Thursday, March 2, 2023

Shadow High (And More Rainbow High) Dolls by MGA Entertainment

I did a big review of MGA's Rainbow High line back in November of 2021, with a second part that featured Vanessa Tempo.  And then I did an articulation update with Jett Dawson in early 2022.  So it would seem like I've said enough about the brand at this point, right?  But the thing is, even though I haven't been planning or even thinking about additional Rainbow High reviews, somehow there always seems to be a new doll on the shelf that catches my attention--usually because they're offering something quite different from the dolls I've already reviewed.  And since apparently I'm an incurable doll collector, when I see a new doll that interests me, I buy it.

As you can imagine, this kind of behavior playing out over an entire year has led to a pretty big stack of unopened Rainbow High dolls.  And so today I figured I would finally open up some of those boxes and share four of the new and wonderful characters that this brand has produced:

Rainbow High dolls, clockwise from left: Shanelle Onyx, Zooey Electra, Victoria Whitman, and Meena Fleur.
These four dolls are not the only ones that have tempted me over the past year, but I feel like each of them offers something new and different.  I'll present them in the order that I purchased them, which I think corresponds well with their release dates.

I didn't look at the Rainbow High doll aisle much right after I'd completed my review of Jett.  I felt like I'd seen enough to form an educated opinion of the brand.  But then, in the spring of 2022, the Shadow High dolls came out:

Shadow High is the rival school of Rainbow High, and the first wave of dolls are made entirely in greyscale...with the exception of their eyes.  I was instantly fascinated by them.  

They remind me of the greyscale SDCC Frankie Stein doll from 2010:

And the simpler Skull Shores Frankie who I talked about briefly back in 2012:

From the Shadow High collection, I purchased the black and white extremes (Shanelle Onyx and Natasha Zima), and then one of the medium grey dolls (Ash Silverstone).  My favorite of the three is Shanelle.

Shanelle comes in a traditional Rainbow High box, with an extra outfit packaged on the left:

I think all Rainbow High dolls have their extra outfits packaged on the right side of the box, so this is a fun little difference.

The tag line for Shadow High is the same as it is for Rainbow High: "let your true colors shine."  I have to say, this doesn't have quite the same joyous ring when all of the dolls are in greyscale.

"Let your color void shine."
The back of Shanelle's box has a graphic interpretation of the six original Shadow High characters:

I think the box art is great, and I like all of the characters.  It was a struggle for me to restrain myself from buying all of them.

Here's Shanelle out of the box:

She comes with a black stand, but she doesn't need it when both of her feet are on the ground.

It was really interesting to photograph this doll, especially because my backdrop is grey.  I kept thinking that my camera was switched to a black and white setting.  Shanelle's purplish-blue eyes and mahogany lips are the only things in the photo with any hint of color:

Shanelle's hair is jet black, with a single streak of silvery white.  All of the hair is tied back into a long, straight ponytail that sits a little off to Shanelle's right side:

I like how the molded tendrils around her hairline have a pale section that corresponds to the silver streak of rooted hair:

Shanelle's face looks a lot like Georgia Bloom's, to me, but it's really hard to tell because of the extreme differences in coloring:

She has black eyebrows that practically disappear against her skin, and her eyes, which are very faintly colored with shades of blue and purple, are accented with black applied lashes and white eyelid creases on top, and white decorations (with a hint of silver glitter) on the bottom:

Shanelle's lips are painted a beautiful, shimmering dark shade of mahogany that just barely stands out against the rest of her face:

Shanelle's earrings are made out of molded plastic, but they look like grey-ish black gemstones set in silver:

Her ponytail is decorated with a large black mesh bow that has a pale plastic rhinestone in the middle:

Here are the jewelry extras on their own:

Shanelle also has a thin silver bracelet on her left wrist, but I didn't remove that because I was worried I'd lose it!

Those fingernails are fierce!
Shanelle is wearing a sleeveless cocktail dress with a plain black bodice and a skirt filled with tiered, rough-edged ruffles.  The ruffles are black at the waist and then transition through two shades of grey and into white at the bottom:

There's a removable belt at the waist of the dress that's hard to see when it's in place...and hard to see even after it's been removed!

Underneath the ruffled layer of Shanelle's skirt, there's a shiny ombre underskirt:

Here's the dress on its own:

The clear shoulder straps are a bit easier to see when the dress is off.

And here's a better look at the ombre underskirt:

On her feet, Shanelle is wearing black net ankle socks and black heels:

The shoes have molded bows at the top and a fuzzy lining along the toes!

I love the shoes.

The socks are nice, too, but these two are not the same length.  The one on the left, below, has some bunched-up stitching that makes it shorter:

Shanelle has the same articulation as Georgia Bloom, which you can read about in detail in that review.  I like her silver underpants:

Shanelle's second outfit consists of a black tank top, a houndstooth mini skirt, an imitation leather jacket, and an extra pair of shoes:

The tank top has applied silver studs arranged with a flower pattern in the middle:

The skirt came anchored to the plastic form that is was displayed on.  This degree of packaging feels totally unnecessary, and almost caused me to rip a hole in the skirt:

The skirt itself is really cute, with imitation leather accents and applied, decorative silver buttons down the front:

The jacket is my favorite piece in the set.  It has so many amazing little details for such a small item!  There's a decorative zipper down the front, complete with a little zipper pull:

The collar folds neatly down at the sides, and is accented with a tiny silver stud.  The sleeves are not leather, but rather a lightweight black chiffon, arranged into ruffles:

The construction on this jacket is impressive.

The second pair of shoes is not quite as exciting as the fuzzy pair.  These are also black, but with silver buckles at the top and large grey gemstones on the toes:

I found both pairs of shoes in this set difficult to use.  The straps at the top are very tight and hard get over Shanelle's heels:

Here's Shanelle in her tank top, skirt, and secondary shoes:

The contrast between the studded tee and the houndstooth skirt is a lot to take in, but everything looks good and fits well:

I thought maybe the belt from the dress would work nicely with this combination, but it sits a little high, and is hard to see!

