Lanvin Mammy Doll

Is This $400 Lanvin Doll Really Anything More Than a Glammed Up Mammy?

Mom Jeanine
January 11, 2012


Good Question, hot topic, Jeanine Edwards, Toys

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Yesterday, a coworker sent me a link to these crazy $400 Lanvin dolls. She initially sent me this doll, but I was more alarmed when I looked down at the You May Also Like section and saw the black doll above. Umm, no Net-a-Porter, I don’t like.

Of course, the $400 price tag is ridiculous, but what’s even more insane is that the doll is basically a glammed up mammy. Sure, her apron is gone and she’s wearing a little more eye makeup, but there’s really no denying the likeness. From the red headscarf right down to the red lips, that is definitely a mammy.

Now in case you’re unfamiliar, the “mammy” is a stereotypical caricature of African American women that was popularized during the Jim Crow era. The sterotype goes that black women actually liked being slaves, loved their White families more than their own and loved serving their masters. Hence, the wide, red-lip smile that’s a staple on just about every mammy doll’s face. She’s just so darn happy with her lot in life.

For comparison’s sake, here are a few traditional mammy dolls:


Okay, so now that you’ve seen those, we can all agree this Lanvin doll is a mammy, right? Now I’d like to give both Lanvin and Net-a-Porter the benefit of the doubt and say there was no harm intended. But no. I’m not going to do that because there’s just no way they didn’t know this was a mammy doll. Maybe if they had chosen any other color besides red or removed the doll’s headwrap, then maybe I would have let things slide. But the Lanvin mammy doll is just too blatant.

Whether you’re African American or not, I think there’s something to be said about supporting companies that propagate degrading stereotypes about any group of people. Just like I take issue with people who get off watching other women fight and act crazy on reality shows or products that try to pass Swastikas off as harmless design, I think both Lanvin and Net-a-Porter should be sent a message that a doll like this isn’t ok. I would never buy this doll for myself, let alone my daughter.

But maybe that’s just me. What do you think? For one, would you spend $400 on a cloth doll? What about the fact that it’s basically a mammy doll? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Lori Z.
    January 11, 2012

  • I don’t know that I’m terribly offended by the doll. Maybe the silk of the Lanvin dress, that is supposed to be a miniature version of dresses they have on the market, makes it look more like a mammy dress. But the embroidery that the HIV-positive women of Swaziland did is rather nice. What I really hope is that at least $390 of each doll are going to those women, and not suppliers and fashion labels.

  • April Yedinak
    January 11, 2012

  • As a mom of black children I have to say this is horrifying, but I must admit I also find sock monkeys offensive. Sometimes I wonder if I am too sensitive.

  • Kelly Groves Scott
    January 11, 2012

  • I think she’s kind of cute. If she was in any other color you wouldn’t have given her a second glance. Another stupid “controversy” on MOMfinds

  • Cherry
    January 11, 2012

  • Who in the company thought this doll was OK to sell? Insensitive and offensive….yes, lost MY patronage…..double yes.

  • Karine
    January 11, 2012

  • Dear Michelle,

    I am also a bit surprised that Lanvin created such a doll which can be offensive to some Americans. This is far from being their best creation!
    As the owner of, I work closely with French designers to share some of their exquisite creations with the rest of the world. I don’t mean to defend them, but sometimes, they will come out with new products or concepts that are offensive for North Americans, while in their France, it is not viewed in the same light.

    Let me mention the Jours Après Lunes and the incident with their loungewear/lingerie for children. I have been selling this brand way before their provocative pictures went out (I had carefully chosen the models so that they were appropriate for the North American market). In France, I observed that there was no reaction towards these pictures. This is just to depict how 2 cultures can be so different.

    I know that Lanvin created the dolls in collaboration with a French charity. Each doll was intricately handcrafted by women from Swaziland living with HIV, and funds raised by the charity are used to support these women and their families. So their intention looks very good and I don’t think they intended this campaign to be provocative. It just seems like a dumb mistake of lack of cross-cultural sensitivity.

    On another note, it is interesting to point out that the dress is a small-scale replica of the Lanvin taffeta dress for girls which sells at over 800 dollars!
    One world, but so many nuances!

  • Julie Binder
    January 11, 2012

  • Does France (where Lanvin originates) have different norms of cultural sensitivity? There were a couple of photos of 10-year-old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau that would be culturally insensitive to Native Americans: in one, she was wearing a Native American feather headdress; in the other, she was wearing war paint.

    BTW other of her photos stirred the pot on sexualization of young girls.

  • Diane Friedman
    January 11, 2012

  • I am Caucasian and I am offended by this doll. Mum is British and grew up with golliwog dolls. Which this doll looks like. Mum has one and I hate it. I grew up hearing stories from my father and his parents about how blacks couldn’t do this and that and it was not a time they were proud of. I think Lanvin should rethink this doll and then make a donation to some charities.

  • Elyssa Heberle
    January 11, 2012

  • And Lanvin is required to check everything they do with some USA cultural committee? Maybe you are too USA-centric?

  • Zola Paul
    January 12, 2012

  • Lanvin needs to pull the dolls offf the shelves and apologize for that racist doll. If you had wanted it to be an africian american doll, you could have changes the body color. She looks like the dolls that were out for blacks when I was a child.. Maybe I need not buy any more of your products until I see what you will do.

  • Sandra
    January 12, 2012

  • I’m not African American and find this to be offensive. (Or, even if it weren’t offensive to me personally, I wouldn’t support a cause or a company that is not sensitive to race/ethnicity issues.) I don’t think it’s USA-centric to say that the doll is offensive. If Lanvin is selling these dolls in the US and are hoping to make money off of Americans, they do have the obligation to make sure it is not offensive to Americans. Otherwise, they risk losing business and respect and support. They’ve lost mine unless they issue some sort of statement that sufficiently explains their choice in creating and selling this doll.