Baby Dolls Merline Kimble and Connie Abdul-Salaam arrive at Southern University New Orleans

You’re not going to meet a more eloquent and dynamic group of old-school New Orleanians than the Baby Dolls.

Baby Doll Janice Kimble makes her entrance at Southern University New Orleans

Earlier this week, a handful of the ladies took the dais at Southern University in New Orleans 9th Ward at the request of Baby Doll scholar Kim Vaz-Deville.

Baby Dolls Denise Trepagnier, Rosalind Theodore and Connie Abdul-Salaam at Southern University New Orleans

Deville led a 90 minute discussion on the myth and folklore related to the Baby Doll tradition with Merline Kimble, Janice Kimble, Denise Trepagnier, Vanessa Thornton, Connie Abdul Salaam, Dianne Honore aka Gumbo Marie, and Rosalind Theodore representing the various Baby Doll groups. Merline Kimble mentioned that 17 different Baby Doll orders took to the streets at last years Mardi Gras.

Baby Doll Vanessa Thornton at Southern University New Orleans

New Orleans knows and loves Vaz-Deville as she is the leading historian on the Baby Doll tradition and has devoted countless hours to documenting their heritage via two books: “The ‘Baby Dolls’ Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition” and “Walking Raddy: The Baby Dolls of New Orleans”

Her scholarship is rigorous and exacting but her books are a breeze to read; they’re page-turners.

Baby Dolls Rosalind Theodore, Denise Trepagnier, Merline Kimble, Diane Honore, Connie Abdul Salaam and Vanessa Thornton at Southern University New Orleans

The baby dolls left their riding crops, pistols and baby bottles filled with booze at the house and instead spent their time in front of the crowd sharing what it means to be a baby doll in modern New Orleans.

Baby Doll Merline Kimble cutting up at Southern University New Orleans

Merline Kimble is one of the leaders of the baby doll renaissance. She spoke passionately about reviving the tradition to honor her grandmother Louise Recasner Phillips (RIP) who was one of the original Gold Diggers Social Aid and Pleasure Club members (formed in 1933). She was joined by sister Janice who was recruited into the baby doll fold by Miss Antoinette K-Doe in the early aughts.

Baby Doll Denise Trepagnier at Southern University New Orleans

The baby dolls live by a “show up and show out” philosophy and they did just that at SUNO. When the DJ hit the music at the start of the conference, the gals erupted through a side door and sashayed across the conference room to the delight of the assembled throng.

Baby Doll Vanessa Thornton at Southern University New Orleans

This could only happen in New Orleans.

I noticed that a video was being taped of the baby doll conference. If I can dig it up online I’ll make sure and post it. Ms Vaz-Deville in on Facebook and I suggest you follow her if you’d like to keep up with the comings and goings of the various baby doll contingents.

Her books are available at Community Book Center on Bayou Road in Mid-City.

Baby Dolls Rosalind Theodore, Vanessa Thornton and Professor Kim Vaz-Deville at Southern University New Orleans

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>