Tag Archives: American Girl

American Girl Doll Claudie Wells’ Collection Details The Rich Black Experience During 1920’s Harlem Renaissance

26 Aug
Claudie’s World

Welcome back Gen Next readers! Life has been rough on this end post-pandemic, and the struggle has been real for me trying to get back to normal. I’m sure that’s the story for everyone right now.

But the one thing all of us can count on is beautiful and compelling stories from American Girl that remind us of days gone past.

Finally, one of the most asked-for and anticipated dolls, from one of the most asked-for eras, has arrived: Meet Claudie Wells!

Personally, I’ve been begging for this era in time. I’ve often wondered why they hadn’t tackled the era sooner. Yet, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Story

For those who haven’t had the proper education on the Harlem Renaissance, it was an intellectual and cultural revival of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theater, politics and scholarship centered in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, spanning the 1920s and 1930s. For the first time, Black talent was being recognized, and Black people were more prosperous than they had been after the Civil War.

As both an African American and a writer, Claudie is someone that I relate well to. She literally reminds me of myself. As she struggles to find her special talent, she’s almost mirroring me now as I struggle to find direction, especially in my career and personal life, post-pandemic.

Claudie Wells is growing up in 1920s Harlem and is in awe of the artists all around her. Her father is a talented baker, her mother is a reporter for a renowned newspaper, and her boardinghouse mates include a jazz singer, cornet player, and painter. Claudie dreams of having a special talent all her own but struggles to find her calling. When an eviction notice threatens her beloved home, Claudie takes a risk to pursue an idea that just might turns things around.

The author is #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Brit Bennett and the Illustrator is Laura Freeman. Brit Bennett left a beautiful author’s note, resonating with ’90s kids, such as myself, everywhere. Like me, she grew up with the massive array of toys and books and other consumable goods aimed at children in the 1990’s. We had it good. The economy wasn’t too shabby, life was imaginative before the internet really stole our eyes and time away, and businesses were interested in marketing to children of all ages. Children had simpler tastes, too.

I feel that the author is as relatable as Claudie. I felt a wave of nostalgia as she mentioned book series like the Hardy Boys and Dear America, and the mountains of Barbies she played with, something Millennials know all too well. Her story about sharing her American Girl doll Addy and exchanging the books with her sister brings me back to the exact same scenario with me and my twin during our long summer road trips when visiting with relatives. We had six books for the first six characters in the company, and I would always read the books dedicated to the first three characters in the timeline while she would read about the last three. Then, we’d switch!

In the “Story Sneak Peek” video posted in the shop section of Americangirl.com, Bennett shares that she engages with American Girl’s social media, and begged them to let her write a story centered on a 1990’s character. Though, I’ve also desired a 1990’s character, I think we should reserve that spot for an equally long-anticipated Asian Historical lead character (who, unlike Ivy Ling, should not be a side-kick). Bennett was the perfect person to tackle a very important and yet surprisingly underrepresented era in history. She is a fan, and that means she understands what we hard-core fans like to see to a certain degree.

Perhaps what most connects my experience and the author’s is that we aren’t just any old writers, or any old American Girl fans, or around the same age. We are also both Black, African American, and that experience lends a completely new layer to our complex identity. That complex identity seems to be woven into the character Claudie, as she tries to discover herself amidst all the diverse rich Black cultural experiences and multi-talented Black people living in Harlem. With little opportunity, Black people clustered in one area, allowing talent to rise but also leaving black people feeling washed-out in a competitive society.

While the story does focus on the lead heroine searching for her special talents, on her journey she begins to explore her city along with this rich diversity. She takes the reader along as she discovers that everyone has a story. Most of the residents in her vibrant city came from another place. Commonly, most of them were escaping oppression in the South post-Civil War and while Jim Crow laws were in effect. Claudie’s story may seem a little more light-hearted than American Girl’s Addy (who escaped slavery) on the surface, but it doesn’t shy away from ugly truths (like hate crimes, discrimination, or other violent and aggressive actions towards Black people).

The Collection

As with all of the American Girl dolls and their collection, Claudie’s collection creates that immersive and interactive 1920’s Harlem experience. I always try to resist buying more American Girl dolls (due to the price point). But the history lover in me can’t resist the detailed and beautifully designed outfits, the detailed playsets, and the very educational accessories. Having Claudie and her entire world home with me would be like having my own mini 1920’s Harlem Renaissance museum. That is the irresistible pull.

Looking at Claudie, I feel like I’m stepping back in time. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time.

Claudie arrives in a woven plaid dress with a Peter Pan collar, a cardigan sweater, Mary Jane shoes, and knee-high socks. One interesting detail about her blue color palette is that, in the 1920s, Blue was considered a “girl’s color”. Department stores hopped on board to promote gendered color patterns, which began rising in popularity after World War I. Pink didn’t become associated with girlhood until around the 1940’s. It’s a very interesting historical nod to the era.

Claudie’s beautiful thick ringlets remind me of Shirley Temple, though she became popular in the decade afterwards. There is talk around the American Girl fandom that American Girl’s Depression-era character, Kit Kittredge, was supposed to look like that. I think it’s interesting that Claudie dons this glamorous look instead, which kind of symbolically reflects Claudie’s need to feel special in some way. Her face mold is unique among the other Historical characters, but she looks similar to American Girl World By Us’s McKenna. The face mold seemed to be in demand.

Her accessories give a fabulous vintage vibe. I was immediately drawn to the Baby Ruth candy bar (named after the infamous Baseball Star Babe Ruth). As stated in my earlier article on the time period, sports became huge in 1920s America, with many of the biggest baseball stadiums, including Yankee Stadium, opening up, and sports stars appeared on the front cover of cereal boxes and had their own merchandise by this time period. “The pride inspired by the Harlem Renaissance inspired African Americans to excel in the American sporting arena.”

The “cloche hat” was invented by Caroline Reboux in 1908 and became wildly popular starting in 1922.

Claudie also comes with a cute scooter, showing how kids were finding new ways to travel across the city. In fact, it was said that the scooter originated in the 1920s as a playtime item.

Her outfit and accessories are so detailed and unique.

I was very intrigued by her pajama set. Most people might not know this, but pajamas, or pyjamas, as they were known, were actually the height of summer and resort fashion in the 1920’s. They were often worn out in public, considered “multi-purpose” rather than just sleepwear worn within the home. The pyjamas were another sign of the modern woman, as most women didn’t wear any sort of garments that resembled “men’s” trousers. The jumpsuit trouser style was particularly popular.

