The real Maya reacts to movie

Lina Trivedi talks to Yahoo Entertainment about

Lina Trivedi talks to Yahoo Entertainment about The Beanie Bubble. (Photo: Getty Images/Aisha Yousaf for Yahoo News)

The name Lina Trivedi might not mean anything to you, but you’ve almost certainly seen her work.

Trivedi worked for Ty Inc., the company behind the Beanies Babies craze of the ’90s — she was the 12th employee — and she had a hand in shaping the way we often buy things today, which is now usually over the internet. She and her brother created the Ty website, which helped the fad explode, at a time when they were rare for businesses. On top of that, she was the one who came up with the idea of adding poems and birthdays to the tags of Beanie Babies, giving them more personality and making them more collectible.

The first of many poems Lina Trivedi wrote for Beanie Babies was for Stripes the Tiger. (Photo: Lina Trivedi)

The first of many poems Lina Trivedi wrote for Beanie Babies was for Stripes the Tiger. (Photo courtesy of Lina Trivedi)

Trivedi, who worked at the company from 1992 to late 1997, was the basis for actress Geraldine Viswanathan’s character, Maya, in the new movie The Beanie Bubble. The Apple TV+ project is loosely based on Zac Bissonnette’s 2016 book about Ty’s heyday, The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: The Amazing Story of How America Lost Its Mind Over a Plush Toy—and the Eccentric Genius Behind It.

“It’s a very surreal feeling to have such a huge part of your life being told in a movie,” Trivedi tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I’m still wrapping my mind around it.”

Trivedi sat for an interview for the book but she was not officially involved with the production. However, she did talk to a crew member about key scenes. She also reached out to Viswanathan, whose credits include the Seth Rogen movie Blockers and the TBS series Miracle Workers, on social media when she saw that she had been cast. She was so relived that it wasn’t a white man, but a South Asian woman. Someone from the production thanked Trivedi for her kind words to the actress.

‘Look at what happened to me’

So Trivedi didn’t have any special access to the movie. She went to see it in during its theatrical release in her hometown.

“At the time, there was only one theater in all of Wisconsin and Illinois that was playing the movie and it happened to be right down the street from my parents’ house, where a scene in the movie happened,” she says. “My parents’ house is still in Madison, so it was just really crazy. It was very nostalgic for sure.”

In the movie, Maya is depicted as a smart and driven young woman — Trivedi was still a student at DePaul University when she was hired — who’s one of several women taken advantage of by Ty’s founder, H. Ty Warner, played by Zach Galifianakis. Elizabeth Banks’s character Robbie was based on Patricia Roche, who dated Warner and was a partner in Ty Inc. Meanwhile co-star Sarah Snook’s was based on Faith McGowan, who worked with Warner at Ty and also had a romantic relationship with him.

As we see in the movie, for example, much of what drove the craze for Beanie Babies stemmed from Maya, who was underpaid at around $12.00 per hour and didn’t get much of the credit for her ideas such as a website. As the Los Angeles Times reported, online sales are what really propelled the toy to new heights. And it was all because Trivedi had learned about the internet in a class and pushed Warner to sell his wares that way. Plus, the Beanie Babies trend fostered the success of another website called eBay. (Bissonnette told the Times, “eBay would not have existed without Beanie Babies — it would have gone under. It essentially became a clearinghouse for Beanie Babies.”)

The Beanie Bubble depicts the stories of Trivedi and the other women as having been robbed of what they were due.

Watching it was difficult for her.

“I thought they did a great job with just giving a broad stroke overview of what happened,” Trivedi says. “And just seeing that was really difficult for me because… I relate it a lot to a breakup. You see your relationship one way, but then you get together with your friends and you’re talking about the same facts and the same scenarios of what happened, and you may say, ‘Well, he’s a great guy, he just wasn’t right for me.’ And then your best friend will tell you, ‘He was a f***ing douche bag.’ And that’s a little of how I was feeling… I just left the theater thinking, ‘Look at what happened to me.'”

She hadn’t thought of her story in such a negative way before.

“I always looked at my experiences at Ty as me being so lucky, and I was so fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to do something that only one person in the world would ever have the opportunity to do ever. The internet is only born once.”

Truly, Trivedi remembers that when she was designing the company website in 1995, there were really just academic research papers and a new website called Yahoo. The idea that Ty should have a website was fueled by letters from customers who were writing to have their checklists of all the Beanies they were collecting checked. Many of those checklists were wrong, and Trivedi realized that there needed to be a place where the company could provide an accurate list of all the Beanie Babies available in one place to make them easier to collect — and sell. Ty could even display a photo of each plush and offer a central location for buying them, which made it what’s thought of as the first e-commerce site.

Lina Trivedi had the idea for and then, along with her brother, created Ty's original website. (Photo: Lina Trivedi)

Lina Trivedi had the idea for and then, along with her brother, created Ty’s original website. (Photo courtesy of Lina Trivedi)

The Beanie Babies toy she still owns

“I felt lucky. I was grateful,” Trivedi says. “And what I got from those years that I worked at Ty is experience that has sort of carried me all through the rest of my life. Everything is easy to me. Every problem that I’m presented with in professional situations is easy, and I do it fast. I do it quick.”

People today marvel at Trivedi’s ability to write code on a notepad, she says with a laugh. It’s because she created a website for the public, people who weren’t techies, at a time when it was still difficult for the general public to fathom what the internet was.

Lina Trivedi's desk at Ty was surrounded by headlines about the toy's popularity. (Photo: Lina Trivedi)

Lina Trivedi’s desk at Ty was surrounded by headlines about the toy’s popularity. (Photo courtesy of Lina Trivedi)

Trivedi’s time at Ty ended by late 1997, after she was denied a raise. She’s held onto some Beanie Babies, including her beloved Stripes the Tiger, for whom she wrote the first poem and who shares her birthday.

“The story of what happened at Ty that was shown in the movie was how I was treated and mistreated and the way it all went down. Indisputably, I did a really amazing thing that, and not just one thing, numerous things, and my experience as a woman that continued to work in tech has been that.”

Warner, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 2013, released his own statement about The Beanie Bubble:

“I applaud the filmmakers for capturing the unprecedented energy and excitement — though not the facts — surrounding the original release of Beanie Babies 30 years ago. The movie is, by its own admission, partly fiction. But, like the filmmakers, I am in the business of dreams, and I admire their creative spirit. To the fans and collectors of Beanie Babies who have been there for the last three decades, thank you for all the love you have shown.”

‘I’ve had people ask me if I’m bitter’

Trivedi has continued to work in tech, and sold most of her Beanie Babies at “just the right time.” Her priority now is being a mom to her 13-year-old special-needs daughter. She’s not upset about her time at Ty, even though she’s often asked that question.

Lina Trivedi is now focused on being a mom and working on her AI startup. (Photo: Lina Trivedi)

Lina Trivedi is now focused on being a mom and working on her AI startup. (Photo courtesy of Lina Trivedi)

“I’ve had people ask me if I’m bitter or if I feel short-changed… it’s hard to feel that way because of what I got out of it,” Trivedi says. “The movie, though… it does give that message.”

Professionally, over the years, Trivedi has created websites for entities such as the Spice Girls and the former Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower). Trivdei is currently working on a new AI startup,, which is designed to increase connectedness between family and friends at a time when people are increasingly lonely.

She’s also written several books, and she’s considering writing another. It would be about her time working in the sexist early days of the internet and how women are underrepresented in the tech industry — more than what can fit in a 110-minute movie.

The Beanie Bubble is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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