Thursday, July 21, 2022

Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay by Just Play

I'll confess that these days I do most of my doll shopping online.  This is mostly because of the pandemic, of course, but also because there are many enticing doll brands that I can only find online...or that I find through random online searches.  However, I try really hard to visit an actual store every now and then, because that's when I find things that I never would have learned about otherwise.

Case in point is the doll I'm sharing with you today: Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay.  That's a series of words that I never would have known to search out on the internet, but as I cruised around Target back in May, preparing for my mermaid-themed reviews, there she was, sitting on a shelf right next to Mermaze Mermaidz Orra.  As I dallied in the aisle, her broad smile drew me in.  She was completely different from any of the other dolls on the shelf, with relatively normal proportions and a lot of personality in her face.  When I peered into the box, I could see that she looked well articulated, too.  So, knowing absolutely nothing about who Lay Lay is or why there's a doll that looks like her, I popped this charmer into my cart and took her home:

Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay by Just Play, $19.99.

Fortunately, the box gave me some information about the real Lay Lay, so I learned a little something before I had to turn to the internet for help.

The box is asymmetric, with a plastic window that wraps around one side with a zig-zag silhouette.  The opposite side of the box is cardboard, with "That Girl Lay Lay" in huge purple lettering:

The window is like a less severe version of the jagged Mermaze Mermaidz box:

The doll comes with 8 mini patches that can be stuck to her clothing:

And she has fancy shoes, too, with mix-and-match soles:

On the lower left side of the box there's a photo of Lay Lay herself:

Actual Lay Lay.
The side and back of the box have a photograph of a different girl with the same hairstyle, which was slightly confusing to me before I knew what Lay Lay looks like.

Fake Lay Lay.
Here's a closer look at the photo.  I love how they have to say that the girl's outfit isn't included in the box:

Because $20 dolls usually come with free full-sized jean jackets.
The back of the box has facts about the accessories, and these are mostly duplicates from other areas of the packaging--things like how the shoes can be mixed and matched and how the patches are reusable:

The most important piece of information to me was the circle of text describing who Lay Lay is and why she's famous:

After I read this, I actually remembered one of Lay Lay's early videos.  I saw it several years ago, but it's hard to forget seeing a tiny little girl sitting in the car with her dad and doing incredible freestyle.  And the dad is cute, too, cheering her on from the driver's seat--clearly proud of his talented kid.

Of course after buying this doll and reading the box, I went and listened to more of Lay Lay's videos, including the one that supposedly made her famous, "I'm MJ Bad."  I'll admit that at first it didn't even occur to me that she was improvising her lyrics as she went.  But she is--and it's pretty amazing.  I tend to like the earlier videos better, perhaps because they seem more spontaneous and authentic, but there's no doubt that this girl is super talented.

If anyone noticed that the Nickelodeon label is all over the box...

That's because there's also a television show called That Girl Lay Lay that stars Lay Lay (her full name is Alaya High) playing an affirmation app avatar who comes to life.  I watched four episodes of the show, just to see what it's like.  Lay Lay's character is very silly, and the show is full of slapstick humor, exaggerated expressions, and canned laughter (laugh tracks drive me nuts).  This, to me, presented a jarring contrast to the smooth, cool, precocious vibe that Lay Lay conveys in her music videos.  But the show is cute.  Definitely for very young kids, but cute.

Anyway, let's take a look at the doll!  Here she is, fresh out of the box with all of her accessories:

Not only are there mini patches for the doll, but there's also a full-sized iron-on patch for a child to use:

I'll test out the mini patches a bit later on when I'm looking at Lay Lay's outfit, but I'm not going to test out the iron-on patch (I left my jean jacket in 1995).

The box text made a big deal about the mix-and-match shoes, so I was eager to look at those next.  Lay Lay is wearing a pair of shoes, but there's also an extra pair in the box:

Here's a closer look at the two different styles:

The shoes are marked with either "R" or "L" on the soles:

And the soles attach to the tops of the shoes with hexagonal holes and pegs:

So, you can make green shoes with yellow soles and purple shoes with pink soles, like this:

Or you can make purple shoes with yellow soles and green shoes with pink soles, like this:

Or, hear me out, you could go nuts and put one sole of each color on each pair of shoes.

The mix and match concept is fun, but the peg-and-hole attachment is nowhere near tight enough to keep the soles on the shoes--they're constantly falling off:

If I were giving this doll to a child, I'd ask them to pick their favorite shoe combination and then glue the soles in place.

Lay Lay also comes with a large, elaborate purple purse that's made out of hard vinyl:

The purse has a moving strap and a removable grey top...that doubles as a hair pick!

