Troy Gua's 'Le Petit Prince' doll pays tribute to The Artist

Mini Prince by the lake
Mini Prince by the lake

His name is Le Petit Prince, and he is funky in a big way despite being about 12 inches tall. He's the creation of Seattle-based artist Troy Gua, who is a obviously a major Prince fan -- at least enough to create a fantastically accurate scale model of The Artist and a ton of props and cool outfits for him.

Slideshow: Le Petit Prince and his many outfits

Le Petit Prince was made in late 2011 to lighten up and redirect Gua's creative output, which he says had gotten cynical. Much of his work has been celebrated throughout the Seattle area and fuses together a charming pop culture perspective that seems in flux between adoring and skeptical. The Le Petit Prince project stands out as an intricate and humorous homage to the icon and as such has gotten a lot of love from megafans.

The Dressing Room tracked down Gua to find out more about this versatile dude (well, both of them, really). Maybe in the near future kids will trade up their Barbies for Le Petit Princes (Gua wants a call from Prince for manufacturing permission, stat), but in the meantime here's 7 questions  -- a proper Princey number -- with The Artist Currently Known as Troy Gua.

He's got the look
He's got the look

What is it about Prince in particular that influenced you?

Prince was introduced to me by my sister right as I was hitting puberty, and I was immediately transfixed by this ultra-sexual, androgynous, other-worldly creature's equally alien and ambiguous music, message, and indeed his entire aesthetic. He was so confident, so self-assured, so astoundingly talented, so... weird. It was exactly what I, as a skinny, awkward pubescent kid who always felt different, needed - a hero that I could relate to and aspire to be like.

I wasn't a musician, but I was always an artist, and Prince's musical virtuosity has always inspired me to be the best I can be at whatever I choose to do artistically. And his eclecticism showed me that I didn't have to stick to one thing, one style, one type of art - that it was OK to explore as many ideas and ways of expressing myself as I saw fit. And I do. He's been the single biggest influence on my life and work.

What do you think Prince would think of mini-Prince?

Gosh, I wish I knew. I'd love to think he'd be amused, honored, flattered, and amazed enough to want to arrange a meeting with me.

He'll steal your girlfriend
He'll steal your girlfriend

You say that you made Le Petit Prince to break out of a certain cycle in your artwork. Most people, when they get into a funk, would not think to do something like this. How'd you get the idea?

I was really just doing something fun for myself. I've been fascinated with Gerry Anderson's work since I was a kid: 'Thunderbirds', 'Captain Scarlet' - those odd sci-fi marionette films from the 1960's that inspired Matt Parker and Trey Stone's 'Team America: World Police'. I always knew that I was eventually going to make a little Prince, but I knew I was going to have to make it absolutely perfect, and that was daunting, so I just let it simmer on the back burner.

At the end of 2011, Prince came to the Tacoma Dome and my wife, Catherine, and I went, of course. The show hit at the end of a long year full of hard work. I had been making and thinking about work that was cynical, art world-referential, and less than fun. I was feeling a little lost and unsure about the future of my art career in Seattle, and I just wanted to make something fun that didn't have anything to do with the contemporary art world. It was just good timing.

Nice buns
Nice buns

How did you sew all his outfits? What's your favorite?

This whole sewing business is all new to me - I was trying to find someone to sew me a tiny ruffled shirt and purple raincoat and was getting either "can't dos" or "that's gonna cost a lot". My wife convinced me to try it myself, so I pulled out her machine and got to it, never having sewn in my life. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, but I've got it down pretty good at this point. My favorite outfit is the one I've just finished - they're all my favorites at the time of completion and once I get them captured in images, which is the heart of the project: the photographs.

The motorcycle is a customized 1/6 scale Japanese model. I assembled the model and then fabricated the front fairing/windshield and seat assemblies myself and painted it as accurately to the original movie bike as possible.

Where do you plan to take this project, if anywhere? What's been the response?

I'd love to show this work with large scale photos, vitrines housing the costumes and props, the little dude himself spinning on a record amid swirling lights and smoke, music playing - I can see the whole thing. If there are any Minneapolis galleries reading this, call me! Oh, and I'd die to remake Purple Rain with a cast of wee Minneapoli, but in the meantime, let's see if I can get on Ellen or Jimmy Fallon.

The response has been overwhelming! The fan community has absolutely fallen in love with it, and really have been the reason it's continued to grow and evolve. I hadn't intended on making so many outfits and photos - people began requesting certain looks and eras, and I took it as a challenge and have been running with it. Questlove of The Roots got hip to it recently and has been Tweeting and Facebooking about it, which has, of course, turned a ton of other people on to it. It's fantastic and I can't thank everyone enough for all the amazing praise and positivity I've been showered with in the past few months because of this little dude. I've made hundreds and hundreds of new friends because of this art project - it's pretty amazing.

Le Petit hygiene
Le Petit hygiene

Since you're a superfan, we have to know -- what's your favorite Prince song & why?

That's a toughie, but the first one that pops out is "Erotic City", because it's just so...erotic. And damn funky. It's the best sex ever in the form of a song.  

Have you ever been to Minneapolis or to First Avenue? How many times have you seen Purple Rain?

I'm a little embarrassed to say I have not - but have always wanted to purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. I plan on a pilgrimage at some point; my mom and her entire family hail from Bemidji, and they have family reunions every year - I need to go. Oh, and I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen Purple Rain, I lost count years ago.

Slideshow: Le Petit Prince and his many outfits

For more on the Le Petit Prince project, check out Troy Gua's website

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