First appearing almost a century ago at European seaside resorts, beach pajamas were one of the first trousered garments for the Western woman. With their eye-catching designs and atmosphere of sensual rebellion, these pieces have become favorites among collectors today. Recent discussion has been stirred regarding the definition and accepted form of “beach pajamas”. Yet as illustrated by the prevalence of pajamas throughout the ’20s and ’30s, and the seemingly endless occasions they were marketed for, there was much fluidity to pajama dressing. The vast majority of pajamas were multi-purpose garments which were worn everywhere from the boudoir to the beach, to fashionable shops and cafés …

Taking the lead from the bohemian socialites who comprised their clientele, couturiers Mary Nowitzky and Coco Chanel were among the first designers specializing in fashionable and comfortable pajamas for women’s beachwear. Chanel had already been designing sportswear dresses at her shop in Deauville for some time, and Nowitzky, a Russian emigree, opened her Paris house in 1926. Soon other notable designers embraced pajamas as well, and the trend solidified.

“An entirely new type of costume has recently joined the wardrobe of the smart woman” claimed an August 1927 Harper’s Bazaar article, “The Pajama Arrives.”

The silk head wrap is all too familiar to African Americans raised as girls, even to this day. In order to keep our hair neatly in place, at night, our parents wrapped our hair up. Almost every Black girl, woman, and femme can relate to this kind of imagery, and it immediately made Claudie feel like one of the family.

I believe I predicted there would be a dance set on the way. The 1920s was filled with people beginning to be obsessed with the latest dances, such as the Charleston, most of which originated within the American Black Community. The headdress gives this part of her collection that staple 1920’s look that most people looking for the “flapper fashion” influence could appreciate. Of course, Claudie has to learn Jazz dancing. But I think it’s interesting the book ties West African griot into the Jazz dancing experience, showing how Black people fused both identities, African and North American, into one whole, trying to reclaim their heritage after slavery ended.

The Angelo’s Bakery playset is the big-ticket item in her collection and is my favorite. It reflects a rich Black cultural experience in Harlem during this time period. It has banana coconut fritters (which originated in Western Africa), the Guava Orange Cake Roll (which more than likely came from the Caribbean and from Central and South America where the Guava fruit grows), old Southern favorites such as chocolate cake, a sweet potato pie, a strawberry pie, a pineapple upside-down cake, baguettes (which came from Louisiana’s French Creole culture, explored more by American Girl’s Cecile), and braided bread, a Jewish staple.

The German Pretzel is perhaps the most interesting piece of all the food items. There are two historical details this item reflects: World War I and Prohibition.

After it became illegal to offer free lunches, bars placed out bowls of pretzels. Their saltiness made them perfect drinking snacks, but the connection between drinking and pretzels gave pretzels a less than savory reputation. During World War I, pretzels took another hit: many Americans associated them with Germany. But that hit was nothing compared to what happened during prohibition: no beer, no pretzels.

In the end, though, Carroll notes “But the pretzel’s downfall was actually its salvation. When the country went dry in 1920, pretzel manufacturers had to come up with new ways to entice Americans…They curried favor with housewives by advertising the twisted dough as a healthful children’s snack rich in minerals”. And it worked. Pretzel consumption doubled during prohibition, and once the booze was legal again, pretzel sales continued to grow. Soon they were hailed as the only thing to eat with tuna-fish salad, and Americans were also indulging in pretzel soup, lollipops, and pie crusts.

Rye bread became a staple food item after the “sandwich” rose in popularity in the 1920s.

Other unique items are the 1899 $1 Silver Certificate Black Eagle Banknote (dollar bill), which then had an American Eagle, the USA’s national bird, and a black and gold cash box (revealing that not every business owner had the privilege of being able to afford a cash register). The boiled oats, flower, and sugar containers are designed to reflect the packaging style popular of the period.

Aside from everything mentioned, there is even more to explore with this playset, making it worth the price for hard-core American Girl fans and deep history lovers alike.

Finally, American Girl has partnered up once again with Harlem Fashion Row (as they did with World By Us) to help get designers of color on the map. The new designer outfits were created by Samantha Black, producing “a modern take on 1920s glamour”. The outfits are gorgeous and add more variety to Claudie’s collection.


Claudie feels like a tried-and-true American Girl. Like the older American Girls of the 1980s, she doesn’t magically have strong gifts or talents. She’s figuring herself out, feeling more like Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly, than Kit, Julie, and Rebecca. She’s a “normal” girl.

At the same time, she’s lovable and most people can relate to her. She has a quirky charm.

Her collection is rich with detail, really bringing her 1920’s era to life. She has some stereotypical flapper items, but overall she is a more realistic portrayal than what is normally placed out there to paint the Roaring ’20s.

The doll is everything I’d hoped for, and I’m very glad American Girl decided to release her. American Girl is probably the only historical fiction brand to truly tackle this era from the minds of children, making her a true gem.


Claudie Jones’s promotion is seriously lacking. Maybe there just aren’t enough funds in the pool post-pandemic, but it feels like there were more organized events and articles talking about 1980’s Courtney than Claudie. It’s a shame because Claudie has the potential to really teach children history, while Courtney was just a nostalgic cash grab without any thought as to how the 1980’s really impacted history (which wasn’t much history, to be honest). But that’s the times we’re living in.

It’s bad enough Claudie is Black, and we already know that American Girl’s largest fanbase isn’t on the darker side. The Black characters do struggle to sell as well as the White characters. That’s why it’s disappointing that the major news outlets, other than Business Wire and Pix 11, are basically ignoring her. These other outlets have no problem juicing up the Girl of the Year every year.

Also, is it just me, but are American Girl collections and stories getting smaller and shorter?

Since the Beforever relaunch in 2014, and since the release of “abridged” books, the American Girl books lack the substance and detail they once had in the past. American Girl 1980’s Courtney was the start of what felt like a serious stripping away of in-depth story-telling. In my opinion, without the 6-book format (Meet Story, School Story, Holiday Story, Birthday/Spring Story, Summer Story, Winter/Changes Story), the stories feel like they are missing a lot of information regarding how people lived throughout the seasons in those days. I would have liked to see what school was like in the 1920s and how they celebrated the holidays, not just whether Claudie finds her special talent or not. It definitely felt like a “Meet” story, but that only superficially pays homage to the good-old days.

While the number of pages in the book may equal the number of pages the former six-book format would offer, somehow the story feels too narrow, brief, and short. Possibly because it’s too “cohesive”. Traditionally, that hasn’t been American Girl’s style. I would like to hear many different stories told about Harlem during the 1920’s, with a different focus on life in that vibrant city. It’s just not as fulfilling to stay on one topic, in one season in time, without exploring how people change with the seasons. Climate influences culture, and when we ignore climate we lose the culture of the time period.

With the loss of the six-book format comes a loss of a full collection. It would have been nice for her to have been released with school supplies from the time, a desk, and a school outfit. A nice holiday outfit would have been nice, too. As I’ve mentioned on this website before, in the 1920s, the first Christmas tree to light up with electric lights lit up in New York City. It was a missed opportunity not to include that in the books or to reference it in the collection.

The next Claudie book is due to arrive Spring 2023. Hopefully, we all will learn more about this Jazzy character and have more exciting new items added to her collection.

