Life As A Stunning, Self-Identifying Living Doll | Toshi Salvino

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Toshi Salvino, otherwise known as DollFille (Doll FEE), is a self-identifying Living Doll. Her body is her canvas and she uses style and shapeshifting to express how she’s feeling, which changes day-to-day! You can find her onInstagram, herFacebook Page, or her personalFacebook. You can also support her through herPatreon!

Was there a moment in time when you realized you were an artist?

I don't think there was a moment in time, I just always was. My mom said I did a little spin when I came into this world (LOL). I understood shapes and colors and feelings much better than I ever understood words from a very young age. I think I was around nine years old when I started my journey.

Tell us a little about your creative journey—how you got here.

Well, as a child I began dressing alternatively, studying Japanese, and discovering Harajuku street fashion. That was a major moment in my life around age nine. I realized that somewhere across the world there were other people who dressed the way I did, that somewhere I had a community. I went to public school for a while and didn't fit in at all and ended up going to an alternative "hippie school" called Upattinas, where creativity and the odd children were encouraged to chase their dreams. It was pivotal in my development to be able to go somewhere so accepting! They even had Japanese classes there, where I found my core friends who I ended up going to anime conventions with, which we still do to this day! I changed from wanting to be an artist, to a fashion designer, to a circus freak. My passions were all over the place, meanwhile, I was always dying my hair and wearing belts across my chest and tutus and mismatching shoes and painting fairy language on my face and wearing bright red-orange clown cheek blush and lipstick like Queen Amidala from Star Wars.

Photographer: @katrin_albert

Going to anime conventions showed me that lots of other people had all of these passions and were mixing them all together into one amazing thing. I guess you could say I have my roots in Cosplay and being a weird goth nerd kid! I ended up graduating high school a year early and since art school was too expensive, I went to Cosmetology school so I could start working as early as possible while selling paintings on the side. This lead me to my first makeup job while I was still in school at age 17 or 18, at a haunted attraction called Pennhurst Asylum. I was also an actress there, where Toshi The Doll Girl was born! I had worn dresses matching my dolls and started collecting BJDs (Ball Jointed Dolls) since I was 13, but this was the first time I really turned myself into one fully and would paint on the doll joints that I now have as tattoos. It really clicked, and my character became very popular for people to take photos with me at the haunt. I think this is where my Instagram picked up since so many people would take photos and tag me. People have taken photos with me all my life for my alternative style of dressing, but something about the WOW factor of the big doll eye makeup really started something. I began wearing the white face and big eyes with my alternative fashion looks as well as with my costume, and thus this version of myself has evolved from there! I feel so lucky to have had the journey I did. I even have worked with and am friends with the Japanese designer that I first saw in that magazine when I was so young. The world is wild and super small! I feel very lucky to have had such an incredible adventure for one life.

What was your first “makeup moment” and what do you wear today?
I remember distinctly getting some Sky Blue lipstick from a neighbor girl I used to play with when I was about nine or ten. My mom was ok with my goth belts and chokers and striped socks and pink hair, but when makeup started she said I was too young. I wore it anyway and got in so much trouble! I put it on at school and forgot to take it off.  I'm a very goody-two-shoes type of girl so it must have really made an impression in my young mind that that's how I really wanted my face to look for me to be "bad" and wear it. I still think blue lipstick is my absolute favorite color on me today <3 So it really was a magical thing.

When you get ready in the morning, what is the first thing you think about? Makeup or outfit?

Actually, It's normally the outfit first. I used to freak out without makeup, but now that I am a doll permanently, I feel more comfortable being blank. My expression just has not been painted onto me yet. And sometimes it's ok to just be a canvas and wait for the day to give you something to express.

Where do you find most of your clothing and/or accessories for your amazing looks?

Honestly, most of my clothes are second hand! I LOVE thrifting and it's so satisfying to find a good piece. I want to get back into editing and designing my own stuff, but until then, I try to support my friends who are independent designers by modeling and promoting their clothes for them. I have such talented friends! :D  I've also shopped at Hot Topic and the clearance section of Target and Forever 21 all my life. They've actually got some great stuff! And it was a total dream come true for Hot Topic to sponsor me! I'm very grateful to be able to be an influencer for some of my favorite brands on Instagram too. The world is so wild that sometimes I can't believe that I've become like the girls I always idolized as a kid and get free stuff sometimes holy cow. Thank you universe! OwO

You are a ball of sunshine and rainbows and turn heads everywhere you go. What is your favorite thing about being a living doll?

