rainbow High girls together so you can see how their coloring and styling differs:


Bottom line (again)?  I like Vanessa even more than I like Georgia.  I wish she wasn't cross-eyed (that bothered me more and more as I photographed her), but everything else about her is great.  Her face paint is attractive and carefully-done, her eyes are pretty, and her hair is really special.  MGA was wise to put so much effort into the hair on these dolls.

I was thrilled to discover that Vanessa has a pair of boots that allow her to balance on her own.  Fixating on this detail might seem random, but I look at balance as a feature of good design.  It's also a huge plus for photography, and creates more possibilities for display and play.

Vanessa's clothing has some of the same problems as Georgia's clothing.  The denim bustier is way too loose unless it's worn over a tee shirt, and the dress can't be worn over a tee shirt, even though it appears to be intended for that use.  The design of the dress, especially without a tee shirt underneath, is quite provocative for a child's doll.  Also, the sloppiness on the inside of the green jacket takes away from the polished exterior.  But there are no glaring sewing errors, and Vanessa's wardrobe suits her personality as a rock drummer.

The drum set is cute, and it's fun to pose Vanessa with this accessory.  I especially like the mechanically accurate drum pedal.  But you can go online and find realistic-looking miniature drum sets in this scale that are either percussive like a real drum (the Desktop Drum Set) or make electronic noises that mimic a drum (a Mini Finger Drum).  Many of these novelties cost under $20.  If Vanessa had come with something like that, it would have been so much fun!  And it would surely have justified her high price.  But a soundless plastic drum set?  Not so much.

How can we justify the price, then?  The extra items in this set are the drum kit and drum sticks, the little jewelry accessories, the gloves, the scrunchie, and the extra item of clothing (green jacket).  I like to ask myself how much I would pay for an accessory pack that included just these items.  I think $10-15 would be fair, judging by similar accessory packs on the market right now.  Since I'm more interested in the doll than I am in her accessories, I'd like to have the higher price reflect a better doll.  Better can mean higher quality or perhaps something unique and special--like a limited edition.  Vanessa is not higher-quality than Georgia.  In fact, all of the little quality-control issues (clothing flaws, crossed eyes) bother me more than they would in a less-expensive doll.  Vanessa isn't a limited edition, either, as far as I can tell.  None of the Rainbow High characters seem particularly hard to find.  But those spectacular rainbow braids certainly make Vanessa unique.  And so for me, the special hair is probably worth $10 on its own, and then the other extras make up the rest of the price.  Without the benefit of a standout feature like Vanessa's hair, I suspect that the other dolls in the Rockstars wave are overpriced.

Vanessa didn't change my impression of the Rainbow High line very much. Many of the same things that delighted or disappointed me about Georgia are also true of Vanessa.  Having two of these dolls makes me appreciate the design work that goes into each character a bit more, though--even if some of the fashion ideas are copied or poorly-executed.  I really like how the two girls have their own aesthetic...although everyone at Rainbow High appears to be obsessed with cropped tops.  And while I tend to cringe at the consumerism implicit in brands that promote collecting every single doll ("Collect the Rainbow!") I have to admit that if all of the characters are as different and interesting as Georgia and Vanessa...it's tempting.

24 comments:

  1. I love Vanessa's hair! If only Barbie came with rainbow braids like that.
    I was wondering if you could pop in to write a comment on the corresponding post each time you list the reviewed dolls in the garage sale. This way people who commented and signed up for notifications (who are presumably interested in buying) could see when exactly they were listed, instead of refreshing the page throughout the next day.

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    1. Good idea! So you get an email notification every time there's a new comment? Cool. I'll probably list the two RH girls today, and I'll comment again here when I do. :)

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    2. That's right, ticking the "notify me" box sends email updates about replies as well as further comments on the post, until unsubscribing. I managed to get new blog updates through follow.it now that blogger removed the email follow option, but it doesn't show updates on any pages except Home, and that was a real bummer when I missed the looks guys.
      Thanks for listening to my suggestion! I hope to be here earlier next time something I like comes along.

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  2. haven't even read the review yet but i just wanted to say that I'm so happy you're back 🥺 i started reading this blog when I was in sixth grade and now i'm in my second year of college so it's just so amazing to see you writing again 🙏🏽 this blog definitely helped fuel my love for writing, dolls, and fashion and i'm majoring in fashion right now! thank you so much for all your work in this blog through the years, you are very much appreciated ❤❤❤

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    1. That is so amazing! Good for you! Maybe you'll share some of your fashion with us some day? I realized writing this review that I wish I knew more about fashion! I'm a fashion spectator, but don't have very good instincts. It's an art form that I very much admire.

      I watched my own kids grow up during the blog years, and so I really love getting messages like this. Thank you so much for your kind words, Andrei. :)

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  3. I follow one of the designers of the Rainbow High line on instagram, and I started following her because she sculpts, paints, and styles her own BJDs... which I find crazy adorable. I can see a lot of influence of her design aesthetic in the RH girls and it is super interesting to see how it's reflected! The body shape and especially the face paint are very much her influence (that screenshot you included of one of the twins is particularly reminiscent). Her Instagram is c_u_l_u_r and she is also known as Culur Theory, if you're interested in looking at her work! This was such a fun pair of reviews! These dolls are insanely popular right now so it was great to get such a thorough peek! Unfortunately now I want to start a small collection of these girls...

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    1. I've been thinking a lot lately about how creative and interesting the RH designers must be! Thank you for sharing the Instagram. I feel like there's huge talent behind these dolls, even if the original ideas don't always get realized with the intended quality--that's not the designers' fault!