The outfit really comes together when the imitation leather jacket is added in:

For a secondary outfit, this really blew me away:

I also wanted to try Shanelle in the dress with the jacket on top.  This looks great, too:

In fact, this is my favorite combination of clothing...and I think it's Shanelle's favorite, too!

After I'd played around with her clothes for a bit, I decided to take Shanelle's hair down:

The hair was kinked from the ponytail at first, but a quick session under the blow dryer fixed that right up:

Shanelle's hair is so long that it touches the floor in some places, and the streak of silver spreads out in back to look like salt-and-pepper highlights:

The hair feels great and the rooting pattern is reasonably dense:

However, there's no rooted part in this hair, and so it doesn't look very good unless it's brushed straight back.

My dry house creates a lot of static in straight hair like this, but it was still fun to play with:

I tried braiding all of the lighter hair together and tucking it off to the side:

This left the back of the hair completely black, which I think looks nice:

I wanted to add a pop of color to some of these pictures, so I let Shanelle wear Jett Dawson's fancy red dress:

The black and silver accents in this dress go really well with Shanelle's coloring, and I love the look of red against black: 

Also, the amazing underskirt on this red dress is constructed a lot like Shanelle's greyscale dress.

I put Shanelle's hair back into a ponytail, since this is how I think it looks best, and I dressed her in my favorite combination of clothes for a few more shots:

I had such a fun time playing with Shanelle.  I took over two hundred pictures of her, mostly because every time I moved her around or changed her clothes, I thought she looked amazing and wanted to capture the moment.  I don't think the pictures do her justice, though; her pure black skin is so dramatic in real life, but it can look dull against the grey background.  I wish I'd thought to purchase a brightly-colored backdrop for this photoshoot.

I find Shanelle's clothing especially amazing.  The pieces are all detailed, well-constructed, and stylish.  They all fit nicely and are easy to use, too--with the exception of the shoes, which were difficult to get on and off.  The Shadow High dolls cost close to $30 at normal retail, but I was able to get Shanelle and her friends on sale for $20, which is a truly remarkable price for a unique doll with such an elaborate wardrobe.

My unequivocal enthusiasm for Shanelle prompted me to scour the Rainbow High offerings with more diligence, and this led me to an incredible Holiday sale on Amazon.  In early December, I was able to purchase two Rainbow High dolls for $10 each.  My favorite of the two is Meena Fleur, a saffron-themed character from New Delhi, India:

Meena is part of a six-doll Series 4 release:

This series has two other noteworthy dolls.  First, there's Delilah Fields, who is the only play doll I've ever seen who has albinism:

Update: as DB kindly mentioned in the comments, Monster High's Viperene Gorgon might very well have been an albino character, too, although it was never explicitly mentioned:

What an incredible doll.
And thank you to Nikki for cluing me in about the Fashionista albino character, who looks really great, too!

I wish the Fashionistas had better articulation, though.
There's also Jewel Ritchie, who has vitiligo:

Mattel released a Fashionista with vitiligo in 2020, but Jewel is still a treat:

This is all to say that MGA is doing an incredible job with inclusivity.  Not only does the Rainbow High line include characters from a wide range of ethnicities, but it also highlights more unusual beauties like Delilah and Jewel.

But getting back to Meena Fleur, I'll say right up front that her South Asian ethnicity is not the only thing that makes her special.  She also comes with extra legs:

Rattling around in the same bag with the stand, I found a pair of lower legs that have flat feet instead of fashion feet:

I was not expecting that.
One of the things I like best about Rainbow High dolls is their double-jointed knee articulation, so I was really hoping that the interchangeable legs didn't impact the design of the knees.

Things didn't start well on that front, though, because I wasn't able to bend Meena's legs at all when I first got her out of the box.  This made her much harder to balance than Shanelle.  I started to wonder if the strange leg gimmick was why Menna was on such a massive sale back in December.

Despite the rigid knees, I managed to get Meena to balance on her own for a few initial shots:

She came with her hands tied to her pants in the front--presumably to show off the henna decorations:

They could have found a better pose than this, though.
Meena's signature color is saffron, like the spice, so her hair is very bright orange:

And a little bedraggled, right out of the box.
I think of saffron as being a darker reddish-orange, like this:

Saffron salonik

But it's not a spice I'm too familiar with.  Besides, I love the color orange in general, so I think Meena's whole look is beautiful.

I brushed her hair to break up some of the clumps:

And I released her hands from her pants, so that she could relax:

Ahh. That feels better.
Meena has a lovely face with striking gold accents.  Her hair is mostly loose, but she has a few areas that are tied back with rubber bands or thread--presumably to accommodate the hair clips:

Her eyebrows are medium brown with only a few hairline details.  Her light brown eyes are surrounded by intricate eye makeup, though.  She has brown eyeshadow with a thick band of black liner above her eyes.  She also has accents of orange and gold, with dollops of glitter here and there:

I've been fortunate to get a lot of Rainbow High dolls with no serious face paint defects, but Meena broke that streak.  She has three imperfections in her face paint that I could find.  Can you spot them?

First of all, there's a nice line of orange underneath Meena's right eye, but her left eye is missing this accent.  Also, the glitter application on the left eye is much less spotty than it is on the left.

A bigger problem is that some of the painted brown shadow in between Meena's lips is misplaced, putting a dark line right through one side of her mouth:

Like a mouth mustache.
Menna comes with a lot of jewelry, so I'll take a minute to run through all of those pieces.

Like most Rainbow High dolls, she has earrings:

These are molded gold vinyl hoops with a prominent ball design:

Meena also has six delicate hair clips:

These tiny clips operate like miniature bobby pins, but each is painted gold and decorated with two clear orange molded rhinestones:

My favorite of Meena's jewelry is her six bangle bracelets.  Each one has a different design, and is decorated with little molded or painted details.

