To their neighbors in Springfield, MO, Clauddinea "Dee Dee" Blanchard and her supposedly disabled daughter, Gypsy Rose, occupied a near-heroic status. Dee Dee dedicated herself wholeheartedly to her daughter, shuttling her from one doctor's appointment to another. Gypsy has a long list of conditions: epilepsy, leukemia, a heart murmur, muscular dystrophy, learning disabilities, paraplegia, anemia.
But did any of these neighbors ever correctly suspect that Dee Dee was making Gypsy Rose sick on purpose? In The Act, out on Hulu on March 20, the Blanchard's neighbors are mostly fooled by Dee Dee's act — mostly. But Lacey (AnnaSophia Robb), a girl in her late teens, gets enough close to Gypsy Rose to question her judgment (and her story). Likely, the character of Lacey is based on Aleah Woodmansee, one of Gypsy Rose's real friends and confidantes from the neighborhood.
In June 2015, Woodmansee was shocked to discover her neighbor, Dee Dee, had been stabbed to death. She was concerned to learn that the wheelchair-bound Gypsy Rose had vanished from the house, and immediately assumed that she had been abducted. Of course, Woodmansee never suspected that her friend Gypsy Rose had actually orchestrated the murder — but she had. To Woodmansee, the Blanchards were the "kindest, sweetest people" she'd ever met.
After the Blanchards moved into the neighborhood with a Habitat for Humanity House, Woodmansee and Gypsy became friends. They were as close as Dee Dee would allow. Though Woodmansee was a contemporary of Gypsy Rose's, she wasn't allowed to speak to her as if they were the same age. “Her mom was very set on Gypsy having the mentality of a 7-year-old and didn't appreciate me talking to Gypsy like someone my age,” Woodmansee told ABC. Woodmansee believed Gypsy Rose was intellectually impaired.
Even though Dee Dee was near omnipresent, Gypsy Rose did manage to spill some secrets to Woodmansee – especially about her love life.
“She would show interest in like different boys and try to ask me advice on like, you know, ‘How do you approach them? How do you like kiss a boy?’” Woodmansee told ABC. “Gypsy just wanted to be a regular teen.” These conversations indicated that maybe, Gypsy Rose didn't have the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, as Dee Dee claimed.
Crucially, Gypsy Rose let Woodmansee in on her biggest secret: She had a boyfriend. In 2012, Gypsy Rose met a man named Nicholas Godejohn on a Christian dating site. Soon, they were planning their wedding and picking out names for their babies. Gypsy Rose gushed about her new boyfriend to Woodmanasee.
Dee Dee did not approve of such conversations. Eventually, she destroyed Gypsy Rose's phone so the teenagers couldn't speak anymore. The friends lost touch. In doing so, Gypsy Rose lost one of her few allies outside her toxic home environment.
“I couldn’t trust Aleah because my mother was starting to put things in my head that Aleah wasn’t my true friend and that she was a bad influence on me, so I couldn’t be friends with her anymore,” Gypsy Rose said in the special Gypsy's Revenge.
Now on her own, Gypsy Rose initiated her desperate escape plan in 2015. She convinced Godejohn to murder Dee Dee and liberate her, so that they could run away together. Instead, they were quickly caught and prosecuted.
At this point, the former neighbors are in much different places. Gypsy Rose is serving a 10-year prison sentence for second-degree murder (Godejohn got life in prison). It appears that Woodmansee is getting married. But she's still in touch with her old friend. Woodmansee was optimistic about Gypsy Rose's disposition after visiting her in prison.
"She just seems a lot older and more mature, it seems like she has done a lot of growing since she's been in there," Woodmansee told OzarksFirst.