Until then, Ciao, peace!


Doll Companies Do Indigenous Dolls Dirty | Thanksgiving Special

26 Nov

Welcome back!

No one is going to like me today because I’m going to ruin everybody’s Thanksgiving talking about your “unproblematic” faves.

If you would like to watch the video version, it’s at the bottom.

As we Americans from the United States of America approach our Thanksgiving holiday, many of us (well, many of us more over-thinking individuals) are reflecting on the tale of the first Thanksgiving.

You know, the tale where the pilgrims and so-called “Indians” joined hands in harmony, ate wild turkeys, and other delicious foods, to give thanks for the fact that the “Indians” helped the European Pilgrims survive in a land they soon conquered from the “Indians”? Yeah…That “tale”.

Well, Thanksgiving has got me on the more interesting side of Youtube, the side where Indigenous people (some of many various ethnic groups, that may refer to themselves as First Nations, First Peoples, among others) speak out regarding their perspective on the holiday.

It also got me peering into the one industry that targets the next generation, the toy industry, where our “unproblematic” favorite toy companies reside, to see how they’ve been doing with representing Indigenous people with their toys…

And just like in cinema, television, music, politics, and the like, it’s sad to say most of these companies haven’t done too well.

Recently, I reviewed the world’s top toy companies, and I reviewed their list of characters labeled or “coded” Indigenous. I’m using the word “coded” to refer to dolls that resemble even the most stereotypical aspects of a culture, whether it was designed right or all wrong.

After combing through everything, I must say the results were overwhelmingly sad, nauseating, and traumatizing, to actually say the least.

It seems toy companies have performed the same three main behavior patterns when approaching Indigenous characters, none of which are brilliant.


I’m sure we’ve all seen the caricatures of Indigenous people all over media. Well, we’ve probably only seen even these tropes in the few media that exists with Indigenous people.

You know, the “Magical Native American” with “Tanto Talk”? Possibly a warrior with spears? Yeah. Those kinds.

Well, in the doll industry, when a company does decide to create an Indigenous character, these dolls often come in the form of random buckskin dresses, adorned with fringe, with some fancy footwork that resembles something like moccasins, and some elaborate trendy beadwork, all designed to look “fresh and modern”, and often designed to better appeal to the more financially powerful demographic (i.e. White people). Then, they are labeled “Indian” or “Native American” doll so that the rest of us get the picture, and so the companies can say, “Well done. We did it.”

Companies need to know that throwing a buckskin dress on a doll and calling them “Native” doesn’t make them an authentic and well-designed Indigenous character. It makes them a caricature, a stereotypical model, of what it is to be Indigenous.

Summing up one traditional look as “Native American” or “Indian” is a problem all on its own. There are many different types of Indigenous people around the world, they all have their own forms of dress with intricate designs that go into their personal cultural attire, and they all have different relationships with their culture. Not all Indigenous people relate to “buckskins”, “fringe”, and “moccasins”. To add, all tribes and ethnic groups do not design those same materials the same way. When making these dresses for the Indigenous doll, I’m often wondering is the dress inspired from the Cherokee? Potawatomi? Seneca?

Disney’s Pocahontas, with her mostly trendy modernized buckskin dress, seemed to have inspired so many companies in the 1990s to jump on the train in creating these generic “American Indian” dolls. Unfortunately, none of them really felt they needed to take the time to fact-check.

Mattel Barbie’s “Native American” dolls have been examples of this.

These are some of the synopsis that have come with some of the 1990s “Indigenous” dolls:

“Native American Barbie doll is part of a proud Indian heritage, rich in culture and tradition. Her tribe-inspired COSTUME (notice they said costume) is a white dress decorated with Indian artwork”.

Damn. She doesn’t even come with a name. She’s just “Native American Barbie doll”.

And there’s no specific tribe or ethnic group tied to this look. Just an overall “Indian” look with some random “Indian artwork”.

This is another good one: “Dressed in a festive outfit for ceremonial events, Native American Barbie doll looks authentic from head to toe.” They had to make sure they stated that she looks authentic. Because this doesn’t mean she is authentic.

While it’s great to see companies attempt to diversify their line in any way, this doesn’t make companies less harmfully stereotypical in their depictions, and it doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility to make sure that the dolls they create are authentic and/or true to the people they are attempting to represent.

That’s like trying to make a doll based off of Queen Elizabeth II, and you depict her in a crop top and some hot pants…Imagine how many panties would be in a bunch.

How you represent a group of people is just as important as representation itself. It leaves a message to people purchasing the doll about the people the doll is trying to represent. And honestly, can you truly say you have representation if the people you’re claiming to represent can’t relate to or even recognize whatever you just threw together and released at them? What is it truly representing then?

For a lot of these companies, they believe they deserve a pat on the back just for attempting to create one Indigenous-looking character, especially because, for them, they’d rather avoid attempting the effort and the risk that making dolls of color could bring to them in the first place. Obviously, companies fear backlash, from people of color, for their crap dolls. So, these companies think we should be grateful we see Indigenous characters at all.

After all, none of them really wants to hire Indigenous people onboard to help with the design of these dolls. They don’t want to have to speak to the people of these various distinct tribes and ethnic groups to make sure the dolls and characters are authentic. No. That would be…putting in too much money and effort. And their goal is to stay rich, above actually making sure little children have toys that represent them…

I would say American Girl, now another part of Mattel, possibly the side of the company that puts forth more effort, has actually been the best at designing an authentic character from an Indigenous tribe and/or ethnic group. Their Historical character, Kaya, was designed with special permission from the Nez Perce tribe. They worked “with the author to make sure the story was told in an accurate and respectful way”. This is why Kaya doesn’t “bare her teeth” like the other dolls, as it was basically rude or a sign of aggression in her culture.

It’s ironic that I’ve had some almost-woke individuals try to explain to me how this is racist…not knowing that it has some cultural significance to the people of the actual culture…

That aside at least American Girl put their best foot forward with creating a Nez Perce doll. Not “Indian doll”, “Nez Perce” doll. It took them five years of extensive research to develop her. That’s some dedication. Of course, this is why the doll is so expensive, yet it is a quality doll worthy of respect.

For most doll companies, they really shouldn’t have to spend that much money or go to that great of lengths to create an authentic Indigenous character. They can just, ya know, hire more Indigenous people to come work for them or bring some on as consultants. I guess that makes too much sense.

They could also opt for more modern depictions as opposed to the more expensive and difficult historical interpretations. Somehow, that seems to go way over these companies’ heads.

That being said, while American Girl did create a very well-crafted historical doll, there’s a lot to be said about American Girl’s failure to include more dolls of color in their contemporary lines, such as Girl of the Year and World By Us (a line they claimed would have more diversity), and that includes dolls from an Indigenous group. Truly Me really doesn’t count because they are largely customizable…

Yet, I still would have liked a contemporary Indigenous doll for their Holiday line-up.