Here are the bangles on her left wrist:

The one closest to her hand has a little elephant!
And here are the ones on her right wrist:

That middle one is a two-headed snake.
You can appreciate the detailed henna drawings on each of Meena's hands in these photos, too.

All of the bracelets have slit openings and are removable:

In addition to the bangles, Meena has a double-ringed upper arm cuff on her right side:

I'm thrilled with Meena's jewelry.  It adds a lot to the opulence of her overall look.  Furthermore, six plain hoop bangles would have been fun enough, but all of the design effort that went into the bracelets goes the extra mile.

With so much detail in the jewelry, you might expect Meena's clothing to be relatively plain, but it is far from that.

The primary outfit consists of an orange satin top, gold glitter pants, and orange heels:

The top is sleeveless on one side, and has a folded cape-like embellishment on the opposite side:

The top has applied studs along the bottom and a metal ring detail at the shoulder:

The whole thing closes in back with velcro and is very easy to use:

The pants are made out of a glittery gold fabric that has some stretch in it.  My favorite part of the pants is at the bottom.  Each leg has a bungie-like elastic cord zig-zagged through some gold loops:

These cords can be tightened or loosened to transform the pants from flare-legged into skinny-legged:

That is so clever.
I like the overall shape of these pants, too, and the flap design at the waistband is fun:

The pants have working pockets and a velcro seam in back:

The orange shoes have a strappy sandal design with a lot of gold painted decorations and tiny molded buckles.  I especially like the buckled strap that goes across the heel:

These shoes are made out of very flexible vinyl, and so they're easier to get on and off than Shanelle's shoes, but they do not offer as much support.

After I'd removed all of Meena's clothing, I was relieved to see that her body looks the same as most other Rainbow High dolls:

Those knees should move.
Most notably, her knee articulation looks the same:

I wasn't able to bend her knees at first because the joints are incredibly stiff.  Even when I was able to see the joint and move it deliberately, I couldn't get the upper part of the joint to bend completely:

For comparison, here are Jett's knees in their fully-bent position:

This allows Jett to kneel with the backs of her thighs almost touching her calves:

Meena is unable to do this:

I'm not sure if this is a problem specific to my Meena doll, or if all of the Rainbow High dolls with interchangeable legs suffer from stiff joints.

Speaking of interchangeable legs, I was eager to try them out!

Meena's original legs pulled off without too much force:

And then each leg has a differently shaped insertion hole, so it's impossible to put the legs on the wrong side:

Meena's new flat-footed legs pushed on easily, but unfortunately she's not able to balance on her own with flat feet; the feet push her body backwards too much.

She's not able to use the stand with flat feet, either, because this style of foot makes her legs shorter!

I decided to break out the flat-footed shoes to see if they would help with Meena's balance.

Here's the entire secondary outfit:

This outfit includes flat-footed sandals with gold laces:

I don't usually like shoes with real laces; they can be a huge pain.  But these laces are stiff enough so that they don't slip out of my fingers all of the time.  I actually found them fairly easy to use.

And the shoes provide just enough height and friction so that Meena can use her stand.  Thank goodness.

The shoes look good, too.  I like them even more than the high-heeled ones:

Meena's secondary outfit also includes this mustard yellow tank top:

The tank has a white pattern across the front, yellow ribbon straps, and both the top and the bottom are lined with different styles of tassel.

The construction looks good:

The last piece of the outfit is this orange satin wraparound skirt:

The skirt is decorated with gold patterns and rhinestones, and is reminiscent of a sari.

The outfit looks great on Meena:

The yellow top offers a nice break from all of the orange, and I like how the gold tassels hang on Meena's midriff:

One small pain is that the thin ribbon straps often get caught in Meena's shoulder joints:

It's a lot of orange, sure, but I really like how the skirt looks with Meena's primary top--paired with the flat-heeled sandals:

It's funny, I don't even notice the defects in her face paint when she's all dressed up like this!

The secondary tank top also goes with the gold pants, although I don't like this combination quite as much:

After I'd played around with Meena's clothing for a while, I took all of the rubber bands and threads out of her hair and brushed it more thoroughly:

Because there's a rooted center part, Meena's hair is easier to play with and re-style than Shanelle's hair:

Like all Rainbow High hair, it's a bit crusty right out of the box, but feels great after it's been brushed.

I put Meena back into her original outfit for a few more portraits:

Orange can be a risky color in fashion and in the doll world--especially a bright, neon orange like Meena's palette.  It's pretty easy for orange like this to look cheap or like a Halloween costume.  But Meena's appearance is elegant and opulent.  She looks like a shimmering Indian princess.

The extra legs are an interesting addition, and I love that they allow Meena to wear her awesome flat-footed sandals.  However, if the stiffness in the knees is a side effect of this feature, I could do without it. Extra legs were first introduced in the Pacific Coast collection, but I don't think they've made an appearance since Meena's Series 4 group.

Once again, I'm amazed by the outfit and accessories.  I really like all of Meena's individual outfit pieces, and they are super-fun to mix and match.  The number and quality of jewelry pieces is impressive, too.  As I was playing with Meena, I pictured the MGA executives siting around a table trying to come up with a new doll concept, and the pitch went something like this: "hey, let's build a highly-articulated doll with great hair and then hire top-notch, modern designers to make all of the clothing.  Oh--and then let's give all of the dolls two complete outfits."  Sounds like a fantasy, right?  Like whoever pitched it would be laughed out of the room?  But they actually pulled it off.

