For any fan of American Girl, January means a new Girl of the Year. In our opinion, the 2017 announcement was one of the more exciting: American Girl has finally introduced an African American Girl of the Year, Gabriela McBride! Since this limited-edition line launched in 2001, the iconic doll maker has produced 15 Girls of the Year (and two companions), the vast majority of which have been white. We’re hopeful this move signals a stronger embrace of diversity on the part of American Girl, and we’re excited to get to know this latest addition.
Gabriela McBride is a creative girl, a dancer who uses her talents to make change in the world. The daughter of artists, she discovers spoken word poetry as a way to express herself despite her challenging stutter. The confidence she gains empowers her to fight to save her community center, Liberty Arts in Philadelphia. American Girl hopes Gabriela inspires kids to find their creative voices and speak out to make a difference.
The doll has curly dark brown hair and brown eyes and comes with her namesake book and a cute outfit including tank top, cropped sweater, jeggings, and purple and turquoise shoes. You can purchase other clothing, dance accessories, headphones, a microphone, and Gabriela’s cat separately. And, of course, you can get Gabriela’s signature outfit human sized, so you can wear it with her.
Diverse American Girls
A welcome addition to collection clearly lacking in dolls of color, Gabriela is only the second Girl of the Year who is not white or partially white. Marisol Luna was Latina, specifically Mexican, and a companion doll, Sonali had brown skin and a mother from South Asia. Two others, Jess and Kanani, were multiracial: Jess’s mom was Japanese and her dad white, and Kanani’s dad was Japanese/Hawai’ian and her mom white.
American Girl has faced criticism about their lack of dolls of color throughout the years (especially in the Girl of the Year collection), and it appears that they’re responding. Their most recent BeForever historical doll, Melody Ellison, is a black girl involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Wellie Wishers, a new collection of smaller, younger dolls, includes many skin tones and was certainly designed with attention to diversity. We’re glad to see this progress. As such an influential company, American Girl has a responsibility to champion difference and work for inclusion.
We learn through play
We are thrilled that Gabriela is 2017’s Girl of the Year. It feels like American Girl is finally getting in touch with the reality that people of color deserve to be fairly represented. It’s important to have dolls that look like all sorts of children, because kids learn through playing. We can learn about ourselves and other people if our toys reflect the diversity of the world. We feel better about ourselves when we see images and people who look like us. Everyone deserves to feel this way. We don’t feel alone in the world. We don’t feel like we’re supposed to be different than who and what we are.
Gabriela Images: American Girl
Meet our newest contributor, Pema Lauder-Dean. A homeschooler from Baltimore who’s making a new community for herself in Portland, Pema loves hiking and being in nature, acting and singing, Harry Potter books, playing games with her family, and her cat Beckett. She will have to be satisfied with Abrianna from Target (pictured here) because she is definitely NOT getting another American Girl doll.