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Breaking Down ‘The Act’ and the Real-Life Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard

By Kate Hudson | TV | March 22, 2019 |

By Kate Hudson | TV | March 22, 2019 |


This week the The Act premiered on Hulu with its first two episodes, which fictionalized the stranger-than-fiction murder of Dee Dee Blanchard and the role her daughter, Gypsy Rose, played in it as well as chronicling what led up to it. The Act, being a tv show, has taken a few liberties with the real lives of the two women. Want to know what’s fact, and what’s fiction? I’ve broken it down for you, below. Fair warning, if you’re not familiar with the story, there are some spoilers.

How much did Gypsy Rose know that Dee Dee was lying about her health?

According to Gypsy Rose, she knew she could walk and eat real food, but that was it. Per the fascinating Buzzfeed article that inspired The Act (the author, Michelle Dean, is the co-creator of the show):

She could walk just fine, there was nothing wrong with her muscles, and she had no medication or oxygen tank with her either.

As Gypsy put it:

“The only thing I knew was that I could walk, and that I could eat. As for everything else…”

Wait, so there was nothing medically wrong with Gypsy Rose?

Friends, the only medical problems she had were a direct result of her mother’s actions and all the medications she had to take.

Per the same Buzzfeed article:

She’s off all her medications, and there have been no health problems in the year she’s been out of her mother’s control. “Most of my clients lose weight in prison,” Stanfield pointed out, because the food is so bad. Gypsy gained 14 pounds in the 12 months she spent in Greene County Jail before her plea.

What about Gypsy Rose’s teeth?

The second episode of The Act devotes a significant amount of time to Gypsy Rose’s teeth. The cause of which, according to Buzzfeed, was inconclusive, but not related to anything medically wrong with Gypsy Rose:

Gypsy’s teeth rotted out and had to be extracted, though whether that was because of poor dental hygiene or a mixture of medications and severe malnutrition, it’s hard to say.

Why did Gypsy Rose go along with having her head shaved?

Per Gypsy Rose:

Well, she’d shave my hair off. And she’d say, ‘It’s gonna fall out anyway, so let’s keep it nice and neat!’” Gypsy said her mother told her she had cancer, too, and would tell her that her medication was cancer medication. She just accepted it.

Was Child protective services ever called in on Gypsy Rose, like in The Act?

In The Act, CPS comes by in the second episode after an anonymous complaint of abuse —in real life, there’s no indication that anyone ever called that in on Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose. The tragedy of this story is that every single adult in Gypsy Rose’s life failed her. No one ever paid enough attention to her, or the situation, to think that something was wrong, let alone have enough initiative to try to help Gypsy Rose.

Wait, so the Doctor who suspects Dee Dee is faking it with Gypsy is fictional?

Yes. As far as any evidence out there shows (and this case has been well analyzed) no doctor ever tried to have Gypsy Rose drink a soda to prove she didn’t have a sugar allergy. As covered above, Gypsy Rose knew she could eat real food. The medical community completely and utterly failed Gypsy Rose.

How old was Gypsy Rose?

At the time of Dee Dee’s murder in 2015, Gypsy Rose was alleged to have been a teenager to the outside world but was actually about 23 (she was born in July 1991.)

Was there really a stuffed medicine cabinet full of drugs?


What’s the deal with the painted princess portrait of Gypsy Rose in The Act? Is that based on real life?

Yup—you can see it in this screen grab from the HBO doc Mommy Dead and Dearest:


Were the Facebook posts made after Dee Dee’s death real?

Absolutely. There were two of them:

Later, the same account posted:


Did Gypsy Rose have a secret Facebook account?

Yes, that’s true, too. It was a major reason why Gypsy Rose was caught for playing a role in her mother’s murder.

Where was Gypsy Rose’s Dad in all of this?

Rod Blanchard, like the rest of the world, took Dee Dee’s protestation about Gypsy Rose’s health at face value, truly believing her to be as sick as he was told. He married Dee Dee when she became pregnant—she was 24, and he had just turned 18 (17 when she became pregnant.) They ultimately divorced, but he was actively involved in Gypsy Rose’s life up until 2004—and in 2005, Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose moved away from him, and their home state of Louisiana, for good.

Just like in The Act, Rod faithfully paid child support to Dee Dee for Gypsy Rose well after she was 18. Per Buzzfeed:

Rod continued to send, as he always had, $1,200 a month in child support to a New Orleans bank account. He also sent the occasional gifts Dee Dee asked for, television sets, and a Nintendo Wii. He continued to send these things even after Gypsy turned 18, because Dee Dee said Gypsy still required full-time care. “There was never a question whether or not I was going to stop paying,” he said.

How did Dee Dee get away with this?

In The Act, the first two episodes paint the multiple doctors Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose encountered as skeptical, refusing to take her at face value when discussing the fragile health of Gypsy Rose, when in actuality, it appeared that Dee Dee faced very little pushback from the medical community.

Per Buzzfeed:

Gypsy’s medical records are sobering. All the way back in 2001, doctors at Tulane University Hospital tested Gypsy for muscular dystrophy. Her tests came back negative. In fact, all scans of her brain and spine were relatively clear. The records of all those tests survived Katrina. Nonetheless, Dee Dee continued to insist to doctor after doctor in Louisiana and Missouri that Gypsy had muscular dystrophy. Most doctors appear from these records to have taken her assertion at face value and didn’t probe

In the HBO doc, Mommy Dead and Dearest, it was hypothesized that Dee Dee was able to escape detection from the medical community by having all copies of doctors notes sent to her—giving her the heads up if any doctors detected something was amiss. The documentary was only able to find one instance where a doctor was willing to put in their notes that Dee Dee was potentially at fault for Gypsy Rose’s ailments, stating that she was most likely the victim of Munchausen by proxy. (Note: it is now widely accepted by everyone that Gypsy Rose was a severe victim of Munchausen by proxy.)

Additionally, in this Hello Giggles article, Gypsy Rose’s step-mom shared that Dee Dee worked in a hospital for a time (where she stole medication), which probably helped her learn about standard operating procedures.

Where is Gypsy Rose now?

Gypsy Rose is serving a 10-year sentence for the second degree murder of her mother. She is eligible for parole in 2024.

Did Gypsy Rose act alone?

No, she had her secret online boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn perform the actual murder, but The Act has not yet introduced his character.

Wait, so no one ever tried to help Gypsy Rose?

No. Every adult in Gypsy Rose’s life failed her.

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Kate is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

Image sources (in order of posting): Hulu/YouTube, HBO/YouTube