I was on a roll at this point, and excited to see what other treasures Rainbow High had to offer!  The next series that caught my attention was another Shadow High group, a few of whom look like they might be exchange students from Monster High:

From left: Karla Choupette, Reina Crowne, Zooey Electra (in back), Monique Verbena, Dia Mante (in back), and Rex McQueen.
Most of the dolls in this wave tempted me for one reason or another: I love Monique and Dia's purple skin, and Monique's micro braids are awesome.  Rexx is my favorite of the boys so far, and I saw Reina in person at Target and thought she was striking.

However, I decided to buy Zooey.  I love her alien vibe and her Novi Stars clothing:

The first thing I noticed is that this group of dolls does not come with an extra outfit--they have some little accessories instead.  That's a pretty big bummer.  And Zooey is not that much less expensive than the regular Rainbow High dolls.  I paid $24.99 for her, which is only $5 less than the MSRP on dolls like Shanelle and Meena.

I wish MGA offered Rainbow High fashion packs separately.  There are some rumors that this type of thing might appear soon--perhaps as a surprise pack like the bags and shoes that are currently available.

Anyway, the back of Zooey's box has a picture of her and Dia:

Deboxing Zooey was quite a bit easier than deboxing Shanelle and Meena, probably because her box has a much simpler shape and design.  All I had to do was open one end of the outer box and pull the backdrop out:

Zooey's accessories came arranged around her on the backdrop.  On her right side there were two hangers, a stand, and a comb:

On her left side were a laptop, a phone, a phone case, and a thermos:

We've seen a lot of Rainbow High hangers and stands at this point, so I'll focus on the smaller accessories:

The laptop is made out of plastic and has a molded keyboard with no decoration.  The top opens to reveal a screen with a picture of some very abstract art--perhaps Zooey's creation?

The top of the computer is Zooey's signature electric sea foam green color, with some decorative stickers:

The thermos has some NASA-inspired decals against a green background:

It has a handle, but no moving parts:

Zooey's phone slots into the case and has a Novi Stars screen saver design:

For anyone who doesn't know what the Novi Stars are, they're a line of dolls released by MGA back in 2012.  They didn't last very long, and my own enthusiasm for the dolls was tempered by their limited articulation, but they had (and still have) a loyal following.

Here's a photo from my 2012 review:

Novi Stars Alie Lectric, 2012.
I think it's really cute that MGA would have one of their current characters be a fan of an older doll line.  It makes me wonder if MGA has plans to bring the Novi Stars back?  A lot of older dolls lines are being revamped, so it wouldn't surprise me.

Anyway, the case of Zooey's phone is decorated with moons, shooting stars, and "SH" for Shadow High:

Zooey herself was packaged with her hair parted down the back and pushed to the sides, so it looked pretty funny when I first took her off the backdrop:

It was a good opportunity to check out the rooting pattern though, which in this case doesn't look great, but is roughly equivalent to the other dolls:

I was able to bush the hair down over the part, but there are still some kinks left behind by the packaging:

The hair is a bright turquoise blue with some silver tinsel mixed in:

I wasn't able to get Zooey to balance on her own, and I think this is because her shoes have short, uneven treads.  They are awesome shoes, though, so I can't complain:

Those ties, with their little electric plugs, are Monster High level creative, and I love to see it.

After a while I gave up on balancing Zooey and assembled her stand.  Now we can finally get a good look at her:

As far as I know, Zooey is not supposed to be an alien--she was born in Seattle.  But she certainly looks otherworldly to me.

Her pale blue skin is not the only thing that makes me think of space creatures, though.  She also has some unusual detail in her face:

Honestly, I think that all Rainbow High dolls, with their huge eyes and round faces, look a bit extraterrestrial, but Zooey has white circles on her forehead, sharply-pointed eyebrows, steep slants in her eye liner, and some purple in her mouth that make her look especially sci-fi.

My doll has no obvious face paint defects, but she did come with some dark smudges and spots on her cheeks:

She has molded tendrils around her hairline, and these are painted iridescent sea foam green:

I like Zooey's soft brown eyes--they're in sharp contrast to the angular severity of her makeup:

Zooey's earrings are fuse-shaped and made out of silver plastic.  They have "Shadow High" written in black:

Here are the fuse earrings on their own:

The earring concept is cool, but the earrings fall out all of the time.  It's irritating.

The earrings leave behind large holes that are strangely positioned--they're not on Zooey's earlobes at all:

Maybe that's how aliens pierce their ears?
The thing that really drew me to this doll is her jacket.  She has an amazingly detailed white puffy jacket that resembles a space suit.  

The jacket is covered with patches and pockets, and these are easiest to see if you look at each side separately.  Here's the right side:

And here's the left side:

The back is relatively plain, but it has a big patch and a cool drawstring feature at the waist:

There's a section of elastic that looks like it can be cinched, with miniature cord locks:

The cord locks don't actually work, but they look so realistic.

I took the jacket off for an even closer look.  All of the pockets work, and Zooey can store some of her accessories in them:

And while the zipper isn't functional, the entire jacket is lined:

Underneath the jacket, Zooey is wearing a graphic tee shirt and a mini skirt:

The tee shirt features a Novi Stars character, Mimi Merize:

Here's a promotional picture of the Mimi Merize doll:

The tee shirt is well-made overall.  I'm especially impressed with the stitching around the collar:

Here's a peek at the inside:

The mini skirt is made out of sea foam imitation leather and has two big slits in the front:

It also has some plastic band clamp accents on the sides:

I showed you Zooey's shoes briefly a bit earlier, but let's take another look:

They are wedge heel slip-ons with electric cord ties, and they're paired with iridescent green socks:

The wedge heels have an intricate cutout pattern, but I'm not sure exactly what it's supposed to be--maybe just a random pretty design:

And moon boot treads!
Zooey's body is standard, and she has plain white underwear:

Her hand mold has the same long (sharp!) fingernails that we saw on Shanelle:

The fingernails look cool, but they get caught in the knit fabric of the tee shirt really easily:

It was sad to not have a secondary outfit to play with at this point.  I would have loved to see what else the designers could create within this theme!  