On that note, there’s the fact that companies just love to keep Indigenous people tied to the past, as if they aren’t modern groups of people living, thriving, and surviving in modern times.

Even when they do make them semi-modern, like in Zodiac Girlz’s case, they have to have some stereotypical “Indian” accessory to highlight the fact that they are Indigenous.

We as consumers have to also get out of the mindset that an Indigenous character has to look like a stereotype, and that we’d only buy her if she (or he) were a stereotype, coming with some of our favorite “Indian” items like buckskin dresses and teepees. We kind of have to hold ourselves accountable, too.

That can be difficult when most companies, along with their consumers, forget that Indigenous people still exist outside of history books. Ultimately, all parties end up associating modern Indigenous characters with other people of color as a result…

And that brings me to…

Racebending, Ethnic-bending, and Ethnic-Cleansing

When companies are too afraid to “stereotype” Indigenous characters, their next resort is to bend the ethnicity or “cleanse” it to fit the majority’s tastes.

It’s no secret that dolls of color sell less than White dolls. Studies have shown this.

So, many companies do not often want to invest in creating dolls of color primarily. Some countries don’t want them sold in their nation at all. Basically, there are risks due to worldwide racism against characters that aren’t of the dominant and preferred race.

You’d get all of this if you understand that racism means to believe one race is superior or one whole race is inferior. Ya’ll understand that right? In a nutshell?

Yet, many companies know that they have to have some diversity in order to appeal to the masses. So, what do they do? They draw up a racially ambigous character that can pass for all minority groups.

With that being said, some companies may find that there’s no benefit to really making a specific Indigenous character. For starters, most people around the world don’t even know who Indigenous people are, so companies don’t often know how to market a character like this on a global scale. Second, most people confuse them for being Black, Hispanic, and/or Asian, especially if those people don’t live in a colonized nation.

It doesn’t help that some people of color are guilty of this, even those from a colonized nation. I think that’s kind of how Pocahontas got popular. Many Black people in the 1990s were starved of representation, and saw themselves in Pocahontas, one of the few characters of color to come out of Disney…There were too many girls in my class trying to straighten their hair to look like her. Some of them really thought Pocahontas was really black…

In Japan, there’s even the Pocahontas Joshi (I hope I’m saying this right). It’s basically a slang term meant to criticize Japanese women who want to be westerners, with many people claiming they want to “wear their hair long” and “wear heavy make-up”, making them look like “Pocahontas”.

My cousin is Afro-Latina, and as a gift, one of my relatives bought her an American Girl Nanea doll, a bi-racial, Half Native Hawaiian doll. This was because that relative stated the doll “looked like her.” This idea was flourished even more after my cousin dressed up as Moana for Halloween.

Overall, companies would just rather make a neutral racially ambiguous character that can cover many different ethnic groups, allowing that doll to sell to more people, and increasing profits, rather than taking the time to develop an Indigenous backstory for Indigenous people and their children, just to reach the smaller minority. Largely, this leads to Indigenous people getting left out of the consciousness of consumers and fans of toy brands, and ultimately out of the consciousness of the greater social and political world, too.

Even when a company does create an Indigenous character, they will opt out of making other minority groups, thinking that an Indigenous character would cover all basis, and vice versa. It’s quite common to find companies making one or the other. For example, they’ll design an Indigenous character instead of an Asian character, as they did with Native Hawaiian Nanea (instead of making that Japanese American character everybody wanted for WWII). To some execs, a doll like Nanea looks Asian enough to pass for Asian, so there’s no point in actually creating an “Asian” historical character…

It was the same with Mattel Barbie’s Kira…She was coded as Native Hawaiian, but passes as Asian American, too…Though, granted Hawaii is such a mixed place now, that it’s not uncommon to find many Hawaiians mixed with Asian ancestry. Then, there’s the debate of whether those of Polynesian ancestry are technically Asians… Eh…

The worst of the companies, though, often design Indigenous characters, but later completely bend the race or cleanse the ethnicity from the Indigenous characters entirely, White-washing them, or worse, making them a whole new race or ethnic group, preferably the more profitable one at the moment.

The first sign I saw this happening was with The Magic Attic Club’s Rose Hopkins. Rose was one of the rarest. She was actually a pretty well-developed Indigenous character, one of Cheyenne heritage, and she was actually modern. In fact, her personal collection showed her displaying a variety of interests. Yes, she did have one traditional-ish Cheyenne dress. However, she also had a collection that showed her in a beautiful ball gown playing a saxophone, a soccer collection, and had camping gear, too. Her interests were playing soccer and utilizing the computer (back when computers were a novelty).

Yet, when Marie Osmond and her ex-husband Brian got a hold of The Magic Attic Club dolls, Rose was transformed into a Hispanic character…

Allegedly, they felt that since Rose had a larger Hispanic fanbase, she would sell even better if she related to the larger minority group, the one that would get them more profit. Ultimately, her heritage was erased, and the representation she provided went with it.

This also recently happened with Bratz’s Kiana. Though MGA Entertainment claimed in the past that they didn’t want the characters tied to any particular race, they didn’t hesitate when it came to borrowing significant cultural staples.

Just like Kumi was advertised with a Kimono, reflecting coded Japanese heritage, Kiana was definitely coded Indigenous. Sure, she wore stereotypical buckskin, was largely present in a Wild Western line, and had hints of turquoise in her collection (which I’ve already mentioned in another video how that is significant among Native American tribes). But however stereotypical, she was still a form of representation for Indigenous children and fans of the doll brand.

Instead of developing her into a more nuanced Indigenous character, with a strong Indigenous backstory, those recently running social media decided to just change her to Black, especially because the G. Floyd tragedy brought attention to Black people. They knew this would be more profitable and make the company appear as if they had all these “Black” characters. Honestly, it just feels like they unknowingly confused Kiana for being Black because of her “deep brown skin”, and obviously had no Indigenous people in their conciousness.

And few Black people spoke out about it because, even to some of us, Indigenous people are not in our consciousness, either.

It seems like it’s just so much easier for companies to refer to the minorities that have an influence on the entertainment industry, rather than developing for those lesser known folks.

For many minorities, if it doesn’t effect us, and if it’s some type of representation for someone, we often ignore Racebending or Ethnicbending. But actually, this is not okay, and it robs people of the representation they need and deserve, while also leaning into cultural appropriation.

But this is only getting started when it comes to Bratz…There’s the White-washing of coded Black characters, the mix-up between Russians and Morrocans, and the Chinese name given to Japanese characters…So why be surprised that they erased their only Indigenous representation?

I think the worst offender of this, though, is Hasbro.

This is their Blonde “Indian” doll and White-Washed Pocahontas…

What is this Hasbro? Why? Just why?

