PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Southwest Philadelphia mother and daughter are running a unique business that is bringing comfort to scores of women. Their realistic creations will make you do a double take.
There’s nothing like a sleeping baby. From their fine hair to their long eyelashes and their chubby little arms and fists.
“It’s just like awwwwww,” says Chevonne Porter, “I just love babies.”
Porter and her 15-year-old daughter, Arial, run Arial’s Nursery out of their Southwest Philadelphia home. The duo converted the living and dining area into a makeshift factory, where they transform pre-made doll parts into life-like babies of all sizes and ethnicities.
“Look at this– oh my goodness,” says Cherri Gregg, holding one of the “Levi” dolls, rubbing his hair.
“You get a head, two arms and two legs,” says Chevonne, “they are blank and you just paint the vinyl and manipulate it to make them look realistic.”
The process takes weeks and includes a hundred layers of paint.
“Certain layers of paint you have to put red to mimic blood flow,” says Arial, who is currently working on two dolls simultaneously.
The Porters then stuffs the dolls to make them smell and feel like actual infants, and dress them in baby clothes. Some of the dolls have heartbeats, can make noises and all are the right weight and size of an actual baby of their appropriate age. The Porters sell the dolls online at arialsnursery.com for upwards of $300.
Last year, Arial made a set of ninja turtle dolls and the realistic photos went viral as Halloween memes.
“It was an accident to be honest,” she says, noting she was still learning how to make realistic flesh-colored paint.
The dolls look so real that they’ve caused some serious confusion and trouble with police.
“This officer saw me throw one of the babies in my trunk,” says Chevonne. “He let me get in my car and put my seat belt on and next thing I know he was asking me to get out the car.”
Chevonne says she had taken the doll to the store to choose hair to install. She says the police officer asked her to open her trunk, and she realized he thought the baby doll was real.
“I said, ‘officer, this is not a baby, it’s a doll,'” she says. “He said, ‘oh, you shouldn’t do that!'”
Last summer, Chevonne says a man tried to break into her car when he saw one of the dolls in the back seat. She stopped the man and he gave her an earful.
“He said you shouldn’t do that to people,” says Chevonne, “and stormed off.”
But for many, the reborn dolls are not toys.
“People who have fertility issues, people whose babies have passed, it brings a sense of comfort to them,” says Chevonne.
“To me it’s a doll that looks realistic,” says Arial, who is in the 10th grade and paints the dolls as a hobby. “But for the women who buy them this is a real baby. They dress them up and take them out.”
Holding the artificial babies and being with them brings ease and peace to many, including those with dementia. Arial’s Nursey recently launched a program where for every doll purchased, they’ll give one to a person with dementia. Their ultimate goal is to open a doll store to bring the joy and peace of a child to many more.