Underneath the pick, there's plenty of room to store things inside the purse:

Lay Lay herself has fairly good balance and can stand on her own:

There's something funny about her balance, though.  Her knees tend to either hinge too far forward or too far backward.  You can see in profile that she often has to tilt her body in order to stand:

And even then, she falls over a lot.

It looked like Lay Lay's hair was styled into two ponytails, but in fact the hair had just been parted and moved to the sides for display in the box:

This made it really easy to check the rooting pattern!

The rooting is okay, with dense plugs of hair all around the hairline, and a sparser pattern in the middle of the head.  Here's a better look:

The bald spots aren't great, but fortunately Lay Lay's curly hair looks very thick, and makes it easy to conceal the rooted scalp:

The hair has a rooted midline part at the very front, and also a perpendicular line of rooting just behind that part:

Hair from either side of the midline part is twisted up into Lay Lay's signature double-bun style:

It's rare to see Lay Lay on the television show without her hair twisted up at the sides like this. And sometimes she has the back of her hair loose, like the doll:

But in my (admittedly limited) experience, she's more often wearing all of her hair up in twists, like this:

So I feel like the doll resembles the real Lay Lay most when the back part of her hair is pulled away from her face:

It's hard to hide all of that hair, though!
I can definitely see a similarity between the doll and real Lay Lay, especially in the mouth and nose, but the oversized eyes on the doll lessen that similarity a bit.

I mentioned that Lay Lay's character is an app avatar that comes to life, so maybe the doll is meant to look a little bit like that avatar, too?

In any case, the face has a lot of character and some nice details.  I especially like the shape of the nose and the thickness and shape of the eyebrows:

There are also little wisps of hair drawn around the rooted hairline:

I've noticed that some of the Rainbow High characters have these wisps, too, and they're a nice addition.  I prefer painted wisps like Lay Lay's to those that are both molded and painted, though.

Here's Lay Lay in partial profile:

You can see up close that from certain angles it looks like she has white dots at the inner corner of each eye:

At first I thought that this was just my bright lights reflecting on the curved vinyl, but Lay Lay's eye makeup actually includes a clear shimmering layer of eyeshadow that extends down towards the nose, leaving a little reflective circle right at the edge of the eye:

Here she is from the other side:

And in profile:

Her ears are pierced, but she does not come with any earrings.  This is too bad since the real Lay Lay is almost always wearing big earrings.

With her hair pulled back a little more, you can see that the rooted hairline has a funny shape.  It juts out at the temples, and then cuts back in above the ears:

Lay Lay has a pleasant smile with no visible teeth, and her lips are coral-colored with a high-gloss shine:

Her eyes have a fair amount of detail, with a few iris lines and some reflective dots:

Her eyebrows are thick, with individual hair lines drawn over a block of color.  I wish the hair lines contrasted with the blocked brow a bit more, but the overall effect is good.

Lay Lay comes in a multi-piece outfit that includes a jacket, shirt, and pants:

The outfit is fine, but it's missing the zaniness and bling that's typical of Lay Lay's outfits in the television show.  Here's an example:

Rhinestones everywhere.
And here's another typical outfit:

Look at those leggings!
The varsity-style jacket is purple with pink sleeves.  It opens down the front and has printed buttons and no closure:

The jacket also opens all of the way down the back with velcro.  I was thinking that this was really strange.  Why would the jacket need velcro if it opens in the front..?

But then I realized that it doesn't actually open all of the way in front--it's stitched to the underlying zebra print shirt:

Zebra print is a good look for Lay Lay.
Here's a closer look:

Thanks to the velcro seam in back, the combination jacket/shirt is easy to get off.

The jacket has a ribbed collar and cuffs, and printed pockets on the sides:

The fabric feels a little cheap, but the construction is solid:

While we're looking at the jacket, let's see how those mini patches work.  There are eight different expressions, and I get all of them except "drip."

Back in my day, being a drip wasn't a good thing.
Thanks to the internet, I see that if you have "the drip" or are dripping, it means that you have good fashion sense or are hot.  Good to know.

The patches have velcro on the back, which is clever:

And they stick really well to the fabric of the jacket--especially on the slightly fuzzy sleeves:

I picked a spot of sleeve right next to one shoulder and put a patch on and ripped it off again and again (maybe ten times?) just to see how the fabric held up.  It got a little fuzzier, but still looks fine:

I'd subconsciously dismissed these little patches when I first got them out of the box, but I actually think they're an excellent idea.  They add a lot of fun to an otherwise plain jacket.

Lay Lay's pants are made out of slightly fuzzy black material and they have an elastic waist:

Not dripping.
There's no opening in the back:

But the elastic waist makes the pants very easy to put on and take off.

