The Lil G Dolls creator in her home studio.
Photo Courtesy Moncerrat Reyes
For almost two years, Moncerrat Reyes has been cranking out custom-made dolls in her home in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. And because she’s savvy about how she markets her Lil G dolls on the Internet, her products, which include necklace pendants and masks, have made it around the world and become cool items for people who are into Chicano culture — or maybe just like eerie-looking custom toys.
This happens to include people in Houston and all over Texas.
Recently, though, the demand has exploded for the baby-faced dolls outfitted with ominous clown faces and fitted with custom-made street gear. The dolls sometimes sport face tattoos; other times they are made up to represent certain car clubs or sports teams.
In a word, they are gangsta dolls, but they represent a certain style and a certain culture familiar to Chicanos throughout the U.S.
“I think that a lot of people, they say that I’m glorifying gangsters and a wrong kind of style. We grew up wearing Nike Cortez, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re criminals, you know? We’ve been judged since the Pachuco days about how we dressed,” Reyes says from her home studio while working on dozens of orders.
She has a staff of about five people who help her, from the woman she hires to sew the baby Dickie suits and hoodies to the kids from the neighborhood she hires to help paint the dolls’ faces. Her staff also includes an assistant who helps her stay on track with her orders, and her husband, who has helped her cast the molds for the tiny sneakers she slips on the dolls’ feet.
And it’s hard to believe that Reyes, who describes herself as an illegal immigrant, never took an art class in her life. She says she became a mom at 15 and dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Trips to the library while caring for her kids, where she started checking out books on things like…