I think if most companies could, they would have most of their White dolls play “American Indian” for a day, at least as a costume. Then, they could sell more blonde dolls.

All of this does bring me to my last point…


The final effort these companies make towards including Indigenous characters is by avoiding making one at all. You might think this is the best option for companies. I mean, if you can’t make them right, and if everybody’s going to complain, why make them at all? Right? Right?

This behavior is cowardice. It shows a company’s lack of ability to take risks and challenge themselves. It reveals a company that lacks innovation. Lastly, it reveals what the company really thinks about Indigenous people, their potential consumers. Ultimately, to that company, Indigenous people don’t exist.

As a Teen Vogue article pointed out, “Invisibility is the Modern Form of Racism Against Native Americans“, and this is true of all Indigenous people, and of all people of color, really.

The article points out that Native Americans live in a country that consistently pretends like they don’t exist.

The then 15-year-old Peyton Boyd remembered her teachers showing videos about diversity “where all the races of the world came together and held hands, [but one race was always missing].” You can guess which group of people were missing. Really, Indigenous people are missing from media in general. The article challenged us, the reader, by asking if any of us can name any famous Native people who were born after 1950. Can you?

Why do doll companies participate in this erasure? Well, as mentioned before, it’s just easier to avoid controversy by not stepping their toes in the water at all. If they don’t try, they can’t fail.

Second, since many of the doll companies are owned by White people, there’s this discomfort with addressing Indigenous people because of the ugly history. Some of those with European ancestry living in colonized lands want to see themselves as natives of that land, and having to face Indigenous people is a reminder that they are just like the immigrants many of them so often despise. It’s a reminder that they brought diversity into a land that was once homogenous. To address their lack of Indigenous characters, they would have to face history head-on.

Third, some of these doll companies are run by people who are not from colonized nations, but from other foreign countries. Therefore, they don’t know anything about Indigenous people, and may not refer to their original people as such.

The average consumer, the average doll fan, also doesn’t think too much about Indigenous people. So, the Indigenous group gets left in the dust.

The final problem is that even when a company attempts to create Indigenous characters, once the company folds, the Indigenous representation goes with them, as in the Global Friends’ case. This is why we need the bigger and more prosperous companies to try developing proper Indigenous representation.


While you all digest your turkey, I want ya’ll to marinate on these thoughts about Indigenous representation, and maybe, by next year, we can get these doll companies to come up with better Indigenous representation in time for next year’s Thanksgiving. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

Ciao, Peace!

While you’re at it, learn how to Decolonize your Thanksgiving next year!

8 Ways to Decolonize Your Thanksgiving

Kira Bailey, American Girl’s Girl of the Year 2021, Tackles Australian Wildfires and LGBTQ Relationships

4 Feb

Greetings readers!

American Girl has released their newest Girl of the Year 2021, Kira Bailey. When Kira gets the chance to care for animals at her aunts’ wildlife park in Australia, it’s a dream come true—and the koalas, wombats, and kangaroos need all the help they can get!

Below are the books’ summaries:

Kira Down Under: Book 1: Kira Bailey is living her dream: Cuddling koalas and bottle-feeding baby kangaroos. Kira and her mom are spending the summer at a wildlife sanctuary in Australia helping her aunt Mamie, a veterinarian, care for the animals. When Kira falls in love with an orphaned koala joey, her joy is complete—until a health emergency pulls Aunt Mamie away. Suddenly Kira can’t seem to do anything right. She’s put the wombats and her beloved koala joey in danger, and now her new friend Alexis won’t talk to her. Can Kira find a way to catch a roving predator—along with a few wayward wombats—and earn back everyone’s trust?

Kira’s Animal Rescue: Book 2: In this second book of her series, Kira teams up with a student at the animal sanctuary to track down the paradise parrot—a bird thought to be extinct—and prove that it still exists. While they’re trying to observe the elusive bird, bushfires threaten to wipe out the sanctuary and the parrot’s habitat. There’s no choice but to evacuate all the animals, which is a huge task even without trying to track down a missing baby wallaby. As the bushfires rage out of control, Kira makes a disturbing discovery. Should she keep her mouth shut—or tell a painful truth? 

Here’s a peek at her collection:


Kira Bailey tackles more important events than any Girl of the Year characters have in the last decade. She’s truly a sign of the times, and that’s what many fans expect of American Girl. While many could argue that American Girl glosses over deeper truths, many do recognize American Girl’s ability to tackle hard subjects head-on in teachable and family-friendly stories directed at children, as well as being from a young woman’s perspective.

Kira Bailey’s stories first tackle the Australian wildfires, something very real and important, especially before Covid-19 struck. Wildfires also relate to many Californian residents who recently experienced the same issue.

Tack on a world destination theme, along with cute furry animals, and you have the makings of both an exciting, cute, and an important story.

I am also connected with Bailey because, just like her, I lost my father at about 9 years old. Just like her, I’m still afraid of going to hospitals. Those moments resonated with me, and at times, I felt like reaching inside the story and giving a fictional character a hug.

Kira Bailey’s stories go a step further by introducing two married aunts named Lynette and Maime. American Girl has often come under fire for racism and homophobia. Now, at least a bit of that can be tempered, since they are at least attempting to include diverse families. While it isn’t the center of the story, just having that representation means a lot to people.

Of course, just like when American Girl attempted to align with Girls, Inc. in 2005 and published a story about a Black American Girl adopted by two White American dads in 2015, the largely conservative fanbase was in an uproar. The reviews on Amazon are so brutal, I just don’t even want to link it here.

The conservative fanbase has actually been in an uproar since February 2020, when American Girl released their “Commitment to Racial Equality” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In that commitment, they outlined their plans to include more Black characters with authentic storylines in their brand. They stated they planned on releasing a new contemporary line, due to be released Fall 2021, to align with that initiative. Though I have reservations about that initiative, as most of American Girl’s contemporary lines have not done well and are mostly too expensive for most Black families at this time, the backlash was instead directed more towards the idea that American Girl even wants to include Black stories. One responder on Facebook stated, “I don’t want American Girl to change.” Many of them threatened to pull their support and boycott the brand, stating that American Girl was aligning themselves with “terrorist groups” (Black Lives Matter, to be exact). As if American Girl has never had Black characters before. As if American Girl topics haven’t already aligned with the values of Black Lives Matter. The idea of police brutality and racism aren’t new. It’s also not as if Black characters will take over, and even if more were made, aren’t there plenty of white characters to choose from? It’s obvious the real fear is of the hard stories the fan base would have to face, the harsh realities a girl of color would force them to face.

I don’t understand how anyone who becomes a fan of American Girl expects them to skate around relevant issues. It has always been a brand that taught children how to handle and address real things going on in the world. Just because parents want to protect their children from the world doesn’t mean they will be sheltered forever. They will meet different people in the real world, people who will eventually live in the same neighborhoods and work with them. Shielding them from the subjects isn’t helpful. American Girl is a good wholesome brand that approaches these difficult subjects in a gentle way.

