Sat, Mar 30, 2013 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Grown men show passion for dolls

By Chang Chia-yu and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Joseph Ma, a regular guest on entertainment talk shows and a former member of the now-disbanded boy band Red Hot Boy, poses with part of his Hello Kitty collection earlier this month.

Photo: Shen Yi-chia, Taipei Times

Three grown men working in the entertainment and design industries have recently showcased their extensive collections of “girly toys,” showing that men can also enjoy playing with dolls.

The 42-year-old Joseph Ma (馬國賢), a regular guest on entertainment talk shows and a former member of the now-disbanded boy band Red Hot Boy (紅孩兒), said that since he was a junior-high school student he has been going to Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) to search for imported dolls and stuffed animals.

Influenced by of one of his former girlfriends, Ma said he began focusing his attention on Japanese cartoon icon Hello Kitty and started collecting literally everything featuring the cutesy cat, from stationery to home appliances.

Rather than fading over time, Ma’s craze for Kitty has only grown and has spurred him into amassing more high-end products depicting the cat, such as timepieces and golf sets.

As far as Ma is concerned, his love for Hello Kitty is second only to his family and girlfriends, and his collection therefore rightly deserves an exclusive display cabinet in his living room.

To put his ideas into action, Ma this year custom-made the cabinet for his surprisingly large collection of items, saying he could now get rid of any bad moods simply by admiring his nicely displayed Hello Kitty dolls.

The cartoon character also inspires him to work harder, because by doing so he can afford to buy more Hello Kitty-themed items to put on display, Ma added.

Ma used to hide his “collectomania” from the public, saying it is just a hobby and that different people have different preferences.

“Some women may find men who play with Hello Kitty effeminate and repelling, but there is no denying that my experience in selecting products featuring the cartoon cat has in a way improved my grasp of what women want as gifts,” Ma said.

After his infatuation with the cat was exposed on TV entertainment talk shows, Ma’s craze for the Kitty dolls turned out to be such a hit with audiences that it has opened up more career opportunities for the veteran entertainer, including an invitation for him to showcase his collection at the birthplace of his beloved cat — Japan.

Meanwhile, for 51-year-old Taiwanese fashion designer Goji Lin (林國基), who has more than 2,000 Barbie dolls, the big-eyed, blond-haired and strangely proportioned plastic dolls are fashion muses, rather than stereotypically feminine toys.

Lin said his obsession with Barbie dolls dates back to when he was in junior-high school and fell in love with a ballet Barbie doll flaunted by the brother of one of his classmates at school.

However, for a child of a family that was not very well-off, the pricey dolls seemed out of reach.

Lin said that it was only when he was an adult and traveled to the US that he came across his “first love” and purchased his very first Barbie doll.

From then on, Barbie dolls became a sort of visual record of his overseas trips, Lin said, because he buys a doll every time he travels.

This helps him preserve the memories of each place and country he has visited, ranging from a small town close to Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a flea market in New York, to a boutique shop in Paris.

Most importantly, Lin said, his dolls are his constant muses in his work as a fashion designer.

“The costumes of Barbie dolls encapsulate the fashion trends that marked the time when each of them was manufactured. Even today, most of the outfits are very up-to-date,” Lin said.

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