The TikTok that first caught my attention was from style icon and influencer Jake Fleming: “I bought $100 worth of Sonny Angels because I have a sick obsession with finding out which one I’m going to get.” Little did I know, I would soon be in the same camp. “Was this worth $100? No f***ing way.” Future me would beg to differ. Fleming enthusiastically popped open the outer cardboard shell of the box and peeled back the second layer of opaque plastic concealing the surprise inside. “It’s the rooster. It has a f***ing trombone,” they screamed, revealing a rosy-cheeked little baby adorned in a cream colored shirt, blue striped pants and a rooster hat. His eyes were big and curious, and he had the small curve of a smile. I fell in love instantly. What were these beautiful, magical, perfect things?! I needed one. Or maybe a couple dozen…
Sonny Angels Are the New Pokémon, So Why Am I, a 27-Year-Old, Obsessed with Them?
“He may bring you happiness!?”
What Is a Sonny Angel, You Ask!?
A creation conjured up by Toru Soeya, CEO of the company Dreams, Sonny Angels have been around since 2005, in fact. Derived from Soeya’s nickname, “Sonny” is a collectible cherub figurine character who wears many kinds of silly hats. Adorned with a pair of wings and occasionally clothes (Sonny doesn’t always wear pants, and yes, he does have…anatomy…between his legs…), the toy is released in regular and limited edition variety sets of angels, with about 4-12 designs in each series. The twist? As demonstrated by Fleming, what you get is a surprise. Packaged in what’s known to the collector community as a “blind box,” the contents are secret until opened (that means no peeking!). Dreams has even doubled down on the mischievous allure of the toy, coining a new catchphrase for Sonny in 2018: “He may bring you happiness!?” The simultaneous exclamation and question mark are entirely purposeful.
And You Have How Many!?
In the four and a half months since I’ve started acquiring my Sonny Angels, I have amassed a collection of nearly 90 figurines, whether they’ve been gifts by friends, traded among fellow collectors or a product of my splurging. I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I’ve dropped around $750 on them so far. Each regular series figurine costs somewhere between $8 to $10 and limited series between $12 to $20. But the prices and low probability of landing an ultra-rare jackpot (like Angel’s side-kick Robby that I really, really want) don’t stop me from spending my hard-earned money because he brings me something much more than happiness—he’s helping me access my inner child at time when I need to the most. In the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling with coming out a second time as nonbinary, battling mental health issues, embarking on a new career, moving away from my parents’ home and generally watching the world fall apart from my tiny iPhone screen. Everything feels like it’s in shambles, with destruction, violence and disease plastered all across social media. Sonny is a big warm hug amongst it all, comforting me in a tangible way. He’s there through it all, watching over me from his perch on my bookshelf. He is an angel after all...
How Happy Can a Toy Possibly Make You!?
The Sonny Angel experience is an adrenaline rush. Carefully selecting which box or boxes you think might hold the angel(s) of your dreams. Buying them and rushing out of the store to tear through the cardboard and then the plastic to reveal the missing piece(s) to your puzzle. Completing a sought-after set of angels. Swapping angels with the friend who accompanied you on your adventure. Heading home to find the perfect place to house your new baby. It’s one of those rare activities where the journey is just as thrilling as spotting my favorite bunny-eared angel in my dopp kit.
And it’s also helped me foster community and friendship. There are thriving communities on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Discord where people buy, sell and trade their angels, share photos and videos of unboxings and hauls, post information about in-person meetups and even create their own fan art for this little figurine. If you can think it up, this community has probably done it. And, to my genuine surprise and delight, a good chunk of us are in our 20s and 30s, immersing ourselves in the color and wonder of Sonny Angel and the joy that he brings us.
Are You Okay!?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would I, a rent-paying, 27-year-old adult living in Brooklyn with a whole-ass career, be collecting a kids’ toy? I’ll tell you. Sonny is fun. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve let myself take a reprieve from the monotony, mundanity and regular sadness of everyday life. Though it might not be apparent due to my baseline sunny disposition IRL, I experience anxiety and depression pretty severely. So embracing the daily wins—no matter how small—is an incredibly important part of my life. Leaning into joy when I can helps me feel alive. If that means getting myself a treat and opening up a little surprise box, then so be it. Sonny makes me feel things, okay? He’s not a cure-all for the sadness that comes my way, but the inane sense of joy that he brings me is a small, but necessary reprieve from the day-to-day.
In a nutshell, Sonny is innocence and he is purity. He is what life looks like when the weight of the world hasn’t come to crush you just yet. When I look at Sonny, with his rosy cheeks and cute-as-a-button butt, I’m reminded of my own childhood. Sonny Angels are hot summer nights with ice cream trucks and sticky sugar still dripping down my chin. He’s the excitement and thrill of riding big-kid bikes around the neighborhood and water balloon fights in the cul-de-sac. He’s anticipation of asking my mom “Can I stay for just ten more minutes?” when she’d pick me up from a day-long play date.
And today, in my late 20s, Sonny inspires high pitched squeals, endless laughter, giddy jumping up and down and tons of ooh-ing and awe-ing. I’ve gotten my close friends and roommates involved, dragging them to meet-ups at the local park. He’s made his way onto my apartment’s windowsill, an everyday fixture in the fabric of our household. The essence of Sonny is infectious in the best possible way. His presence is a welcome distraction from the woes of adulthood. We can all attest to that.
He brings me (and those around me) a sense of hope and satisfaction that at the end of the day, no matter what goes on in my life or how challenging things become, I am not alone in it all. He brings me happiness. No question mark. Period…exclamation!