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photograph by Elizabeth Gorman
Merlina Morada is a self-proclaimed freaky doll in gothic dress. She represents the most startlingly glamorous and alluring collective of fashion-ista drag queens in Madrid, Teatro Lírico de Muñecas. One of many street artists doing their thing in the center of Madrid, she’s our favorite for her sassy, urban-chic mime performance.
She can often be found hanging like a marionette in the tangle of streets around Plaza Mayor, her oversized doll shoes resting on two camouflaged beer boxes, dancing to the clink of coins into her jar. She’s young and beautiful, and people like her. They leave collages of her image, sometimes even their phone numbers.
Underneath the make-up, she’s 22-year-old Laura Zanotti, from Córdoba, Argentina. She has been in Madrid for one year now, pursuing a career in photography. Dressed as street artist and fashion icon Merlina Morada, Zanotti says she enjoys playing the photographer, “to the contrary,” by taking mental pictures while her public snaps photographs of her.
“Merlina doesn’t exist without her public who watches her,” she says. “She doesn’t exist without the child who smiles, the baby who gets a surprise, the old woman who hugs her, the child who gives her a kiss, the couple who get touched, the children who try to bother her, the family who applauds her, the grumpy old man who complains about her, the dog that barks at her, or the little girl who touches her arm to see if she’s real.”