TV & Movies

When a mother’s lies and exploitation went to extremes, her daughter took drastic measures

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was living her whole life as a tragic lie. Now she is living behind bars.

An innocent little girl was brought up in a life of dishonesty and she felt that there was only one way out. The story of Gypsy Rose and her mother will be premiering as a series on the TV streaming service, Hulu. And if it wasn’t a true story, you’d never believe it happened.

On June 1st, 1991, 24-year-old “Dee Dee” Blanchard, alongside her 17-year-old husband, Rod, gave birth to a healthy, beautiful and normal baby. They named her Gypsy Rose.

But when Gypsy was only 3 months old, Dee Dee, with no medical training herself, diagnosed her with sleep apnea. Dee Dee visited the doctors and Gypsy received treatment for her apparent disorder.

Seven years later, Gypsy got into a minor motorcycling accident with her grandfather. In the hospital, doctors told Dee Dee that her daughter was in healthy condition and was ready to go home. But when they arrived at their house, Dee Dee told her daughter that because of this accident she was now permanently paralyzed and she would have to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life. But this was not at all true–she had only scraped her knee.

When Dee Dee returned with Gypsy to the doctors, she insisted that Gypsy’s paralysis had gotten more severe and that she had developed quadriplegia.

Dee Dee and Rod had split up shortly after Gypsy was born, and Dee Dee later moved them away from him and the rest of her family, but Rod would make sure to keep in touch with his daughter, calling her often and sending Christmas and birthday presents. Throughout this, Dee Dee kept Gypsy’s real age a secret from her, so when Rod decided to call Gypsy for her eighteenth birthday, Dee Dee answered the phone and wouldn’t allow him to tell Gypsy her age. Dee Dee, who now was also insisting that Gypsy had only the brain capacity of a seven-year-old, would always tell Gypsy that she was much younger.

According to her mother, Gypsy was not only suffering from paralysis and sleep apnea but also thirteen other disorders and diseases including leukemia, muscular dystrophy, seizures, vision problems, hearing problems, chromosome disorder, asthma, epilepsy, anemia, lung disease, and a heart murmur.

In Louisiana between the years 2005 and 2014 Dee Dee took Gypsy to local clinics and hospitals more that one-hundred times. Gypsy had multiple operations including gastrointestinal surgery, eye procedures, and the removal of her salivary glands. Prior to these visits, Dee Dee would tell her daughter not to talk, get up or move her legs at all. Doctors put Gypsy on multiple medications for pain, allergies, anxiety and more. Eventually side effects from her medications led her to lose her teeth. But Gypsy of course did not need any of these medications. Nothing was wrong with her.

As more people in the community and around the country started to hear about this apparently very sick girl, they started trying to help. In 2007, Dee Dee and Gypsy were victims of Hurricane Katrina which destroyed their apartment. In the same year Gypsy, got named the Child of the Year by a foundation for people who underwent surgery for feeding tubes. A year later Habitat for Humanity built them a house for two with no charge, including a ramp specifically made for Gypsy and her wheelchair. The people in the community helped the two of them out by fully funding flights and accommodations to visit medical specialists and Disney World. They received backstage passes to Miranda Lambert concerts and the singer donated $6000 out of her own pocket. Rod was also paying a total of $1200 each month to Dee Dee in child support based off of his income and Gypsy’s disorders.

During this time, in a interview Gypsy Rose declared, “Happy endings are not just in fairy tales. They are real!”

But Gypsy was not happy and she was prepared to do something drastic to escape her life. She was sick and tired of living this lie, but whenever she would go against Dee Dee’s wishes, her mother would beat her hands with a hanger.

Gypsy Rose had met Nicholas Godejohn online, and the two dated. Together, the two hatched a plan. They would kill Dee Dee Blanchard.

On June 15, 2015, they succeeded. Gypsy was the brains behind it and Nicholas did the actual killing. When the police found Dee Dee’s body in her home, her wheelchair bound daughter was nowhere to be found. When they tracked her down, they realized that Gypsy was not the sick girl her mother had invented. It took time to even figure out her real age. When Gypsy walked through the courtroom doors, everyone finally saw who the real Gypsy was.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was sentenced to ten years in prison for second degree murder. As for her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, he is still scheduled to go on trial this month for a charge of first-degree murder. In an interview with Dr.Phil when asked if she felt she should be in prison, Gypsy responded, “To be honest, I have complicated feelings about that.” It isn’t the right place to get the help she needs, in her opinion.

An upcoming series, The Act, based on the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, is set to start filming this month on the Hulu. The remarkable true story will be premiering on Hulu in 2019.

Gypsy will be portrayed by the talented 19 year old Joey King who has appeared in The Kissing Booth, Slenderman, Between Earth and Sky, and Ramona and Beezus. She apparently is staying in character during filming as she said on her Instagram, “My name for the next four months, is Gypsy Rose Blanchard.” The message was posted below a video of her shaving her head, just like Gypsy. Dee Dee will be played by Patricia Arquette. The series has very high expectations given the sensational and rare subject matter, which has already been portrayed in an HBO documentary called Mommy Dead and Dearest.

This is an extreme story that’s hard to fathom. Imagine being brought up in a abusive yet confusing home. Every morning waking up, not being able to be who you truly are. Not being allowed to take those first steps out of bed, or making your way to the bathroom without help–help you know you don’t need. You aren’t allowed to accept the knowledge that you are capable of learning, you have to pretend to be more than half your age. Gypsy grew up without a genuine, loving mother-daughter relationship. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that her story took such a dark turn.

But this isn’t just sensationalism. It reveals a real problem. It is shocking that medical professionals couldn’t pick up on what was really going on. When reviewing paperwork or taking physical exams, how could the doctors give treatment for the apparent problems that Gypsy had without physical evidence? How could these medical specialist diagnose Gypsy with leukemia–a very life-threatening cancerous disease–when there was no proof? Although one of Gypsy’s neurologists, Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, expressed some concern, he didn’t see child neglect. All he saw, according to his statements, was a mother “over treating” her child. The same doctor had major doubts from the beginning about diagnosing Gypsy with muscular dystrophy because for someone who hadn’t walked for nine years, should have had no muscles in her lower extremities but she had normal muscle mass. Nonetheless he ignored the signs and continued with treatment.

Hulu’s upcoming series will reignite interest in this true story. It will make more people wonder who all was truly in the wrong. While Dee Dee may be the stand-out villain of this story, there is certainly a lot of blame to go around.

Cover Image: HBO Productions

1 comment on “When a mother’s lies and exploitation went to extremes, her daughter took drastic measures

  1. Whoa, what a crazy story. I totally agree with you about more than one person being to blame for this. Thanks for giving me another TV show to add to my list! XD

    Like

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