Richie, a 29-year-old nutritionist who lives in Morelos, Mexico, had been saving up cash to go see Lady Gaga in concert since 2019.
“It’s been almost 10 years since the last time Gaga came to Mexico, so we all know it won’t happen soon,” says Richie, who also runs a handicraft business on Instagram.
Rather than wait another decade for Gaga to come to him, Richie decided to travel to her show in Toronto on August 6.
Richie (who did not share his surname with Input) is part of a WhatsApp group with other Little Monsters — the name for Gaga’s fandom — in Mexico. As he was preparing for his trip, Richie says, one of the chat participants “asked who had pit tickets to throw Gaga a Simi.”
“It was never my intention to hit her in the head. I just wanted her to see the plushy or maybe grab it, but it didn’t go as planned.”
It was a reference to a plush toy character called Dr. Simi that has become something of a meme for Mexican music fans, who throw them at their favorite artists during concerts as a way of welcoming them to the country.
Richie deliberated briefly, then decided to make a detour on his way to the airport to pick up a doll. “I was like yeah, let’s do that, it’s a Mexican tradition,” he says. “If she doesn't come to Mexico, we will take Mexico to her.” He wrote on the plushy toy’s white jacket: “MEXICO STILL LOVES U… paws up!”
Little did he know that when he did, in fact, throw the Simi onstage — hitting Gaga in the head while she performed her Top Gun: Maverick theme song “Hold My Hand” — it would cause an international stir.
Video and stills of what some perceived as an attack careened around social media. BuzzFeed weighed in with this headline: “How Do Some Fans Think This Is OK?”: Lady Gaga Got Hit In The Head By Something While Performing, And This Needs To Stop.” Some Gaga fans attempted to lay down the law about what can and can’t be done at her concerts.
The kneejerk reaction online missed out on the broader context of Richie’s gesture. Dr. Simi, the character the dolls depict, was created by Mexican pharmacy chain Farmacias Similar and is based on comedy movie actor Joaquín Pardavé, whose height of fame was in the 1940s. The plushy dolls are handmade by people with disabilities in Puebla, Mexico, at Residencia Doña Cinia, a respite center for the ill. More than 400 people are involved in making 80,000 dolls every year. (Farmacias Similar did not respond to Input’s request for comment.)
The person most commonly believed to have originated the Dr. Simi meme is Twitter user @SadJuxn. They claimed to have thrown the first Dr. Simi at a concert — specifically a November 2021 Mexico City show by pop star Aurora. (@SadJuxn did not respond to a request for comment.) Since then, Ed Maverick and Gorillaz have had Dr. Simis thrown at them onstage. South Korean pop group KARD got a raft of Dr. Simis hurled at them in late July.
The idea of Mexican music fans taking dolls to concerts isn’t anything new, according to Pati Pé, one half of Mexican synth-rock duo Los Licuadoras. “At ska concerts, people like to get a doll in their bags as a childish game,” she says. “Elmo from Sesame Street is the most famous and usual to carry.”
Those in the know realize the spirit in which the doll-tossing is meant. “It is not an aggressive mood,” says Pé. “It’s [meant to be taken] in a funny mood. A gratitude mood. To share a precious toy with their favorite artists. It’s just a game, a joke.”
Richie insists his gesture was loving. “It was never my intention to hit her in the head,” he says. “I just wanted her to see the plushy or maybe grab it, but it didn’t go as planned.” He says that he’s been surprised by the negative response. “It’s been so weird,” he says. “There’s been so much hate on [Twitter].” He adds that he does appreciate some of the memes that have been made about the incident though.
Richie remains worried that, unlike artists in the past, Gaga didn’t grab the toy at the end of the concert. He wonders whether the performer didn’t take the doll due to COVID fears. “I don’t know if someone on her team [took Dr. Simi], but hopefully she saw some of the tweets about it,” he says. “I just wanted her to see it.”