He has over 6,000 Barbie dolls

SINGAPORE - He's no Barbie girl.

But he is living in a Barbie world.

Mr Jian Yang, 33, owns over 6,000 Barbie dolls, making him one of the world's biggest Barbie collectors.

The largest collection, according to sources online, includes 15,000 different Barbie dolls, and belongs to a German woman.

Nevertheless, Mr Yang's dolls fill three rooms in his 1,500 sq ft terrace house in the Bartley area.

Even the floor of his bachelor pad is painted pink to match the dolls.

But not just any pink - "Pantone 219 C", Barbie's signature colour.

Displayed neatly in wall-to-wall glass cabinets, the dolls come in every outfit and hairstyle imaginable.

Some resemble celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Audrey Hepburn. Others look like characters from TV shows like Mad Men and Dynasty. Many are collectors' items still in their boxes.

There are also 50 books on Barbie including every issue of Barbie Bazaar, the official Barbie collector's magazine.

Mr Yang estimates that he has spent more than $500,000 on his dolls.

His interest started at 13, after he watched advertisements for Barbie on TV.

But she is now proud that her son has found joy from his unusual hobby.

Mr Yang said: "Initially, my parents hated my collection as boys just don't collect dolls. They even threw out my dolls!"

Initially, he himself was also embarrassed about his interest."I hid it from my parents and hated it when others called me names.

But he wasn't always confident in his hobby.

"I was afraid to buy dolls I liked, and slinked away whenever people gave me funny stares at the toy shop," he said.

"But as I grew older, I became more confident in myself and my hobby. Why should I have to explain my hobby to others? And why can't a man collect dolls?"

When he was 15, Mr Yang bought his first Barbie - a Scarlett O'Hara doll from the Gone With The Wind series.

When he started working, he spent half of his first pay cheque buying dolls.

He says: "Barbie dolls are not just about fashion. They have taught me about a lot about history and different cultures."

For charity

These days, he orders most of his dolls online. He also buys some at charity auctions and flea markets.

His most expensive doll cost him $3,600 at a charity auction in 2000.

"It might be a shocking amount to some, but the money was going to charity and I got a doll in return," he said.

Some dolls are presents from his friends, after their children have grown up.

He said: "Some kids might outgrow their dolls, but I don't think I'll ever outgrow my Barbies."

Not only does Mr Yang collect dolls, he also customises their faces.

First, he removes their painted features with nail polish remover, leaving a blank rubber face. Then he paints in the eyes, eyebrows and make-up with acrylic to create new looks.

He also knows how to curl the dolls' hair - by twirling it around a straw, dipping it in boiling water, and letting it dry.

He has also fashioned Ken dolls into miniature versions of himself, to reflect him at different stages of his life and jokingly calls them the "Me series".

Even as an adult, he embellishes his dolls on weekends as a form of "relaxation".

Says the former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic student: "Many people think my hobby is freaky and odd. But I am not a psycho. I don't play high tea with my dolls. Neither do I stroke their hair while I watch TV.

"When friends come over to my house, they see for themselves that customising Barbie faces is an art form, and they learn to appreciate it."

As the director of strategy for Ominicom Media Group Singapore, a media and communications company, Mr Yang's key job is to do market research into the toy industry.

Other than Barbie dolls, he also has over 1,000 Bratz dolls, 300 Monster High dolls, 350 Transformer robots and 35 Furbys.

He said: "I'm lucky that I work with toys. For me, work is really play.

"Life in plastic is certainly fantastic."

Barbie musical opening here

The first full-scale Barbie musical will premiere here next month.

The two-hour long show includes a cast of 19 performing about 15 songs, mostly dance numbers.

Mr Kobi Rozenfeld, the show's director, said the show is about bravery, confidence and true friendship.

Speaking over the phone from Los Angeles, he said: "The show is for people of all ages. Even if you don't know anything about Barbie, you'd be amazed by the talented cast and fantastic costumes."

After the premiere here, the show will tour for over 60 weeks to cities in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

WHAT: Barbie Live!

WHEN: Sept 10 to 14, 2.45pm & 6.45pm (Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday); 11am, 2.45pm & 6.45pm (Thursday & Saturday)

WHERE: MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

TICKETS: $125 (includes photo opportunity with cast), $95, $75, $55, $35 from Sistic. Call 6348-5555 or log on to www.sistic.com.sg.

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