Alleged White House gatecrasher Michaele Salahi has seen her 15 minutes of fame turn into a wild media ride that hasn’t paused in 10 months. And now, as if “The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C.” and a rumored Playboy pictorial aren’t enough, she’s achieved immortality — in plastic.
Doll manufacturer Herobuilders is selling a Salahi action figure called “The Girl Who Changed Everything,” for $39.95 on its website. And funnily enough, the doll — which has Salahi dressed in the infamous red sari and shawl she wore to the White House state dinner in November 2009 — wasn’t even the company’s idea.
Herobuilders founder Emil Vicale told the website Politico that it was actually Salahi’s agent who approached Herobuilders about manufacturing the doll — but only after making pitches to Mattel, makers of Barbie, and being turned down.
“We’ve been contacted by tons of people in the past, but have just never done it because people have a weird sense of the value of themselves,” Vicale said. And when asked whether he expects Salahi dolls to fly off the company’s shelves, he said, “Some people like her and some people hate her. I don’t know how people will respond to this.”
Life on the hot seat
The Salahi doll made its public debut on TODAY’s fourth hour Friday, appearing along with Salahi herself. While not addressing specifically whether she’s profiting from the doll’s sales, Salahi said she and husband Tareq make “not a dollar” off other ventures, including a recent book on the couple and signed pictures on eBay. Salahi told Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford that proceeds from any eBay sales go to fight multiple sclerosis — an affliction Salahi revealed she has earlier this month.
Still, Salahi remains on the hot seat when it comes to her very public life. The issue of whether she and her husband crashed the White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has never been fully resolved — while the White House insists the couple was never invited, the Salahis maintain they were invited by former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers.
And while Michaele cashed in on that notoriety by landing a spot on the “Real Housewives” series on Bravo, she became locked in another scandal when she appeared on Thursday’s episode performing at a rehearsal for the Washington Redskins football cheerleader alumni group. Not only was she unable to perform a routine: No other cheerleader remembered her ever being on the squad. Cheerleading alumni president Terri Lamb told the Washington Post, “We have no record that she ever was a Redskins cheerleader.”
Speaking with Gifford and Kotb, Salahi said it was a little white lie that caused the confusion: She said she was actually a member of the squad in the 1980s, but wanted to be listed as part of the 1991 squad “because I didn’t want my age to be known” (Salahi is 444). She also said she’s been paying dues to the alumni association for the past seven years — well before she became a household name.
Still, when it comes to the undisputedly real Michaele Salahi doll, Herobuilders head Vicale — who’s also manufactured dolls for other reality stars such as Jon and Kate Gosselin and the “Jersey Shore” gang — says it’s a pleasure doing business with her.
“I think Michaele understands the harsh realities of real life,” he told Politico. “We were able to make a real deal with her.” Vicale added that if the Salahi doll becomes a hot seller, Herobuilders may create an on-demand site where collectors can ditch the sari and deck the doll out in other outfits.
But when it comes to political and pop culture dolls, predicting what will sell is far from an exact science. Vicale said that while Sarah Palin, perhaps not surprisingly, is the company’s second-best selling doll, the all-time best seller is a real wild card.
“Our best seller was the Information Minister from Baghdad,” he said. “We sold 16,000 units in about 20 hours. We made close to a half a million dollars in one day.”
But Salahi is doing her best to catch up: Following her appearance on TODAY, she posed with the doll during a publicity photo-op on Rockefeller Plaza.