And they have a strip of white trim running down each leg, which makes them look sporty:

The mini patches stick to the pants, too, but they don't grip as tightly as they do to the fuzzier jacket sleeves:

The pants are fine, but they're really plain.  To be more true to the real Lay Lay, and all of the funky fashions that she wears on the television show and in her music videos, these pants should have been a brighter color or had some kind of cool texture or print.

Under all of that clothing, Lay Lay sports a molded underwear set and a tween style body:

And no staining from the black pants, thank goodness.
To give you some context, Lay Lay is about 11 inches tall, so just a bit shorter than Lina:

That Girl Lay Lay next to Barbie Lina.
Unfortunately Lay Lay's scale doesn't work with the Barbie crew.

Lay Lay's body proportions remind me of the Creatable World kids, so I got Riley out for a comparison shot:

That Girl Lay Lay next to Creatable World Riley.
At first it seems like there's not much chance that these two could share clothes, since Riley is quite a bit shorter than Lay Lay, but if you look at the shape of their torsos side by side, there's a lot of similarity!

That Girl Lay Lay next to Creatable World Riley.
And, sure enough, Lay Lay can wear Riley's clothes:

That Girl Lay Lay wearing Creatable World clothing.
And Riley looks great in Lay Lay's outfit!  The pants are long, but even the shoes fit (although they're a little bit tight):

Creatable World Riley wearing That Girl Lay Lay's clothes.
This was such a pleasant surprise, especially since the Creatable World dolls have tons of clothing options, including a lot of clothing that fits with Lay Lay's modern, dripping style.

LayLay's articulation is very similar to the Creatable World kids, too, although she does not have ankle joints:

Her underwear is molded with the double "L" pattern that appears everywhere, and she has a few factory marks on her back:

LayLay has eleven joints in total and they're all pretty nice.  For starters, I'm delighted by her versatile neck joint.  She can look up and to the side...

Or down and to the side:

Here's a better look at the range of up-and-down motion.  This is as far as she can look down:

And this is how high she can look up:

She can also tip her head from side to side:

That's a little fast--sorry.
Okay, so as an aside, the free online GIF maker that I've been using for years suddenly up and disappeared on me the other day.  I'm a pathological creature of habit, so this was distressing.

Today I tried out a new free site, and it's really fancy.  At first I was panicked and irritated that it had so many extraneous features, because I'm used to uploading pictures, setting a speed and size, and boom!  Getting a free GIF.

However, after I got over my initial insecurity, I decided to try out some of the fancy features.  You can monkey around with color:

Background, and filters:

I might actually have some fun with this new site!

Back to business, though.

Lay Lay has rotating hinges in her shoulders, elbows, and wrists:

These all have excellent range of motion:

Lay Lay can touch her mouth (just barely!) and rest her hand easily on her hip:

Her hands are removable, but they don't fall out too easily or anything like that.

The mold doesn't have a lot of detail.

Lay Lay also has good articulation in her lower body, but this is where things get slightly strange.  For example, she can't do a side-to-side split without her knees rotating:

The rotational movement in the knee joints is quite loose, and so the lower legs spin whenever I put pressure on the sides of the feet.

I'm not sure I explained that very well, so let me show you a comparison.  Take a look at Cave Club Lumina, for example:

When I push her legs into a split, her toes remain pointing forwards, towards the camera.  With Lay Lay, I'm not able to get the feet to remain in that position; her toes immediately rotate upwards towards the ceiling:

Lay Lay's front-to-back splits are normal, though:

And she can sit upright on the ground with no support:

Her knees clearly rotate, as we've seen, but they don't bend to a full 90 degrees:

She can still sit in a chair just fine:

And even cross her leg!

Kneeling on two knees takes a bit of work...

And she struggles to kneel on one knee, simply because those joints always want to rotate out of position:

She can sort-of sit cross-legged:

But she can't quite tuck her legs off to one side:

One random thing I noticed while I was posing Lay Lay is that the plastic in her legs is very mottled, with lots of changes in color and texture:

I tried to get Lay Lay into some cool action poses, but she needed a lot of help with balance:

In that previous picture Lay Lay is suspended by one of her hairs (ouch!), but in this next shot I had to literally hold her head in place with my finger:

Those crazy knee joints are always twisting out of position!

When Lay Lay is in her full outfit, her pant legs help keep the knee joints under control, so it's slightly easier to pose and balance her.

Here she is with her large vinyl purse:

The purse is nice, and it's great for storing the mini patches, but Lay Lay told me that she wants to trade and keep this glitzy Mini Fashion purse instead!