But the accessories are pretty fun.  Zooey can hold her thermos:

And her phone:

I started to do a final portrait photo shoot with Zooey...

But then it occurred to me that because of her alien appearance, perhaps I should try some unconventional poses, too:

Some of my attempts were more successful than others.  Like, I'm not sure exactly what she's trying to do here:

Contact. Mother. Ship.
She's a pretty freaky girl:

The jacket is by far the standout piece in this set.  It's a little bulky around Zooey's neck, but who cares--it's amazing:

Zooey is ready to jump over the moon in this outfit!

Or maybe just stay on the ground and dream about her Novi Stars friends.

It's fun to see Rainbow High venture into the realm of unconventional skin tones and alien-like characters, even if it feels like they're swerving a bit into Monster High's lane.  

Zooey is not my favorite of the four dolls I'm showcasing today, but her jacket is easily my single favorite piece of clothing.  It's impressive to me that something like this can be included with a $25 doll.  That said, it's a bit sad to be missing the second outfit, and I hope that's not going to be the new normal for Rainbow and Shadow High--even if it makes the packaging easier to deal with.

Okay, we've come to the last doll this review, a Series 5 Rainbow High character who hit the market just recently.  Series 5 includes six dolls, several of which are standouts:

From left: Victoria Whitman, Priscilla Perez, Michelle St. Carles, Olivia Woods, Kim Nguyen, and Aidan Russell.
I was impressed by Kim Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Rainbow High student:

And I also adore Olivia Woods' color palette.  This is my color!

And she has freckles!
But, speaking of freckles, the girl who I absolutely could not resist is Ms. Victoria Whitman:

This is the first Rainbow High character with freckles everywhere.  And even outside of Rainbow High, I can't think of another single play line doll with full-body freckles.  So she's a pretty big deal--at least in my world.

Update: Nikki helpfully mentioned that Fashionista #109 is fully-freckled, too.  I should make the assumption from this point on that the Fashionistas have done everything!

Another one for my shopping list, I guess...
The back of Victoria's box has a picture of her with Olivia, my other favorite Series 5 girl:

Like Zooey, Victoria comes with some plastic accessories instead of a second outfit:

The accessories are packaged slightly differently from what we saw with Zooey.  Everything is lined up together against the same strip of cardboard:

In addition to the standard hangar set, comb, and stand, Victoria's accessories include a hollow sewing machine that's just like the one that came with Jett Dawson.  There's also a plastic hair dryer:

And Victoria has a makeup set and a phone with a separate case:

The makeup set has a fairly plain top with "Rainbow" written on it:

Inside, there's a sticker that looks to me like an eyeshadow collection:

Victoria's phone screen is more detailed than Zooey's, with avatars of other characters and a large photo of Victoria on the beach:

The case is pink, with hearts, shooting stars, and "RH" for Rainbow High:

I think that these mini phones, with their removable cases, are the best accessories.

Victoria's color palette is not as distinct as it is on some of the other characters.  I think maybe her color is meant to be strawberry?  But it ends up looking a lot like peach or pink.

Here's Victoria right out of the box--balancing nicely on her own:

She's packaged with a really strange arm position, though:

Flap, flap.
I wondered if my doll had been posed incorrectly, but the other Victorias that I've seen in-store have the same awkward stance.

First things first, I let Victoria relax her arms!

I fell for this doll almost instantly after I got her out of the box.  She's really lovely and I swear she came with a delicate floral scent--like jasmine.  I don't see anything about her being scented when I read online, and the smell has faded away over the last week, but I was definitely aware of something when I first de-boxed her, and it was nice!

Victoria has long wavy hair that, as usual, came lopsided with a lot of styling gel...

But it brushed out beautifully:

I love the hair's strawberry blonde color, and the rooting is just like it is with the other dolls:

She's even more lovely with brushed hair!

Freckled dolls run the risk of looking funny--or sickly--especially if there are a lot of freckles.  But Victoria's freckles are well done.  They're small, in scale with her face, and come in various sizes.  They're also scattered randomly, which looks very natural:

It's fun to choose a Victoria doll in person, since the freckles are different on every single doll.  Some dolls have freckles that are more subtle or more vibrant, too, so there's a lot of variety to consider.

It's also a good idea to pick this doll in person because I'll confess that I ordered two Victorias online, and both had bad face paint defects.  I returned both of those dolls and waited for them to come in stock at Target; it was worth the wait!  I really like my doll's freckle pattern.

I'm not quite as crazy about her lip paint, though.  It has two darker lines down the front that at first I thought might be unintentional, but this is meant to be the design:

Victoria has light eyelashes that match her fair hair, and blocky eyebrows with only three white hair lines. Her eyes are a mix of green and blue:

Victoria has beautiful flower earrings:

These earrings have a few paint smudges, but overall they're great.  I'm not sure if they're supposed to represent a specific kind of flower, but they remind me a bit of dogwood blooms, or bluets:

Victoria's two-piece outfit is light pink, with a lot of ruffles and both applied and embroidered details:

The top is off-the-shoulder, with gold straps:

The outfit looks quite simple, especially compared to Zooey's jacket, but the embellishments are nice.  I especially like the gold embroidered flower stems, and the creative cut of the neckline:

The straps are made out of gold satin piping.  There are actually two sets of straps; one that is looped through a seam around the neckline, and another pair that is sewn at the front and loose at the back so that they can be tied together in a bow:

The whole top is carefully lined, too:

The skirt has five ruffles, and every other ruffle is decorated with little pearl decals:

This particular skirt has a small snag defect in the bottom ruffle on the front:

And there's a ribbon sewn on the inside to keep the whole thing from riding up:

Victoria's outfit is rounded out by a pair of platform heels:

Look at those freckled legs!!
The shoes are pink on the bottom and peach on the top, with some molded rivet details that are painted gold:

I love that the bottoms of the shoes are painted red!  That's a fun surprise:

There's nothing unexpected about the design of Victoria's body...except for all of her freckles!

