“I’m a one-man doll show.”
That’s not normally a declarative you hear from an adult man that makes you want to ask more questions. But then again, you don’t normally happen upon an Instagram feed like cyguy83’s, where the bio reads “Doll Maker, artist, Motherf*cking sorcerer” and the account features Barbies that have been transformed into frighteningly accurate tiny celebrity replicas. These weren’t just toys. They were tributes.
“I am obsessed with creating a perfect likeness when I am making celebrity dolls,” says cyguy83, whose first name is Cyrus. “I will keep working on a doll until I am really satisfied with it. These are one-of-a-kind, and each doll takes me about a week to create, with some of the more complicated ones taking several weeks.”
Cyrus’ love of dolls runs deep. He’s been collecting toys since he was four years old, and he credits his artist mother with always encouraging his creative inclinations. He started out by drawing pictures of friends during the slow hours at his unfulfilling retail job, and got into making the dolls because he was dissatisfied with the stock options available to him.
Looking at the meticulousness of his creations, it’s easy to see why Cyrus found the Toys “R” Us-level options lacking. That Hasbro stuff is truly some basic shit compared to his voodoo-specific replicas. To perm the hair, he boils it and then styles it with gel. All the outfits are hand-sewn. By him. For “portraits,” he delicately poses their plastic limbs in front of character-specific backgrounds. Katniss Everdeen stands in front of a tiny wall of flames in her transforming Capitol gown. Madeline Ashton (you know, the role Meryl Streep played in Death Becomes Her) wears a silk peplum top in front of an opulent, one-dimensional hallway printed on photo-quality paper.
Most of the Cyguy dolls are women and most of those are Madonna – Rebel Heart Madonna, 1995; Versace Photoshoot Madonna, 1991; LA premiere of Truth or Dare Madonna; A League Of Their Own Madonna. Desperately Seeking Susan Madonna even has the right teeth! (And let’s just kick back to the part about the clothes being hand-sewn.)
These days, he explains, he works almost entirely on commission. He’s a “big Madonna fan” himself, but she is also his most popular request from clients. And Cyrus says there are lots of clients—enough to build up weeks-long backlogs at times—paying somewhere between $250 and $1500 for his creations.
But don’t be blue if you’re not a Material Girl fan. His Old Hollywood collection is flat out uncanny—-as though he shrunk down Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Veronica Lake and Audrey Hepburn to keep them forever in conversation inside a Golden Age of Cinema diorama. You know, for those nights when you just have to re-watch Humoresque. And he’s even got an array of super heroes on display, with a newly minted Gal Gadot Wonder Woman (there’s a Linda Carter version in the archive, as well) and Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (because, yes, we are calling Rey a super hero).
If you’re wondering whether Cyrus is creating these dolls during his lunch hour at a boring 9 to 5, the answer is no. There is, blessedly, an Internet full of obsessed people out there who’ve helped Cyrus turn his hobby into a full time job. “It has basically taken over my life,” he explains. “They sell well and my profession as a doll artist, creator, mad scientist is something that I am really passionate about.”
To devote yourself to this kind of job, you’d have to be passionate about it. An intensely honed skill set and eagle-eye attention to detail are required, but the subtle distinctions Cyrus finds in his subjects’ faces can only be the product of total devotion to the work. And that’s what gives his dolls their surprising life. He’s somehow managed to put light behind their plastic eyes.
“I am definitely in love with this craft,” says Cyrus. “I can’t see myself doing anything else now.”