LOL that's funny since I am most often extremely depressed. I think I try to make things come off sparkly and happy and magicalbecauseI've been depressed my entire life, and growing up on a steady feed of Kawaii and Magical Girl anime I always am like "GANBATTE!" - a phrase that means "I'll do my best"! I want to show other sad little kids that it's ok to be sad and it's really important to relish the happy moments, and appreciate the bad ones because they make the happy ones even more special (something I learned from Sailor Moon. I'm such a dweeb). I just always want to grow and get better and help others along the way. I think my favorite thing about being me is how many people have reached out and said that I have helped them just by being myself; although sometimes I don't understand what they could possibly mean, if I could help someone else feel confident or explore their own identity just by putting myself out there, I'm really honored. <3

Is there a specific toy doll that you based your look off of, or is it all out of your own imagination?
It's all me, my inspiration is normally how I feel that day. However, I have been obsessed with Ball Jointed Dolls my entire life so you could say that just BJDs in general and all of the incredible artists that paint them have inspired me. I also always loved Bratz Dolls and Polly Pockets as a child, so I feel like they probably helped too.

Out of the hundreds of makeup looks you’ve done, which one has been the hardest look for you?

To be honest, probably a "no makeup, makeup" with simple, clean red lipstick and Eyebrows! Normal makeup is so fucking hard! Since it's so simple it has to be perfect and you really notice the imperfections and when things aren't symmetrical and the blending has to be just right and not look too heavy but also like not look unbalanced and ahh. I got anxiety just thinking of that LOL. Since I shave mine off (F*ck EyebrowsTM), I have to totally draw them in and eyebrows make me look like a huge bitch. It's funny because the last two times I broke up with someone I had drawn eyebrows on that day. It makes me think of when Mr.Potato Head is like “Here are my angry eyes!” All and all, normal stuff: not my cup of tea.

Tell us, what made you become a hairstylist?
Uh... I needed money and I was good at it. I'm just accepting now that I can do whatever the fuck I want and that there is SOMEHOW a way to make a living doing it. I loved being a stylist but I'm honestly ready to switch careers. I'm starting to only take personal clients and focus on being a Living Doll and artist/model full time.

Do you think the concept of hair can be something positive and negative?
I think hair is a very dramatic thing, and it can express so much while being really simple. It's kind of nuts! Plus I have always been fascinated by the cultural relevance. For example: when a couple breaks up, you cut your hair really short! Or when you're going f*cking nuts and you cut your bangs at 3 am. I think it's a universal experience and I love how it's a kind of crazy thing, but so many people do it. It brings people together <3 or tears them apart if you fuck up a haircut for someone. Luckily I've only done that a few times in the past :). So yes, hair is all over the place. That’s probably why I want to get away from it. I love being able to help people, but it's a very drastic and very important way to shape and explore yourself, so it can be dangerous. It's a huge responsibility being someone’s hair stylist. You have to really know the person and understand them deep down and I don't want that responsibility (I have a lot of anxiety).

Living in NYC brings out a world of interesting and different people from all walks of life. You can’t really find any other place like it. How has your lifestyle as a “Living Doll” been affected by your life in NYC? Good or bad?

Life in NYC is oh my GAWD. Amazing. Horrible. Exciting! Too exciting and scary! Oh, it’s boring. Just kidding! It’s great and it's all over the place. I am very thankful for all of the incredible opportunities, people, and communities I have met and been a part of there. But I'm a woodland fairy girl at heart. I'm always torn if I should move away from the city and come back home to live in the woods inPennsylvaniaand just travel a lot, or if I should hash it out and stay. Most of the most magical moments in NYC happen completely randomly by happenstance through a friend of a friend at an odd hour in some unexpected place. So, I'm really hesitant to make any decisions. *Sigh* It's a really big struggle for me to live there, my mental health is pretty fragile and it's a constant battle for me to live there. It sucks the life out of me one day and fully restores it other days, just to give you another whirlwind two days later. But it's been incredibly eye-opening. Showing me that I really can make a living doing my art and it's a great challenge to make myself proud of me. I love it but hate it at the same time. I do absolutely love how everyone pretty much ignores you though (LOL)! When I go home people always stop me and talk to me or pull up in their car or are like OMG You look wild!” and I'm like "ahhhh!" I love that in NYC, even the wildest is just super normal. We all fit in there because we're all so different and I think that's super beautiful.

Is there a relationship between your identity (queer/gender/ethnicity/otherwise) and the work you make?

Oh my God, yes! Before I decided to be a doll permanently, I was still dressing up, often times due to compulsion relating to dysmorphia. Having such a varied and every changing personal identity I think is why I decided to be a doll, it means that my body is my canvas, and it's ok for that to stay the same even though the feelings inside are changing. There's at least that one consistent thing. So, maybe Toshi is just the name of my Doll, of my Shell, my Body. I have about ten alter egos that I regularly switch through, quite a few of them are male, some versions of myself are full on lesbian, some are straight up horrible monster demons, cats, some are children, not even human. It depends on the day. Sometimes, I can switch through identities simply from hour to hour. So yes, I'd say it has absolutely everything to do with it!

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