The iconic Barbie Brandy doll first dropped in 1999. The doll -- and, frankly, Brandy herself -- meant a lot to little black girls everywhere at that time. Brandy's wholesome image, relatable R&B records, and hit sitcom Moesha made her a huge role model. The doll in her image meant that little girls of color could have a toy that actually looked like them to play with.
Brandy's impact on black millennials is undeniable, and there are several social media accounts dedicated to the various facets of her cultural imprint. I've seen accounts highlighting everything from her vocal dexterity, to her understated sex appeal and, of course, her greatest songs and performances.
However, the Instagram account @4everbarbiebrandy has not only captured the nostalgia of owning (and dressing) a Barbie Brandy doll, but the essence of the singer herself. It's as if the account has created an alternate universe in which Brandy is actually a doll sharing her life in LA for all her fans to see. It's one of the dopest tributes to Brandy's legacy I've ever seen. MTV News reached out to the creator of the 'Barbie Brandy' to learn more about the process behind transforming the doll into a social media sensation.
At First, @4everBarbieBrandy Was a #TBT GemTyren Redd/Instagram/YouTube
LA-based photographer Tyren Redd created the account a year ago as a "creative outlet." The account, with almost 15,000 followers to date, quickly took off with die-hard Brandy fans for obvious reasons (I mean, clearly, his throwback game is no joke).
"The next thing you know everybody starts tagging Brandy on all the pictures [like] ‘You have to see this, you have to see this!’ Guess what? She eventually saw it," Redd said. And when she did, she reached out on social media.
"She sent me the most endearing DM that I’ve ever gotten," Redd revealed. She even invited him to New York City last summer to see her perform as Roxie Hart in the Broadway play Chicago. It was there that he finally got to meet the woman he's admired since childhood. Redd's magical encounter with Brandy inspired him to take the Instagram account in a new direction and push it to the next level. "When I started the page, it was only going to be the ’90s," he said, but now his Barbie Brandy mirrors the Grammy award–winning singer/actress in, as he put it, "real time."
Redd is Barbie Brandy's One-Man Glam SquadMatthew McNulty/Getty Images/Tyren Redd/Instagram
As the creative director and photographer for the account, Redd goes all out to keep the authenticity of the doll going. He travels with Barbie Brandy, has custom clothing made for the doll, creates mini props, and even makes wigs to keep up with the real singer's many different hairstyles; all in an effort to make the doll "feel genuine."
It can sometimes take a full night to prepare the outfits and wigs for the doll's next post, but for Redd it's more than just a labor of love: he sees a lot of power in the message that Barbie Brandy stands for. It has not only thrown many Brandy fans back to her "baby Bran" era of box braids and funky, trend-setting outfits, it's inspired people from all over to see the beauty in women of color.
Barbie Brandy Expands the Definition of BeautyTyren Redd/Instagram
"There are some people from other countries who have followed the page, and maybe some people don’t even know who Brandy is, but they’re like, ‘Oh, look at this pretty black Barbie!’ Seeing that kind of stuff is really, really cool," Redd told me.
Followers of the account think Redd has several Brandy dolls, but he said he only has one, which was a gift from a friend in high school. Ten years later, he has (literally) shared his gift with the world and has no intention of stopping.
"I’m obsessed with the idea of a phenomenon," Redd admitted. With all of the attention he's been getting from fans -- devoted and casual alike -- plus praise and blessings from Brandy herself, he's certainly well on his way to creating a phenomenon all his own.