“Do these dolls look familiar to you?” This question was posed by founding member Zonnique Pullins of award-winning NAACP girl group OMG Girlz to her 3.4 million Instagram followers on April 18. The question was accompanied by a photo carousel highlighting the striking similarities between the OMG Girlz aesthetic and the LOL Surprise! OH MY GOD. (Outrageous Millennial Girls) Dolls. Pullins and her mother, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle Harris, a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, are now accusing MGA Entertainment, the parent company of LOL Surprise! and OMG Dollsto plagiarize their aesthetics and likeness.
Harris, of multi-platinum girl group Xscape, formed OMG Girlz in 2009 and signed the girl group to her Pretty Hustle label in 2011. OMG Girlz were known for their colorful hair and quirky custom clothing. The band’s carefully selected stage and red carpet looks can be seen recreated almost identically on the OMG Dolls seasons 1-3 and dance dance dance collections. In a bold move, dance dance dance from MGA Entertainment L.O.L Surprise doll collection features the main character called “major queen“, with physical characteristics particularly similar to those of Mrs. Harris. Who is also called Major Girl on all social platforms. In addition, the “major queenThe doll is accompanied by three others with an unmistakable resemblance to Ms. Harris’ Xscape bandmates.
Since the release of LOL Surprise! dolls in 2016, the toys were a hit in stores and with young children. Yet this successful brand from toy impresario Isaac Larian has a habit of commodifying the plagiarized likeness of black women.
In June 2020, Isaac Larian, who runs MGA Entertainment, called influencer Amina Mucciolo “a disgrace to black people and the BLM cause” after Mucciolo accused the company of copying her image. In a statement to BuzzFeed, Mucciolo said, “The first thing I noticed was an exact replica of a hairstyle I did to celebrate my 35th birthday,” she said. “It was aqua with rainbow highlights, and it was shocking because the hairstyle was a result of my imagination and leftover hair I had from the previous style I wore. I didn’t have visual reference or whatever, so it was disturbing to see something that came straight from my mind being duplicated on a toy that I had no part in creating.”
Similar to the hostility encountered by Amina Mucciolo, after calling Isaac Larian and LOL Surprise! Ms Harris faced legal hostility after contacting the brand to find a solution.
Tameka “Tiny” Harris sat down for an exclusive interview to talk about the lawsuits, potential damages from alleged trademark infringement, and the ongoing battle to protect the likeness and intellectual property of black creatives.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
For Culture: How did you learn of the alleged trademark infringement by Isaac Larian and LOL Surprise!
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: Someone asked me if OMG Girlz had any dolls available in the store. I told him no and immediately started looking into it and researching the company. I realized that the OMG dolls created looked identical to the OMG Girlz. I couldn’t believe that dolls were made in their image, and I didn’t know it.
For Culture: What stood out to you the most when you first saw OMG dolls?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: It was the dolls’ outfits that struck me, and that’s how I knew they were infringing on our brand. One outfit in particular stood out to me because I personally designed the outfit for the OMG Girlz tour. It’s not something I picked up in the store. So for their doll to wear the exact outfit, I knew they had stolen it.
For Culture: How do you feel seeing this company blatantly using your image?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: I already knew we were on a lawsuit with them over the OMG Girlz. Then in 2020 they released a “Major Lady” doll, and I felt disrespected and played with it. Of course, everyone knows that my name has been “Major Girl” for a while. The “Major Lady” doll even had an Xscape-like quartet group, which I thought was a bit too much.
For Culture: What legal action has been taken?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: I spoke with the girls and their mothers about what we found with the dolls. We were initially excited because the LOL dolls are a big problem and I thought maybe we could find a solution. I sat down with my lawyer and decided to send a cease and desist. They immediately complained to me. They didn’t respond or try to sit down and talk. So I counterattacked.
For Culture: Have you spoken with Bahja, Breaunna and Zonnique? What do they think?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: We had conversations about it. At the end of the day, we all don’t want to see this man enjoying something we created, built, and worked hard for. But, while doing my research, I noticed that he didn’t just do it to us but to other black influencers. He [Larian] prides himself that people can’t fight him in court because he’s a billionaire. I feel like he got away with taking our culture because no one can fight him.
For Culture: How would you like this resolved?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: Hopefully they will find that there has been copyright infringement and acknowledge it. I would also like to collect the residue from the dolls they have sold and be part of the process of creating future dolls.
For Culture: Does seeing this happen to your daughter and nieces affect you as a mother and aunt?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: It’s horrible. I am not only a business woman, but the mother and aunt of the girls in the group. So to see someone who has nothing to do with what we’ve built comes to take us away just because you’re a billionaire, it’s unfair.
For Culture: Did you or OMG Girlz suffer any damages as a result of the breach?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: It’s unfortunate because creating a doll is something we really wanted to do as a group. We were in talks and meetings to create what the girls wanted the dolls to look like. So seeing someone else being able to manifest what we wanted to do without consulting us or reaching out to partner with us is detrimental.
For Culture: What can black creatives learn from this situation?
Tameka “Tiny” Harris: This has been happening since the dawn of time. Historically, many black musicians would have hit songs, and they would have cut the record with a white artist, and the original wouldn’t have had a dime. I hope there is a better future for everyone. So everyone can get what they rightly deserve, and companies love LOL Surprise! won’t try that with the next person.
The looting, talents, ideas and likeness of black people are not new; rather badly expected. In a 1971 article, the New York Times criticized the Beatles for the iconic band’s practice of “ripping off” black musicians of the era. Now, in 2022, black artists, creators and entrepreneurs still face the fate of big business stealing their creative and intellectual property, with Tameka “Tiny” Harris and members of OMG Girlz at the center demanding justice.