She is literally freckled from head to toe:

...or maybe I should say from head to finger?  Even the palms of her hands are freckled:

I admire the effort that went into this.  There were certainly no shortcuts taken!  However, people only rarely have freckles on their palms.

Victoria even has some pink blushing on her body, like this line down the middle of her back:

I have to admit that the blushing looks funny to me, especially this area on the side of Victoria's thigh:

But mostly I'm smitten with the freckles and with Victoria overall.

I put her back into her outfit for a few more photos:

I often say this, but my photos don't do this doll justice.  Her delicate coloring and soft hair are best appreciated in person. 

I had a really fun time playing with her.

Here are a few more close-ups so that you can appreciate those freckles one last time!

After seeing Zooey's amazing space suit jacket, Victoria's outfit felt a bit underwhelming.  However, I like the clothing and think it's well designed to accentuate Victoria's coloring; it allows the freckles to take the spotlight, which is appropriate.  And the freckles are wonderful.  Not only are they a novelty on the play doll scene, but they literally make every Victoria Whitman doll one of a kind.

In a perfect world I might change a few little things about Victoria's face paint, like the lines on her lips and her blocky eyebrows, but when I'm posing her, combing her lovely hair, or admiring her freckled face, that's the last thing on my mind.

Victoria and Shenelle compete for my favorite doll in this review.  I probably had the most fun with Shanelle, but Victoria is dear to me, too. 

Whew!  That was a lot of Rainbow High dolls for one post, wasn't it?  Here are the four girls together:

Bottom line?  I've given a little summary of each character already, so I'll finish up by articulating a few of my overall thoughts. 

What really impresses me with the current selection of Rainbow High and Shadow High dolls is the variety.  It's often the case that I can look at one or two dolls from a line and feel like I've seen most of what that brand has to offer.  But in this case, I felt like every one of these four dolls was offering something different and special: Shanelle has unique coloring and awesome clothes, Meena has an under-represented ethnicity and an extra pair of legs, Zooey looks like an alien character (with a show-stopping jacket), and Victoria takes freckles to the next level.  Now, granted, I chose these dolls specifically because of their special features, but I'm still blown away by how all four of them felt interesting and different.  Whether it's a doll's color scheme, a specific piece of clothing, the jewelry accents, an ethnicity, a body feature, or a personality that grabs you, I feel like MGA is working diligently towards offering something for everyone. 

On top of being special in their own ways, all four dolls in this review have excellent articulation, high-quality hair, and designer outfits--things that make all Rainbow High dolls appealing.  Furthermore, I didn't experience any of the poorly-sewn or ill-fitting clothing that I talked about in my earlier reviews.  However, I did find more face paint defects than I'd hoped, with Meena's wonky lip paint and the imperfections on the two Victorias that I had to return.  So while I'd love to think that quality control has ticked up, I can't be completely sure.

I'm a little sad that the more recent Shadow High and Rainbow High releases appear to have shed the extra outfit in favor of some small plastic accessories.  For a brand with such fashionable and detailed clothing, the absence of an entire outfit is a real loss, and plastic accessories don't make up for that.  However, I have no idea if this is a permanent change, so I'll reserve judgement.

I enjoyed reviewing Georgia, Jett, and Vanessa, but I feel like my assessment of those dolls was a little restrained in its enthusiasm.  With this new group, my restraint is gone; I'm now borderline obsessed with Rainbow High and Shadow High.  I've watched the play doll market closely for over a decade now, and MGA has raised the bar.  I hope other companies will take note.


  1. I love the idea of these dolls but strangely don't like them maybe it is the fact that they are nearly 50 dollars each, where I live that deters me from loving them.

    1. I can understand that! Even with all of the great detail, $50 is too much.

  2. I'm not really a huge fan of the RH/SH style, but I'll admit, Shanelle has tempted me for a while now. I love her dramatic contrast, and I think it works with the proportions and face to make her a spooky, artsy take on a classic doll. And I'm a sucker for spooky artsy! I also think Zooey's look is very cool, and if it was on the body of a Monster High doll, I'd get her pretty much instantly. But if I ever decide to get a doll from these shared brands, it's probably going to be Shanelle.

    1. Also, I forgot I was going to mention--Viperine Gorgon was a play doll who appeared to depict albinism, due to her skin being the color of an albino snake, her hair being platinum, and her eyes being pink. She also used sunglasses on two of her three dolls, which seemed related...but her character was never actually stated to be albino in-universe. I still say she counts, though!

    2. Shanelle is really wonderful. She's the one I had the most fun with from this group. I played with her for ages! Literally my only complaint is that it's hard to re-style her hair in different ways. Thank you so much for the Viperine Gorgon reference! I'd forgotten her. I will add that into the review!

    3. @DB, Mattel also did a Barbie Fashionista doll (#91”Varsity Plaiditude”) with albinism in 2017. Lousy outfit, but she’s a very cute doll- an AA face sculpt, freckles, and a stunning blonde Afro.

  3. I was hoping you'd get around to reviewing the shadow high and latest rainbow high dolls so I was so happy to see this post! <3 These dolls are some of my faves in my own collection and I just adore them and how much they improve with each release! BTW, I did hear that there is sadly a reason for dropping the second outfits-inflation forced MGA to revamp the packaging and drop the second outfits to keep the price similar to how they started out when they first hit the market in 2020 : ( It's such a shame but I'm glad they're committed to keeping the dolls affordable in these times! And I hope they continue for a good long time! <3

    1. It's definitely sad to hear that the secondary outfits won't be coming back, but I don't see how they ever did that for under $30 in the first place! I guess we should just cherish the older dolls even more now. I really like the new packaging, though--much easier to deal with. :)

  4. Yay, so happy to see a new post! Your blog always makes me smile. I have been reading older reviews often lately while dealing with some stressful things and loving your humor and the beautiful photos you share here. Your reviews are also my #1 reference when I'm interested in a doll I haven't seen in person and want to get a better look at the size, clothes sharing options, articulation limits... I always recommend your blog to all my friends who are toy and doll fans.

