The Beanie Bubble: Is Sheila Based on a Real Person? How Did Faith McGowan Die?

Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash Jr.’s directorial ‘The Beanie Bubble‘ is a comedy-drama movie on Apple TV+ that tells the incredible story of Beanie Babies — the pocket-sized animal plush toys that took the US by storm in the 90s. Besides an in-depth peek into the life of the man who created them, Ty Warner, it significantly tells the story of the unsung heroes around him who contributed silently to his life and the popularity of the Beanie Babies. Since many of the characters in the movie, including the protagonist, are based on actual people, it has made many curious if Sheila Harper, one of Ty’s girlfriends, also replicates reality. So, if you wish to know more about the real-life inspiration behind Sheila, we’ve got you covered!

Sheila Harper: Inspired by Faith McGowan’s Life

While neither the makers nor any official sources have confirmed the same, Sheila Harper’s character in ‘The Beanie Bubble’ is seemingly inspired by Faith McGowan. She was reportedly Ty Warner’s long-time girlfriend and played a vital role in the operations of Ty Inc. in the 90s. In the late 80s, when the entrepreneur moved to his massive Ginger Creek residence in Oak Brook, Illinois, he hired McGowan, a 35-year-old divorced mother of two, who worked as a lighting designer. According to sources, she didn’t like him initially, yet he eventually won her over with his charm.

In 1993, McGowan and her two young daughters, Lauren and Jenna, moved in with Warner in his Oak Brook home. As the couple’s relationship was going pretty strong, he became a father figure to the two girls. Not just that, McGowan was actively involved in Ty Inc. and worked closely with Warner in the brainstorming for new Beanie Babies designs. In fact, Zac Bissonnette’s book ‘ The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute,’ on which ‘The Beanie Bubble’ is based, states that Warner first showed McGowan and her daughters the prototype of Legs the Frog, one of the first Beanie Babies.

In addition, the entrepreneur reportedly discussed the prototype with his then-girlfriend’s daughters at length and took their suggestions for improving it. However, over the years, as the Beanie Babies became trending and Warner became increasingly engrossed in his business, his and McGowan’s relationship seemingly started deteriorating. As per Bissonnette’s book, she started worrying about their future together around 1999, when the Beanie Babies were at the peak of popularity. Though Warner had supposedly spoken of marriage and even showed McGowan’s father the ring he bought for her, he hadn’t yet proposed to her.

Even though the mother of two was an employee of Ty Inc., she was surprisingly unpaid and uncredited, having no severance prospects or savings. Moreover, she was allegedly skeptical of his continuing to work closely with his ex, Patricia Roche, who was then heading Ty Inc’s Europe circulation. As McGowan and Warner grew distant, she worried about what would happen to her and her daughters if he suddenly removed her from the house and his life. Fearing the worst, she secretly sold a rare Beanie Babies model he gifted her on one Christmas in the late 90s to a collector.

Faith McGowan Died at Age 55

Faith McGowan//Image Credit: Brust Funeral Home

Swearing the collector who purchased the Beanie Babies collectible to secrecy, Faith McGowan used the money to start an emergency fund for her daughters. Unfortunately, she and Warner broke up in 2001, and he paid her a lump sum for an undisclosed amount for her contribution to Ty Inc. but did not provide anything for her daughters. After they separated, McGowan and her girls moved to Santa Barbara, California, where they embraced a private life away from the public eye.

Although Warner and McGowan parted ways in 2001, and it is unclear whether the separation was amicable, she and her daughters seemingly held no hard feelings against him. Besides, the two remained in touch for a long while until she passed away at 55 in June 2013. Not just that, Warner attended her funeral and met with her daughters.

Following their mother’s death, today, Lauren and Jenna have preferred leading private lives and have refrained from interacting with the media. Although, from what we can tell, Lauren is an accomplished Naturopathic Doctor. While neither has confirmed if the characters of Sheila and her daughters in ‘The Beanie Bubble’ are based on them and their mother, the similarities indicate that even if not wholly, the movie has seemingly taken some inspiration from their stories.

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