In Kira Bailey’s case, the mention of the couple was not done in a forceful way, like many of these doll companies have tried just to pander to any minority group they can for money. In fact, Kira isn’t even advertised as a character that’s addressing LGBTQ+ subjects. Why? Because it is normalized in the story, just like all the other parents and couples in the American Girl franchise. The lead characters don’t have crushes or date at all, which I am thankful for. Why should girls think they are only valuable if they have a partner, queer or not? Why should every story centering on girls feature romance?

Still, real people have diverse families, and American Girl makes stories that teach children about the worlds of others outside of our own. That’s the gem of the stories. The Girl of the Year stories reveal what modern girls face, and like the Historical Collection, will all become a part of history one day. Why shouldn’t a Girl of the Year character address gay rights when that is very relevant to what’s happening today, whether controversial or not?

On Amazon, parents have called this “sexualizing” or introducing “sexual topics” to children. To be honest, wouldn’t that mean all of the couples in the American Girls’ stories introduce the topic of relationships and sexuality? I mean, think about the number of pregnant mothers prevalent throughout American Girls’ stories. Wouldn’t that count as introducing children to “sexuality”, “pregnancy”, and hardships of “childbirth”?

From what I’ve read in these reviews, parents don’t want to have to explain in detail what diverse families are and what they look like in others’ homes. They barely want to explain what racism is to their children. Basically, they want their children to remain ignorant. I would argue, why buy educational products at all? Stick to fantasy.

Many of the parents think American Girl should have “trigger warnings” because they’re not ready to have certain conversations with their children and don’t want a book to teach it to their children before they do. Unlike with the Black characters, where the “trigger” is their skin itself, and where the stories have clearly been outlined as tackling “racial” topics, Kira’s stories kind of slip it in. Because the couple is not obviously visible, more conservative parents couldn’t avoid it like they usually do the characters of color.

For the past two years, I’ve had new respect for Girl of the Year. Staring with Joss, I’m starting to see that American Girl isn’t afraid to make Girl of the Year just as meaningful as they’ve made their Historical Collection. I used to see that part of the brand as the “light, fluffy, and shallower” cousin. To a certain extent, it’s still more saturated than what you would find in the Historical storytelling. However, it’s refreshing to know that American Girl isn’t afraid to tackle timely subjects in modern times and can do so when given the right opportunity.

However, because American Girl is an expensive brand, and has to be, as I’ve mentioned in one of my videos regarding Luciana Vega, Girl of the Year 2018, the people who can mostly afford American Girl are the rich, white demographic, and in America, they are mostly conservative. American Girl really took a risk releasing this character, knowing that she might not make a dime. With the pandemic still in full swing, more people are out of work and even I wouldn’t blame them if they went the safe route. Then again, companies are seeing there’s more benefit in including diverse audiences nowadays. Regardless, it was a risk either way, and yet they made it, knowing they could risk being cancelled.

Possibly this is the reason why Kira is the generic blonde, white character. Knowing they were tapping into something controversial, it’s likely they made Kira’s appearance “typical” so that even the most conservative parents would think she’s “cute” and “pretty”. She gives a safe image, really hiding the deeper moves that her stories are making behind the scenes. That creates the perfect balance.

Even though I haven’t been fond of the latest American Girl dolls as dolls, I can’t argue that their stories and themes have market value. American Girl really is aware of what’s going to sell, and it’s evident.

American Girl is also showing their willingness to expand the brand by having their characters travel to countries outside of the USA, possibly to connect to fans who actually aren’t American. Every few years, they choose a new destination theme, which shows American Girl’s wide-range appeal.


If you haven’t noticed, it took me literally a month to even give a perspective on Kira. Outside of the social impact her stories make, she’s honestly boring in my opinion.

I will admit that I took her at face value. When I first heard a blonde character with American Girl Julie’s face mold was going to be released, I was very disappointed. To add, I feel like Girl of the Year seems to talk a lot about wildlife and animals in a lot of their content, especially in the “destination” themes.

When her collection was released, I just didn’t find one item worth the price. The tent and the clinic with the desktop computer were the only items I was on the fence with, but everything else felt like they belonged to another character from a distant past. There has to be more to girls today than the same old stories. We have children in band, playing chess, playing football, a lot more than rescuing animals.

American Girl can create whatever diverse storylines they want to, but if you do so behind a character that’s as bland and generic as Kira, that message is totally lost. American Girl is expensive, that’s the reality, so if I do buy an American Girl doll she has to be well worth the wait.

So far, Kira’s stories are more interesting than the doll itself. I always end up buying the books, but I’m very selective about the dolls and collection. With Kira, I think I just might stick to the books.

Let me know what you all think in the comments’ section. What do you all think about her stories? How do you feel about the doll? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

You can also watch Kira Bailey’s stop-motion series based on her book series!

American Girl’s 1980’s “Gamer Girl” Courtney Moore Has Arrived! She’s Totally Cool!

16 Sep

Greetings, welcome back!

Gen Next is here to bring some exciting news to fans of American Girl: the long anticipated “historical” character, Courtney Moore, has finally been released!

A 1980’s themed character has been in demand since American Girl’s 30th Anniversary in 2016, since many of American Girl’s earliest fans, who grew up with the dolls in the mid-to-late 1980’s, are now full-grown adults with their own children.

Stranger Things has also contributed to the recent surge in popularity of everything ’80s, especially piquing the interest of children.

Many expect Courtney to play the tune of nostalgia.

I’d like to share a little about her collection, then I will give my complete review of the doll and collection.

Courtney Moore is growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley. She’s a total ’80s girl whose favorite place is Smiley’s Arcade because she loves playing video games. Courtney likes being in control of what happens, which isn’t always the case in real life. She and her stepsister, Tina, don’t always get along, and now that Courtney’s mom is running for mayor, things are changing at home. It’s a whole new game for Courtney, and she’s figuring out the rules as she goes.

Here’s a preview of her current collection:

After review of the entire collection and the book, I can say there’s a lot I’m impressed with. While I do still have my criticisms about the entire Courtney release, I can say I’m much more on board than before.

I do still hold some bitterness, since this is supposed to be around the 100th year anniversary since women began exercising their voting rights, which was why I was hoping so hard for a 1920’s character. It would be especially timely given this is the year of the presidential election.

However, given the fact that I know my desires are hardly ever popular, and given the huge interest in pop culture from the 1980’s, I was expecting too much. My 1920’s character may just have to wait another, what, 10 years?

Anyway, my opinions have changed a bit since my last article on the subject: Why is American Girl Sleeping on the ‘Roaring 20’s’?

I decided to toss a coin to decide whether I should share the pros or cons first. “Heads” was for pros; “tails” for cons. I landed “heads”, so here goes.


