A woman has been harassed online for her penchant for collecting lifelike ‘reborn’ dolls – which cost her thousands of pounds.
Raya, 22, a childcare worker from London, lives with her three “babies” Bellamy, Ottilie and Breen, with a fourth doll on the way.
In February, she bought her first reborn doll, Bellamy, which was sculpted in Germany and “brought to life” by an artist in the UK – and she’s been hooked on surrealism ever since creation.
She recalls being “obsessed” with dolls as a child, often asking for the latest dolls as gifts.
It’s now become a cult hobby and the young woman also uses them to photograph clothes and accessories for her small business.
Unlike many who buy reborn dolls to cope with the loss of a child, Raya collects them as works of art and loves to show off her incredibly realistic collection and her day-to-day work on caring for them on TikTok – her videos have amassed over 400,000 Opinion.
In the video – which Raya chose not to show her face – she shares a “morning routine” with the babies, including feeding, changing diapers and taking them to the car seat – which she says she does for fun.
But while there was some support from her non-traditional roommates, not everyone was so open.
Raya claims she was harshly criticized for “wasting” essential baby items, told she should be “divided” and even received death threats.
“I’ve had comments on my videos like ‘you need to be segmented’ or ‘this damn’ and I’ve even been told to ‘jump off a cliff,'” Raya told NeedToKnow.online.
“I think people are quick to judge some people they don’t know anything about.
“This hobby is not as common as others, so we always aim to be different.
“The respawn community also has a deep aversion to ‘wasting’ real baby stuff, but that’s not the case [most] us.
“We keep reusing and never throw anything away.
“All the baby stuff I collect will also go to my future real kids, and even if I’m not born again, I’ll still buy all the cute baby clothes because it’s something I love.
People are quick to pass judgment on someone they know nothing about.
“I do try not to let the hate get to me because at the end of the day, they don’t matter, they’re just things that I like.
“Outside of TikTok, dolls are displayed, not touched, not played with — they are a special collection.”
For part-time volunteers, she claims to have spent “a small fortune” on her collection, and while she does not want to reveal the total amount, the most expensive dolls can cost £5,000.
She said: “I only had a few bottles and pacifiers to use as props, so I didn’t buy much at all – but I like to buy more expensive baby clothes.
“I like unisex styles and there is always plenty of stock in the size I need. I do like high street stores, but there are far fewer stocks because of the affordable prices.
“I’ve spent thousands of dollars on baby clothes, but there are people in the community who collect more than I do because they’ve been collecting longer.
“The price range of reborn dolls is very large, the more realistic the more expensive.
“Of my three, Brynn was the most expensive because she was a long sold out limited edition kit.
“My parents always knew I was interested in dolls, so it wasn’t a surprise to them when I wanted to buy one.
“My mum always helps me pick out the cutest outfits while we’re shopping and helps me pose when needed.
“My dad said they were unbelievably real, he couldn’t believe the work in them, but he still supported my hobby.
“Both my grandmas love them when I bring them over because they jump at the chance of a baby cuddle.
“I’ve never been one to have a lot of friends, but my inner circle has always supported me and followed me on social media – and they’ve asked for pictures of them in their latest outfits.”
The Respawn community also has a deep aversion to “wasting” real baby stuff, but that’s not the case [most] us
In her most popular video, detailing Brynn’s baby morning routine, she shows the doll “wake up” before feeding and dressing her before taking baby out in her pram.
Users flocked to the comments to share their reactions, with many believing the baby was real while others couldn’t believe their eyes.
One said: “Really curious why you’re doing this?”
Another commented: “What baby isn’t real??!”
“I thought it was real,” one user said.
Another fan commented: “Where can I get an IM OBSSESSED.” [sic]
“What a cute baby, so beautiful,” said another.
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Raya said: “I also find a lot of positives online because I can talk to a lot of like-minded people and I don’t think people realize how big this community is. It’s all over the world and it’s full of amazing collections artist, artist and sculptor.
“I don’t stop often [in public] Because people think they are real. After I tell people they are dolls, they seem surprised. “
Now, she hopes to raise awareness of the time and effort put into Reborn dolls — especially since many people mistake them for toys.
She added: “Reborns are definitely not toys because they are works of art, very delicate and fragile.
“To make them feel like a real baby, they’re weighted with glass that doesn’t define the interior, and are only contained in a thin cloth.
“I wouldn’t let any kids near them.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much work goes into making them, and I hope they appreciate that more – they’re also often called ‘therapy’ dolls, which really takes away the artistic side.
“Each baby may take a few months to paint, and then there will be artists who continue to root hair on them by hand, which is so much fun.
“It’s unbelievable how many steps it takes to create a lifelike baby.”