Can you blame her?
I tried using a few of the patches on Lay Lay's pants.  These occasionally fall off, but they stay on better than the soles of her shoes!

It's fun to play around with those patches, and with all of Lay Lay's joints!

When I tried this particular action pose again with Lay Lay fully dressed, I had much better luck:

This is a really fun little doll to play with, and I love her unique, happy face.

The doll doesn't really capture the real Lay Lay's drip...

But she can strike a dramatic pose or two:

I didn't really want to disrupt Lay Lay's signature hairstyle, but you know me.  I only rarely resist taking down a doll's factory style.  So, let's get one more look at the cute twists...

And then snip those rubber bands!

Each rubber-banded section of hair was split into two parts.  One part was left to hang down loose and anchor the twist, while the other was coiled into a bun:

Here's the hair with both buns taken down:

The hair was reluctant to release the rubber band kinks at first, but the curly texture helped to disguise that fact:

I tried replacing the twists with a few small clips:

A little lopsided...
And also tried pulling the hair tightly down around Lay Lay's face:

She looks good with all of her hair pulled up into a single bun at the back of her head:

But I actually think she looks best when there's very little volume to the hair around her head:

It's a bad idea to brush curly hair, I know that, I swear I do, but Lay Lay's curls were getting harder and harder to finger-comb, so I broke down and got out my wire brush.

The hair was fairly easy to brush, and it feels nice, but it released a ton of white styling product dandruff:

The flakes got all over my clothing...and all over Lay Lay's clothing, too!

The hair was nice and soft after I brushed it, but it gained a lot of volume!

The brushed hair was easier to arrange into symmetric hairstyles, though.

I ended up putting the hair on either side of Lay Lay's part back into small ponytails.  It's definitely the style that works best for her:

Bottom line?  I'm glad that I ended this review by talking about Lay Lay's hair, because it's actually one of the few things that I don't love about her.  The curl and the twisted bun style are great and authentic to the character, but the length is too extreme.  It overpowers the cute face mold and takes away from the doll's youthful energy; and it doesn't look like Lay Lay's real hair.  So, as I was gathering my thoughts for this bottom line, I went back and chopped off half of the hair.  Like I do.  

What do you think?

I think the shorter cut accentuates her face and gives her more personality.  I can see why some people might prefer longer, more dramatic hair on their dolls, but I'm starting to wish that short styles were more common.

The shorter hair also makes it easier to replicate Lay Lay's up-do style:

Sporting some of the glitzier (drippier?) Creatable World clothing.
Or her partial up-do:

That looks like the real Lay Lay to me.
The other frustration I have with Lay Lay is her shoes.  I like the mix-and-match idea behind the design, but it comes at the cost of shoes that fall apart all of the time.  If I were giving this doll to a child (or even if I were just keeping her for myself) I'd pick a color combination and glue the soles in place.  The nice thing is that no matter what you do with the soles, this doll comes with two pairs of shoes, which is a great bonus.

I really enjoyed everything else about this doll.  Her articulation is excellent, save for some strange knee joints that want to spin around at inconvenient times.  Her face mold is lively and unique, and definitely has features that resemble the real life Lay Lay.  The face paint is carefully done, and I love the added hair tendrils and the thick eyebrows.  I wish the clothing was slightly more flamboyant, but it seems well constructed, and the rearrangeable mini patches are a clever and entertaining addition.  I can't believe that Lay Lay herself didn't request some bling on those patches, though!  Where are the rhinestones?  If I had the time, I'd totally bedazzle that jacket from top to bottom.  The purse is a nice accessory, too, and can actually hold the extra shoes and patches.

Several of the play line dolls that I've looked at recently have little spin-off animated video series that are basically extended ads for the dolls.  It's refreshing to see a doll like Lay Lay that was designed in the likeness of a real person and inspired by a real, full-length television show.  The other thing that's unusual about this doll is that she's the only one--meaning she's not part of a larger lineup or collection or anything like that.  She's just a stand-alone doll.  And as much as I'd like to see highly-articulated dolls made from some of the other characters in the show, I'm also happy to simply enjoy this girl and not feel the urge to "collect them all."  That Girl Lay Lay, like her namesake, appears to be a real one of a kind.

I promise I won't go nuts with GIFs, but this suits Lay Lay, right?


  1. She's super cute and I love your customized version with the haircut and different clothes! Since the 2010s, dolls based on existing television shows (especially Nickelodeon ones like Victorious or Make it Pop) have always felt like an afterthought, so it's nice to something more intentional and good quality.