    Hmm, when it comes to Rainbow High, I have to say I prefer the more fantastical designs to the more realistic and human characters. Something about their faces and the head-to-body ratio is just a bit uncanny for a regular human character, but looks amazing for a doll like Shanelle. I feel similarly with Monster High— I tend to prefer the weirder characters much more. All the dolls featured in this post are gorgeous though, even the ones that aren't as much to my personal tastes. Rainbow High really has great detail.

    Those Novi Stars references got me so curious as to whether MGA is planning anything new with that brand. I would love seeing a fresh new take on those dolls, they're such cute and strange little things.

    Thanks for another great review!

    1. Thank you for such a nice comment!! :D I agree with you about liking the stranger characters. I'm always on the lookout for a doll that's unique, and the weird ones are the most fun, lol! And the Novi Stars are certainly in the weird category. I wouldn't mind another chance to look at those...

  5. After seeing all your photos I am beginning to see what all the fuss is about and why so many doll collectors are being tempted to purchase these dolls. However, I have managed to avoid them and will continue to admire them from a distance.

    You certainly do a wonderful job of reviewing the dolls Emily, and I really enjoyed the photos, they much better than the promo shots I have seen.
    Big hugs,

    1. Thank you so much, Xanadu! :D I admire your restraint. It's definitely a slippery slope after you make that first purchase!

  6. Barbie Fashionista has had an albino doll and a full-body freckled doll. I think it's much more appealing on both of these RH dolls though!
    I'm not supposed to be buying any new dolls currently, but I'm very very tempted by Victoria. Argh, it's so hard sometimes! Lol.

    1. Oooh! Thank you, Nikki! I like both of those dolls a lot! Too bad their articulation is so basic. I will assume from this point on that the Fashionistas have done everything first, lol! ;D

  7. I'm so happy you decided to review more Rainbow High/Shadow High dolls! I feel like MGA is really giving us some unique and outstanding dolls with every new RH/SH line, and the brand certainly hasn't stopped developing itself after the first few series. I also love the dolls you picked for this review. Like you said, they really showcase the variety RH/SH has to offer. Though the dolls in the final group pictures look similar enough that anyone could see they're from the same doll line (or at least the same company), they also showcase the creativity of MGA's designers and the great things that can be achieved with playline dolls. Shanelle was my first Shadow High doll (Jett's dress is just made for her, isn't it?) and Zooey and Victoria are at the top of my to-buy list. I wasn't too keen on Meena's bright orange color scheme at first, but your pictures showcase her beauty. Argh, my wishlist for this brand is already too long, hahaha! I do have some gripes with MGA as a company (questionable behavior of their CEO and some employees, domination of toy isles, high prices, lacking quality control, disappointing blind boxes and bad distribution over here), but I would be lying to myself if I said that this isn't my favorite doll line to collect right now. New releases get me excited in a way that I've last experienced with Monster High and Ever After High years ago. And that's a job well done on MGA's part, especially considering the fact that I wasn't into the first two RH series at all!

    1. Update: I visited the toy store today and they had exactly 1 Rainbow High doll in stock... Meena! Needless to say, I added her to my collection ;)

  8. Thanks for another very thorough and very entertaining review! Your pictures are always so amazing! I really love how Shanelle looks in Jett Dawson’s dress. I’m beginning to really like Rainbow High/Shadow High. At first I was just going to get one of each of the 6 original colors so I could have a Rainbow of dolls and be done…but then they keep coming out with so many beautiful and interesting dolls… and they are always going on sale. So yeah I keep buying more of these dolls when I see them on clearance. I have Shanelle (and Natasha Zima) and Meena and love them both. I really need to stop buying these dolls. I’m running out of room.

  9. I'm a reluctant RH fan. The greyscale SH were the first to tempt me and I got "just one". I added Shanelle during the 10$ sale, as well as the twins and a neon. There are still many things I don't like about them, the worst of which is the flat head that only looks good from the front. But the quality and detail is unbeatable for the price. I even managed to put one of the outfits on an IT and you'd never guess it's from a toy doll. MGA are packing a lot of value in these dolls. Your last gal, Victoria, looks like an artist doll. You (and I) may not like her style of face paint, but it's extremely reminiscent of BJD faceups, especially when you consider the blushing and freckles. My favourite of the bunch is Meena, and I don't even like orange and yellow! I would warm her knees in hot water (similarly to how you'd soothe human joints). I am also super tempted by Kim. I wonder what sculpt she's on. It's hard to tell from pictures, but some are wider than others. The monolid sculpt, which was used for several Asian characters before, is just beyond my personal tolerance limits.

  10. For the green girl(I can’t remember her name) the phone case, shirt and laptop screen are all of the same character from Novi Starz, the computer makes it look like she’s “designing” the girl on her shirt but it’s so zoomed in it can be hard to tell at first.

    1. Whoa, great catch! I hope you're right, it definitely looks like that to me too now that you've pointed it out. I am really hoping to see more Novi Stars dolls so that just makes me more excited, haha.

  11. I had to buy Shanelle Onyx and was lucky to get her for $11. She's quite unique and stunning to dress in various outfits. I currently have her in the silver dress from the Naturlista's fashion pack - Culture Awards which really brings out her eyes. Thanks for the awesome review!

  12. Could it be cherry rather than strawberry for Victoria? The earrings and flower details on her shirt look like cherry blossoms to me!

  13. I have Lila Yamamoto, another doll with the interchangeable leg pieces, and her knees are also incredibly stiff. I wonder if they're extra-tight in order to help offset any extra wear-and-tear from swapping pieces? Except, now I'm worried I'll end up breaking something, haha!