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  4. I like these dolls a lot. While I am not going to “Collect the Rainbow”, I have picked up several of the dolls from Wave 1 and the Cheerleader line on sale. I even found one of the Winter ones marked down to $12 recently! I really like Vanessa. Her hair is amazing! I love her brown eyes and her makeup too. My son is a drummer and I’m a sucker for any doll that includes drums. Since these dolls have a tendency to go on sale frequently, hopefully I can find this set on sale for a good price someday.

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    1. Wow--$12?? That's amazing. The winter dolls are great. Given that none of the dolls seem to be limited editions, I think patience will be essential in getting the best dolls for a reasonable price. You have the right attitude: wait it out. Vanessa for $30 or less would be amazing!

      P.S. my kid is a drummer, too, so I get it. But there needs to be a snare--right?? ;D

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  5. The Chinese character is the first half of the word rainbow, which is 彩虹 (Cai Hong), by the way! I don't know why they couldn't fit both characters in, but oh well.

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    1. lol maybe they were being lazy - or someone mis-translated. XDX but at least an effort was made!

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    2. Esther! I knew that somebody here would have the perfect translation for that character, but I wanted to at least try myself, lol. Thank you so much for the excellent explanation!

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  6. "Collect the Rainbow" just strikes me as a lazy copycat of the Skittles slogan ("Taste the Rainbow") - "Turn Your Color Up" or even "Pick Your Color" like it says on the jacket would be far superior taglines, imho.

    I laughed out loud at "infinity boobs". I admit I like the dress a lot better without the t-shirt underneath, and with the matching boots. (Why would someone wear a graphic tee under a dress, anyhow?) I'm curious if the dolls' clothes has much mix-and-match potential, considering the color-coordination.

    And that hair... that's really nice hair. Vanessa is just a really pretty doll. Next to her, Georgia looks orange. XD

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  7. Ohhhhhh she‘s absolutely adorable in her little jeans :) I really need her, thank you so mich for your review ❤️ I do hope Smiths Toys offer a discount this week or before Christmas on the Rainbow dolls cause they want 80 usd for her :(

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  8. Thanks for a great review x 2, I loved seeing all the little details of these dolls SO much!

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  9. I'm putting these girls (as a package deal) into the Virtual Garage Sale store in a few minutes!

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  10. A very thorough rundown as always! Very sad to see that a lot of the clothes still seem to have trouble closing in the back and have some sloppy sewing, it really fails to do justice to the fun outfit designs. Interesting observation about the knee cutouts on the jeans and the advantage it provides for doll mobility.

    It seems that a lot of Vanessa’s look focuses on DIY fashion, as is typical of the “punk rock” scene. The green jacket seems to have a lot of decals and patches on it that she probably applied herself, notably the red “sparkle” logo which is meant to resemble those “Supreme” stickers that kids used to love plastering on everything. Those rainbow graffiti boots appear to be Timberlands, albeit ones that have been customized to her taste. The patchwork denim really helps add to the slightly grungy, DIY feel. Love her dreads but I kind of hope doll companies can find an alternative to simply gluing the braids, which as you noted may not stand up very well to intense play.

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  11. She's very cute, in spite of the flaws, her skin tone and hair are lovely. Again, a pity that the clothes don't all fit well. The jeans is awesome. I was in a toy store today and saw a 60 cm (23 inch, appr.) Rainbow High doll, for 100 Euro (112 USD). She was really cool actually! But I didn't buy her. Thanks for the reviews on these dolls, even though I'm not going to buy them, I do find them very interesting!

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  12. The idea of wearing a bustier ON TOP OF a t-shirt is just plain weird, like wearing your underpants over your jeans.

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  13. Unrelated to this post, but as I continue to read through the entirety of the blog, I just lapped myself: I came to the first post I commented on, way back in 2014(!) - and, as no new comments are allowed on the old posts, here I am commenting on a totally different post about the older one. It's the doll durability post, in which a guest reviewer pointed out that Hearts 4 Hearts dolls' eyes fade after just a few years - and iirc, your My Twinn eyes ended up fading even faster. I am happy to report that none of the dolls I own have experienced such an unfortunate occurrence. I've seen some other weird things, though, most notably that the Amazon-produced Journey Girls (Amazon picked up the brand after Toys R Us went belly-up) have this very faint crazing all over the whites of their eyes after little more than a year; the Toys R Us JG dolls don't have this. I have absolutely no idea what would cause this, and what about the materials changed. It definitely makes me wonder. (The hair is also most definitely of a different fiber.) Shoot, just yesterday I discovered that a pair of model dinosaurs I picked up 5+ years ago suddenly have loose arms and can't hold poses, and they're solid plastic... so I'm really perplexed. (did the plastic shrink...?)

    Anyhow, all this to say that I'm curious how your oldest dolls have held up. Your Tonners, for instance, or the other high-end fashion dolls you presumably kept a few of. Do they fade or warp with time? Have you noticed anything like the My Twinn Pink Eye Problem among the other denizens of your collection? It might be a fun post, and you wouldn't have to buy anything to do it. (And I've been pushing forever to get you to show off your whole collection, so, y'know, two birds one stone and all. :P)

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  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I get the hype about Rainbow High, but it isn't my cup of tea. I don't like dolls with a tendency to look cross-eyed.

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  15. I thought Georgia was kind of interesting, but I didn't feel the need to own her. Then Vanessa came along... she's so darling! I really love the baby hairs on her forehead and that they actually match her hair colors!

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