For starters, I have to say I’m in love with the gamer-girl theme. If you haven’t noticed from the various articles and video-game themed background by now, I’d like to inform you that I’m quite the gamer girl. It took years for me to feel normal for it. When I was in high school, there were very few girls interested in video games.

Nowadays, who hasn’t played a video game? Whether on a phone, tablet, laptop, or console, everyone is into it now. Still, Courtney poses many questions that still plague girl gamers today (I mean, her time period only exists some 30-something years ago): Why aren’t there enough games centered on girls? Why can’t we have more female representation in the gaming scene? Yes, it’s true that there are still more men supporting the industry as a whole, but as more women enter, the faces of our gaming developers may start to change, too.

I like that American Girl has partnered with “Girls Who Code” as well. American Girl allows customers to donate to the cause and plans to award four girls $5,000 scholarships towards a STEM field. I would have died to have this as a child. It’s really exciting to know that American Girl is following after GOTY Luciana and supporting more STEM-related themes.

Aside from the gaming and technology themes, I am actually loving the ’80s-specific collection! I really can’t resist a historical character, no matter how much I pout and cry and throw a tantrum about how she doesn’t fit into the “historical” collection. Who can resist a Pac-Man arcade? Bandai-Namco has partnered with American Girl, and they happen to be one of my favorite video game developers (Tekken comes to mind).

The school supplies give me Lisa Frank vibes as well, which brings me all the way back.

I’m obsessed with Courtney’s style. I am particularly fond of the androgynous colorful top with the tie.

As a huge fan of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley, Courtney’s era is my era. All of the books, movies, and music that I love to this day were developed in the 1980’s. I believe this era inspired everybody. The collection is my favorite part about this release as a result.

I think this release was a smart move from American Girl, especially considering the pandemic and how difficult it is right now for businesses. While it may not be strong in the history department, and the doll may not look very unique, the era is totally sellable when it comes to the collection.

Finally, the best part about her collection is the mini Molly doll she comes with. I know a lot of fans were hoping for this. Personally, I didn’t expect it, considering we’ve had tons of Girl of the Year characters who could have had their own American Girl doll, and no one has ever asked for any of them to have their own historical character nor has one been released to tie into their collections. Then again, I’ve noticed there hasn’t been too many characters that even come with dolls anymore or are even written as girls who play with dolls, not since Rebecca was released (I plan on doing a video and article on this topic later). With Courtney having Molly, it means the dolls are canon in each of the characters’ worlds. We might start seeing some Girl of the Year characters with their own dolls soon. The possibility of the mini dolls returning full-throttle is exciting for me as well.

Of course, this does present another problem, which I will explain later. Let’s keep focusing on the pros.

I am also happy to announce that American Girl stated her birthday is officially February 12, 1976, which officially makes her the first Aquarius character in the American Girl historical collection (and possibly beyond).

I’m surprisingly intrigued by different parts of her story, particularly the trauma of the Challenger explosion and how that impacted students watching in their classrooms at that time. I’m also interested in how her story will tackle step-families, as none of the other American Girl characters actually have had a whole new family after their parents remarried. Sure, Josefina received a new mom after her father remarried. Samantha received new adopted sisters. Julie was just dealing with the initial trauma of divorce. But a whole new extended family? It’s a little different in a way. There’s also talk of one of Courtney’s friends having a “scary disease”, mentioned in American Girl Publishing’s synopsis. After reviewing the reader’s guide for the first book, it’s likely that subject will go more in-depth in a second book. Courtney feels like a Girl of the Year character, but with more depth, so it’s a nice balance for fans.

American Girl has announced on Facebook that another book will be released for Courtney. I’m not sure what subjects will be covered, but I’m hoping for the traditional holiday story, birthday story, a sweet little summer story, and something that shows she’s changed and grown.

I can’t help but really relate to Courtney as a character. Obviously, I was born close to her time period, so everything feels familiar. It’s so cool to see a miniature world similar to the one I was raised in.

Plus, as a character, she reminds me of myself. Even better, she has the spirit of a true American Girl: brave, empathetic, and imaginative.

Despite my earlier reservations, I’m actually excited for more from her collection.


Overall, even after reading a bit of Courtney’s book, I don’t feel she’s a “historical” character. And I say this with all sincerity. Maybe it’s because I’m old. I did just make 30 years old this year.

I was slow to discuss more about Courtney because I thought she would be like Julie. When Julie first arrived, I thought she was too modern to be a “historical” character. After I read her books, Julie’s story surprised me. It turned out to have shown more history than I anticipated. Julie’s world showed how the 1970’s shaped all of our modern world, from societal norms to politics, fashion, language and speech, music, movies, television, pop culture, education, the environment, the economy, and much more.

But after reading a bit of Courtney’s stories, here’s what I discovered is the difference between Julie and Courtney. Julie’s stories actually VASTLY differed from any of the American Girls that came before her. She was the first American Girl advertised with pants or trousers. Her world showed a strong shift from the reserved and conservative values of Molly’s world (the most modern American Girl world at the time of Julie’s release), and is still even more distinct in comparison to Maryellen and Melody, two characters in decades prior to Julie in the American Girl historical timeline. As mentioned before, the stories thoroughly highlighted how the 1970’s shaped modern society or how events in her time modernized the world. Julie was a unique character in the historical universe.

Courtney’s stories on the other hand feel largely designed to appeal to nostalgia, pop culture fanatics, and overall the doll was just released to give people appealing accessories. She was in demand, and everything that was in demand was written into a story. But it doesn’t feel like the history of the era was really considered, not by those demanding for a 1980’s character or by those developing one. The idea of having a fun throw-back collection was too tempting.

While 1980’s pop culture references throughout the books show how the era largely shaped pop culture today, as far as the historical topics chosen and the way 1980’s history was approached so far, I kind of felt let down.

First off, many are challenging the fact that Courtney comes with scrunchies and that her sister, Tina, in the books is obsessed with them. Courtney is marketed as being from 1986 (though her story timeline appears to be from 1985-1986 thus far). Apparently, scrunchies weren’t patented until 1987, and was said to be more popular in the decade afterwards. From my recollection, Claudia Kishi sported scrunchies in the 1986 illustrations of the Babysitters Club, but it still seemed more like a 1990’s staple. It’s possible that American Girl felt since she was modern, they wouldn’t have to do much research. Many of the people working with American Girl were kids or teenagers in the 1980’s, so they may have drawn from their own experiences rather than waste too much money on an advisory board. The problem is that it shows. Personal memories are valuable, but often flawed. I can barely get dates and times right in my own timeline. Still, like all the other American Girls, it’s likely Courtney’s stories will cover the whole latter half of the decade, so her scrunchies may fit in sooner or later.

If they ever do try to develop a 1990’s character, would she include scrunchies, too? That would make the 1990’s girl look too much like Courtney. They may have to stick with daisy hats if they want to make the 1990’s distinct.

