Monster High welcomes a new student in honor of Day of the Dead! Her name? Skelita Calaveras!
The Mattel owned line of dolls features characters based off creatures like Frankenstein’s monster, Medusa and Dracula – all of whom attend Monster High as students. Skelita is one of the first international transfer students. Created by Mexican-American doll designer, Natalie Villegas, Skelita is the daughter of Los Eskeletos, and her heritage is rooted in Día de los Muertos.
I had the opportunity to ask doll designer, Natalie Villegas a few questions. Here’s what she had to say!
Interview with Natalie Villegas
SB: I love that this doll is joining the Monster High collection for Día de los Muertos! … I understand that even though you’re Mexican-American, you didn’t begin celebrating Day of the Dead until adulthood. What do you love about the holiday? What are your favorite Día de los Muertos traditions?
Natalie: I grew up in a Chicano Catholic household and reclaimed some lost Mexican/Latino traditions as I grew older. Although I celebrated All Saint’s Day/All Soul’s day in Catholic school, it wasn’t until later that I connected with Día De Los Muertos celebrations. Once I realized how connected I felt to the rituals and celebrations of my past heritage and ancestors, I embraced it and made it part of my life. As Latinos feel less dominated by popular culture we are able to bring on our own perspectives and participate as equals and not feel ashamed of how unique and different our heritage is. As a child you can’t really decide what traditions you will honor, but as adult I choose to not only keep myself informed about my cultural heritage but also adapt it to my modern life.
The things I love most about Día de los Muertos are the ancestral and cultural ties, as well as the celebration among friends and family for those who are longer with us. In addition, I love the beautiful aesthetic. I’m drawn to the colors, patterns, and textures. As you can tell, these visual cues were a huge inspiration when I created Skelita for Monster High.
One of the most important traditions of Día de los Muertos is one of my favorites. I love to prepare the ofrenda, or altar. The altar consists of photographs of loved ones who have passed foods (favorites of family/friends who have passed), flowers, and anything else that may have been significant to loved ones. My second favorite tradition is one that I created for myself. I love to “dress up” and create costume like outfits that mix the traditional Mexican culture with modern fashion for Día De Los Muertos festivals that I attend.
SB: When I was little I used to play with Barbies for hours with my little sister. I never had a doll like Skelita. I’m trying to imagine how I would have incorporated her into our imaginary world! Do you guys do focus study groups? How do kids play with a doll like Skelita and her Monster High friends who are so different than the other Barbies? … How do children not familiar with Día de los Muertos react to Skelita?
Natalie: Monster High is all about celebrating uniqueness and accepting your freaky flaws! So when I design a new character for Monster High, like Skelita, I always think about girls who associate with that feeling of being “perfectly imperfect.”
Monster High has a rich narrative that girls love. While the core characters are children of storybook monsters like Frankie Stein or Draculaura, Skelita is among the first group of international transfer students who also have humorous but relatable stories to tell – this time with a cultural connection. And Monster High is a designer’s dream! In fact, I brought the idea of Skelita to the Monster High team because I wanted to design a character that could bridge a cultural and professional passion of mine.
I’m so proud of this new doll and character. Skelita Calaveras is the newest addition to the Monster High student body. She’s the daughter of Los Eskeletos whose heritage is rooted in a Latino tradition, Día de los Muertos. So, it’s only natural that her favorite activities are face painting, dancing and spending time with her familia. And, Skelita’s freaky flaw is that gets a feeling in her bones that something epic is about to happen … she just doesn’t know when!
So, as you can see, bringing this narrative to life – for girls to play with and “act out” – is extremely special to me. And my hope is that Skelita will inspire girls of all backgrounds to accept and celebrate diverse traditions and holidays. Because at the core, that’s what Monster High is celebrating – the heritage that makes us unique.
A few fun facts about the Skelita doll:
• Natalie wanted to mix up the traditional and modern by giving the doll an “East L.A. Twist”
• One of the traditional elements incorporated in the design include a skirt reminiscent of “papel picado.”
• The bodice design is a mix of a swirled “vertebra” pattern that is somewhat floral – and that floral reference is to the marigolds that are placed on altars during Day of the Dead.
• The wedges Skelita is wearing on her feet have Mexican “huaraches” references.