    I've seen some people recommend heating the knees a bit with warm water or a hair dryer, though as I haven't tried it myself I'm not sure if that's a permanent fix, or if it would need repeating. For my own doll, I have managed to get her to pose like the other ones, but just by being incredibly slow/cautious in bending the joints.

    (Also! Victoria's lips and body blushing are made to look like how a lot of BJD faceups and body blushing are done - the lips are meant to be kind of like a heart shape! I haven't seen any of the newest line yet near me, but she's #1 on my list as soon as they show up ;u;)

  14. OK, so I'm hooked on Rainbow/Shadow High dolls too - and it's ALL YOUR FAULT! Thank you!

    I have many, many beautiful Tonner dolls in all sizes. I have Barbies and BJDs too. But these little technicolor beauties are my newest addiction! Their faces are so beautiful, their hair (when rinsed!) is fabulous and the outfits are incredible. I've been doing some whirlwind buying, so I'm caught up to the newest release. I'm eyeing the Maria Garcia Celebration Edition Día De Los Muertos doll.

    I don't "play" with my dolls much outside of fixing hair and an occasional outfit change, but they always feel a bit fragile to me. That's not a problem though, as I'm (supposed to be) an adult and they mainly just stand on the shelves looking gorgeous. I have to wonder how they hold up to serious play.

  15. Novi Stars! dang, that's a blast from the past. I'm 99% sure the image on the laptop is a closeup of the image on the tshirt and the waterbottle. Maybe she designed them herself?

    I also like these four a lot more than the ones you did earlier, and I think a huge part of that is that their clothes are no longer blanketed with brand names like the earlier releases. I think Meena is my fave of this bunch; everything she comes with looks amazing. But the space-suit jacket is fabulous, and the fact all the pockets work! *mutters about how it seems impossible that clothes for 12-inch dolls can be nicer than for 18-inch dolls and cost a fraction of the price* I imagine the clothes are a bit hard to mix and match between dolls, given the color themes, but you've got a big enough group I bet you could come up with some rad outfits. (Shanelle looks so good in that red dress!)

  16. Ohhh more RH/SH dolls, so happy! And I‘m glad you like them so much, even with the paint defects (I think every single doll of mine has a paint defect, sigh…).

    The last Rainbow high girl I bought was Natacha Zima on clearance and I hope to turn her into a ghost bride ;) I love her little claws.

    And wow, I would have completely overlooked Meena, I didn‘t even saw that she‘s Indian! But thanks to you I saw all the beautiful details 🥰

    And Victoria is stunning with all the freckles. But you are right about the weird lips. Never liked this kind of make up, also not on BJDs.

    And thank you for telling me that Delilah Fields has albinism, I never noticed her lashes! That‘s so cool!
    And she reminds me so much of Penelope Garcia from „Criminal Minds“ ❤️

  17. I have Shanelle and I sold the spare outfit right away to recoup some costs; I wish I hadn't now!

  18. Rainbow high is one of those things that's not quite for me, and I'm unlikely to collect, but my god I like looking at them! The amount of details, the planning, the tiny accessories, the diversity of ideas, it's pretty breathtaking!

    I'm mindblown at the outfits they make for these dolls, I understand the disappointment at being down to 1 outfit a doll, but I'm still left agag at that single outfit!

    My fav of this lit was probably zooey, for the same reasons you were drawn to her. That space themed is amazing, and just look at that jacket! And he colour theme! And Novi Stars? Nice to see those unusual cuties again, I wonder if this is a pleasant nod, or a tease?

  19. I initially missed the RH craze-I had purchased Ruby and Poppy Rowan cheap on Amazon, and while Poppy's butterfly themed items were cute I just couldn't quite get past the round ole eyes on either of them.

    Then your Georgia review and I was like, man, I REALLY want to like these girls but...

    And then I saw Nicole Steele on Instagram. Beautiful doll, one of my favorites of this size group. The holiday sales hit, few ebay used lots and now I have 9-10. Still waiting on my freckled girl to arrive , none of the new gen are at Target yet but I did get Olivia! She's gorgeous and if I dressed fashionable I'd wear her camo green style!

    Glad you got to enjoy these gals, I mourn the second outfit as well but heard it was little girls in a focus group that preferred accessories to play with, so I can't fault them.


  20. Emily, I can't remember... do you have Five Below near you? I was in one last night and picked up a little doll and a horse for her. They look to be the economical answer to Spirit toys. Anyway, it made me want to see you do a series of reviews on budget dolls from places like Five Below, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or similar stores.

  21. I am obsessed with Rainbow High and Shadow High. I have quite a collection. Emily, you should review the 24 inch My Runway Friend Amaya Raine. She is magnificent!

  22. Rainbow High Dolls Series 5 Dolls don't look like tham inperessions

  23. Agree These are Great Designs! You nailed it with Franky been inspiration for bnw!(: that half bnw doll was Big social media Star! temped me to sh as well!;) p.s be sure to check masquerade edt it also feat vamp & werewolf!;) Also Happy for articulation! Way to go MGA!💖✨👍🎉

  24. The more I read reviews of Rainbow High, the clearer I understand I just need one of this dolls! Beautiful faces, articulated bodies, clever designed clothes...
    The only thing that saves my wallet is the fact I don't know which doll to buy? They all are amazing!

  25. I could never quite get into Rainbow High's massive heads, but I honestly think it suits Zooey so well - she embodies the Novi Star look!

  26. I just got Victoria Whitman, and she's one of the most beautiful dolls in my collection. Photos don't do her justice, she's amazing and the cutest thing in real life. I think it's mostly because of the natural color in her lips, as well as the coloring around her body, as well as the freckles, that make her look so natural.
    I love her, definitely a must in any Rainbow High collection.