Search for NZ's Living Doll beauty

04:12, Aug 08 2014
Sophia Lee

Sophia Lee, of Christchurch-based Living Dolls, is staging an alternative model search this weekend, featuring 15 contestants.

''The winner will be crowned Miss Diamond Doll,'' explains Sophia Lee, the pink-tressed CEO of Living Dolls.

''The winner will win loads of prizes and grace the runway at the annual Living Dolls show, Doll Bomb, in October.''

These 15 contestants are not typical examples of beauty.

Lee describes the event as one of New Zealand's first alternative pageants.

''There are no restrictions at all. We are celebrating beautiful, confident women who are comfortable in their own skin.''


Lee, a pink-loving couture designer of lingerie and burlesque outfits, has run Living Dolls shows in Christchurch for more than seven years.

''Girls like Bonita Danger Doll started at Living Dolls. We are quite underground and a lot of people don't know about us.''

Lee is aware of the stigma attached to the word pageant. ''A lot of the time pageantry is about what you look like but with this competition it's really not. I'm proud of the diversity we have,'' Lee says.

''A living doll is a woman who projects in a crowd. She has a sparkling personality, she is well presented and polished. She's an it girl, you know a Living Doll when she walks in the room.''

Hosted by Cassie Law, Miss Ink South Island 2012, the 15 contestants will vye to become Miss Diamond Doll, the newest addition to the Living Dolls group.

''We have our core group, who are very experienced, so we thought we'd get one lucky last contestant to be a Living Doll,'' Lee says.

''When you arrive on Saturday night you'll see roaming lingerie models who are there to host the evening.

"There will be three rounds to the competition. The first is like a Victoria Secret-style fashion show, then there's the talent round and then they parade in gowns.''

For their ''talent'', entrants will rap, sing, do burlesque, disco, circus acts, and even live tattooing. ''It's very colourful.''

Other entertainment for the evening includes pop-up stalls, a mini fashion show by Medicine Wolf Clothing, modelled by the Living Dolls, and a burlesque performance by Bonita Danger Doll.

''Bonita is performing her new routine,'' Lee says. ''Wild cat.''

Judges alongside Lee include local drag queen, Jordaniel aka Miss Idol, Miss Nikki Needles, Juanita of Sugar Skulls Confectionary and centrefold model and Australian-based fashion designer, Jackel, who has recently released a rap single called The Realest Bitch.

''The winner gets signed up to Living Dolls for a year which means they will be on our books and get assignments,'' Lee says. ''They win 24 carat gold candy floss, a custom-made Diamond Doll cake, a tattoo voucher, a photoshoot voucher and tons of other goodies.

''They also get the crown, it's a very big crown, and we'll probably throw glitter at her.''

Lee was surprised at the high number of entries this year.

Ticket sales to the event have been so high she moved the show to a larger venue.

''Contestants range in age from 18 to 35 and are all shapes and sizes, and so far from the commercial confinements of what beauty is defined as.

''We had 86 online entries, the 15 girls with the most Facebook likes went through to the finals. I thought we might get 20 or 30 girls, not 86.''

For Lee the event is also about changing attitudes around what it means to be beautiful.

''There is so much stigma attached to the way women dress and how they are perceived because of the way they dress. I want to encourage women to be confident, to not be afraid to show skin, to show a bit of cleavage. It's OK to wear lipstick and makeup. Sparkle.

''A lot of women are discriminated against for having tattoos, too. Living Dolls is about celebrating all women.''

Lee has worked in the fashion industry for more than 10 years and says she finds her job gratifying.

''I have restored confidence in some women and helped hundreds of women to feel beautiful. I am proud of my art, it goes beyond aesthetics.''

She encourages those who attend the show on Saturday night to dress up too.

''There'll be lots of glitz. Walk in wearing a tutu and you'll fit right in.''


Miss Diamond Doll 2014 at The Bedford at CPSA, 126 Madras St, Saturday 8.30-11.30pm. R18. Tickets, $20 plus booking fee, from Cosmic Ticketing. Door sales available.

The Press