  2. Minor correction: there are more That Girl Lay Lay dolls coming out, so technically she´s not "a stand-alone doll". It is true that none of them depict other characters. You can see some coming releases in this video at minute 13.00:

  3. Ooh the shorter hairstyle is so much cuter on her!

  4. I hadn't heard of the real Lay Lay before this doll was announced (and the show is probably not for me either haha) but I can only imagine how awesome it is for her to star in her own Nickelodeon show! The doll is actually super cute and I think they did a good job with the face mold, balancing the slight cartooniness with more realistic features. I find that dolls often become a bit unappealing to me personally whenever they skew too much towards either side of the cartoony-realistic spectrum. The patches are a great idea for customization as well, though all the ''hip'' words they used give me ''groovy'' and ''neat'' vibes. This is certainly a toy of its time, haha!

    Cutting her hair shorter was definitely a good call. It looks great in all the hairstyles you tried on her. Toy companies often just add a bunch of long hair even when it's not necessarily accurate to the specific character they're portraying (Mattel's Tecna of Winx Club comes to mind). I guess there's some truth to kids wanting to play with long, flowy hair as it's a lot of fun to comb through and style. But shorter hairstyles definitely deserve some love in the doll world as well.

    FYI, we're expecting at least one super weird and random gif per review from now on, hahaha!

  5. I've recently found this blog and have binge-read some entries, so I think it's about time to leave a comment!
    I'm more of a Sylvanian Families/cutesy-stylised-nonhuman toy kind of person myself, but I have to say that this doll looks very sweet. I especially like how the eyes were done; they're not too realistic but it also looks like Lay Lay's looking at you, instead of having the 1,000 yard stare some toys can have O_O
    Hopefully they'll release some other dolls in this line with more of a fashion focus. Can't say I'm part of the show's target demographic, but I'm pretty taken with the outfits in the pictures you gave as examples!

  6. On That Girl Lay Lay’s YouTube channel, she posted an unboxing video opening her own doll! Pretty cute!

  7. I've never heard of Lay Lay and rap is not my cup of tea but I will definitely check her out, she's so cute! The doll is not bad in spite of some shortcomings you mentioned. Consider celebrity dolls like Britney Spears or the Spice Girls... Yikes!
    Too bad she doesn't fit with the rest of the 1:6 crew. I was thinking, maybe some Barbie Extra Mini clothes and accessories could work? I could be wrong, but I think they are used to give more articulation to Chelsea along with Creatable World. Their style surely is "drip" enough.

  8. She is cute! I think blu tack easily can fix her shoes.

  9. I know who she is solely because she did the Catchy Song from Lego Movie 2, which is, indeed, extremely catchy. The "velcro" patches are a great idea. I love the haircut gif. XD

  10. She looks so much better after your haircut :) And I really like her face, the soft expression :)

  11. She also did the World by Us song for American Girl. :-)

  12. Another great review! I had wonder when I first saw the release of the doll how she would compare to other dolls. You answered questions.

  13. Thanks for the great review Emily. She's a very cute doll. I like her with both the long and shorter hair but maybe a boil perm to make it easier to style for a young child would be useful and not all parents know how to do that. I hope she gets some friends soon.

  14. Great review!! I laughed a lot at your masterful use of the drip slang. XD

    This is the first celebrity-inspired doll I've seen which I have actually thought turned out well! True, the doll may not have all the sass of the actress, but I think she's a much more flattering plastic rendition of the actress than many celebrity dolls I've seen- most of which end up square in the uncanny valley, for me!

    I think stylizing the face like this instead of going for realism was a good decision, and her face is so cute! The style reminds me a little bit of Ever After High, and little bit of Winx Club, but it's also got a charm of its own!

    It's really nice that the body was so well engineered too! And your haircut was definitely an improvement to the doll's appearance! She looks so lovely with the shorter hair-- and she absolutely rocks the Creatable World clothes! I never would have known anything about this doll if not for your review, so thank you for bringing us along on the ride!

  15. A little hot glue in the shoe holes. It will hold, but it will also pull loose easily for shoe sole changing? Haircut is very much yes.

  16. My problem with the shoes is that the holes should have been in the shoe and the pugs in the soles. That way she could wear the shoe by themselves without the plugs sticking out. I would like to use her as a body donor for AA Skipper doll. I think my other Skipper would love her clothes too.

  17. Very nice! I don't watch the show but I was captivated by these dolls, and though I haven't bought one yet, I definitely want this one. As an aside, the wispy hair near the hairline on black women is called baby hair when it is styled down like that with curls. If you search images, you can look at a lot of gorgeous examples. In fact, you can see what another take on baby hair looks like by looking at Betty Boop! Her 20s style curls and fashion came from a mixed black entertainer from those days, who styled her baby hairs.