A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a phenomenon called Lil’ Bernie Sanders on Facebook. I, of course, screamed, “Here’s my money!” I also went on to e-mail the creator, Emily Engel, and ask for an interview. With the power of social media, word spread about Lil’ Bernie, and now, Engel’s an extremely busy woman. I caught up with her to see how things have changed for her and just how busy she really is. To say the least, it’s pretty damn amazing.
Q. How’s your hands doing? How busy have you been?
I’m a seamstress. My hands can bend steel! I’m not worried about them. They’re holding up just fine, minus me breaking my sewing finger callous (nothing a little superglue can’t fix). As for being busy, I do my best to make at LEAST a doll a day, so besides my normal business hours, errands, making sure I remember to eat, etc., I’m usually working 14 hours a day.
Q. How have things changed for you?
“Oh, not much really… Just everything. From rearranging my entire work schedule to hiring management and a lawyer, to organizing order lists, to keeping abreast with correspondence, to podcasts and interviews… The last month (and I can’t believe it’s been that short a time) has been a complete whirlwind.”
Q. How much awareness do you think you’ve raised for the campaign? You were donating $25 from every purchase to the Sanders’ campaign. How much have you donated?
“Monetarily speaking, I reached the personal donation cap of $2,700 to Stand With Bernie only eight days after I started taking orders. I officially took 150 orders and now have 450 on my waiting list! When it comes to awareness, I’d like to believe that I’ve done my part shining a brighter light on the Sanders campaign as a whole — sometimes it takes something very simple to do just that. Lil’ Bernie now has his own Instagram and seems to be popping up all over the place on the web.”
***The first time I spoke with Emily she had nine paid orders (one of which was mine). That was on September 21. That’s three weeks folks.
Q. Do you feel the popularity of your doll is an indicator of how people are tired of the current atmosphere in Washington?
“Perhaps it’s part of it, but look at the recent rallies. Thousands and thousands flooding in to venues to hear him speak, mostly Millennials. It’s truly taking on a life of its own, and it’s still really early in the election season. The mainstream media is in denial at this point in regard to the power (voting and otherwise) folks my age and younger have, but it’s most certainly there and can cause a major upset. Bernie has been focusing on us, and we are responding.”
Q. I’ve seen a lot of comments about the price of the doll and how Bernie’s message goes against that. What’s your response to such comments?
I believe I mentioned this in my first article; I didn’t make this doll to be a millionaire. If people think this goes against his message, then they aren’t listening to what he’s saying. I’m not a conglomerate, I’m not outsourcing to different counties and I’m not doing this for personal gain. I’m not Disney. Sanders himself has made it clear that it’s the 1% that owns this country (and he’s right) and controls the wealth. I am most certainly not part of that 1%.
Q. I’ve also seen some comments about how making a doll isn’t a good method of raising awareness, that it’s silly, etc. What do you think?
A quote comes to mind — ‘You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.’ Not that I’m in to Dita Von Teese, but her quote sums up my thoughts fairly well. You can’t please everyone. There will always be trolls on the Internet who drag out their digital soapboxes because no one likes listening to them in real life. I just laugh at the negative responses usually, especially those who criticize my personal appearance. And really, guys… The whole voodoo doll joke is getting REALLY old. Move on.
Q. SO, I hear you got to present Bernie with a Lil’ Bernie. What was THAT like? How did that even come about?
I attended the rally held at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA and brought a bag of Lil’ Bernie’s along. Many people recognized him/me! The event was incredible. I’ve never seen so many young people so excited and in to the idea of change as I did that day. Towards the end of his speech, I walked down to the barrier, knowing that he would be walking around shaking hands after. I was in the right place at the right time! He walked by, I handed him the doll and said ‘I’m the one that created these and this one is for you to keep!’ He smiled and said ‘Oh my goodness, I know what this is!’ He handed it to his security guard pretty quickly after, seeing as though it’s protocol, and he had to keep his hands free to shake others’. It was a pretty great moment, like coming full circle.
Q. How’d you find out he even knew about it? How did you react when you found out?
I had sent a doll off to Iowa a few days before he spoke there, to a woman who was planning to attend. Lo and behold, she not only got to meet Big Bernie, but had him sign the back of Lil’ Bernie’s shirt and take photos with him. I was blown away by that, and so very excited.
Q. Do you feel that Bernie has a good chance at the nomination?
The way things are going now and with the debate just days away, I absolutely feel as though he has a good chance. The response has been overwhelming.
Q. Are you looking forward to the big debate? Will Lil’Bernie be hanging out with you watching, taking notes also?
Absolutely looking forward — It will be The Week of Feeling The Bern. And Hillary will be feeling it most of all! Lil’ Bernie will be here, and I’ll ask him if he has time for a photo opp!