Can’t say I’m too thrilled about the idea of a 1990’s character, considering how I feel about Courtney. When it comes to collection, Courtney is all American Girl offers from the 1980’s, so that makes at least her items appealing. I enjoyed American Girl Today products from the 1990’s a lot more than what I’m sure would be coming out in the near future from the company, so I just don’t have as strong of a desire for a 1990’s character. Then again, if they were to re-release all of those items, I would definitely be excited. My pockets would have holes for sure.

I found Courtney to be too modern to call “historical”, so I’m sure 1990’s would be worse. I might as well begin calling any character released from the 1990’s an “American Girl Today”. Unfortunately, my favorite part about American Girl is the books, and I prefer the historical fiction to the contemporary. The further back it feels, the better for me, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to relive that time period. The 1980’s is pretty fun to relive actually. The history portion is just weak, that’s all.

It’s interesting that her “teacher’s guide” even so obviously pointed out that the 1980’s isn’t even an era that is often taught in classrooms. I mean, why would any educational institution cover the era in-depth? There weren’t many era-defining historical events, and the education system has the challenge of covering EVERYTHING. Pop culture would be last on their list. They would prefer to cover wars, economic hardship, the building of a nation, politics…subjects that impact people on a personal level. We are facing more history-defining events today, in 2020, than Courtney did in her version of the 1980’s, to tell the truth.

After reading Courtney’s books, it’s obvious that the 1980’s isn’t as important as other eras in time. It’s fun, not important. But maybe there should be some room for eras that aren’t necessarily important but just fun. Not my cup of tea, but it’s what the public wants, right? I guess not every American Girl has to tackle the harsh subjects. Still, I always thought that the Girl of the Year characters were for fun subjects; the historical dolls were supposed to be for us grittier people. I digress.

So far, I hadn’t read about any real society-shaping events. The Challenger Explosion was devastating in the 1980’s for sure, but we’ve certainly had more society-shaping events happen decades later (9/11 is a prime example of that, which equally aired in the classrooms and devastated millions of people worldwide).

I dislike that feeling, the feeling that the historical stories I’m reading are shallow in comparison to my world today. Maybe I’m used to thinking that things were much harder for people in the past and that I should be grateful to be living in a modern world. But after reading Courtney, it’s pretty clear that times were much simpler in the 1980’s.

Of course, times were not good for everyone in the 1980’s. Yet, they didn’t choose to tell the story of a family really struggling in that time period. They didn’t choose a character that could really educate its readers. Therefore, Courtney’s story feels like a true modern story to me. Aside from a few 1980’s references, I didn’t really feel the history.

Possibly this comes from reading an overload of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley books as a child. I used to read them in 2002, and they felt just as relevant to me as to kids in the 1980’s. In fact, I didn’t even know those books were written in the 1980’s until I became an adult. Sure, fashions have changed, but events, situations, politics, economy, and the general outlook of most Americans haven’t changed much since the 1970’s, or at least it doesn’t seem Courtney shows the general difference. I will say the 1980’s invented “pop culture” for sure, but the decade isn’t remembered for its historical moments.

The three things that separate her from a Girl of the Year character are the moments of trauma, such as the Challenger Explosion, the struggle to merge families, and hearing your friend has a disease, which the Girl of the Year characters are careful to steer clear of. However, I believe a modern character, if constructed well, would have a more compelling story than a white middle-class 1980’s character like Courtney, and may even touch on the same subjects.

American Girl may have had an opportunity to teach 1980’s history through a different lens than the white middle-class suburban character. This is also the next disappointment for me. I personally didn’t put much stock in American Girl’s initiative to “include more black characters” in their line-ups. After all, these expensive dolls are mostly purchased by those who have the most money in our society, which would mean the characters have to cater to the largest consumer, i.e. white.

Still, I believe the stories would have been more compelling and interesting if they had deviated from their general “norm”. Lord knows I wanted my Claudia Kishi, and American Girl is dry of Asian American characters. It’s sad that one of Courtney’s friends is Japanese, but they couldn’t decide to create a protagonist from an Asian or Eastern background. They had one more opportunity to create a character of color in an exciting and fun era, and they chose wonder-bread white instead. There will not be another better opportunity to introduce an Asian character, not from a fun and modern era that kids actually find interest in. In any other era, she will surely struggle to sell, aside from Asian dolls struggling to sell to the primary consumer in the first place. Our only hope is another Girl of the Year, which would only last one year, unfortunately. I’m extremely disappointed.

Courtney is so “generic”, both in concept and as a doll. While I still like her personality, I struggle to be interested in the actual doll and her world itself. She’s bland and not very interesting.

The elephant in the room is that she looks a lot like Maryellen. She could have been brunette. Yes, Joss was just released, but among the historical collection, the white brunettes are mostly archived. Though big hair was really popular, not every kid in the 1980’s had trendy hair. They didn’t have to do the curly-haired thing again.

Second, how many characters do we need from California? I get the Valley Girl theme ties in well, but we have had Kailey, Julie, the recent GOTY 2020 Joss…I’m interested in learning more about other parts of our great nation, and I’m tired of reading about the Pacific coast. We have FIFTY freakin’ states…FIFTY! They couldn’t choose one other one besides California again?

It doesn’t help that Courtney is meant to come right after Julie in the timeline. Another blonde, from California, from a family of divorce, who has an older trendy sister. Unless Julie is headed to the archives, I don’t understand why Courtney’s life had to be so generic.

Last, the Molly doll thing. I both love the inclusion of Molly and am bothered by it. Yes, having her around makes me feel old, just as many have stated.

Someone on Twitter, Audrey Dubois, stated it perfectly:

The fact that the character Courtney owns an original 1986 Molly doll means that the American Girl Company is canon within the American Girl universe. History has caught up with itself. The cycle is complete. This Ouroboros has swallowed its own tail.

There is the realization that American Girl is going to be continuing a cycle that never ends. Eventually, American Girl Today dolls will be considered historical. Blaire Wilson and Luciana will be historical, too. And some future character may have their own Blaire Wilson or Luciana doll. It’s a scary thought.

But there’s one other issue here: Courtney and Molly are meant to be real people in their own respective universes. To the rest of us, they are fictional. In Courtney’s world, Molly is a doll with a book. Does this mean Molly is a fictional character in Courtney’s world? Or is she meant to be a non-fictional character in Courtney’s world, who just happens to have books and a doll? This is the issue when we try to blend the American Girl stories into the same universe, and is probably the reason they’ve never done this before. We are left questioning whether each American Girl is only real in their own universes, but fiction within each others’ universes, or whether the American Girl characters are generally real people with books and dolls in each others’ universes…

Maybe I just think too deeply about it. I didn’t finish reading the books, so Molly could very well end up like the Barbie Cut N’ Curl in Julie’s collection, possibly not even being an important part of the story. That could explain that away.

And not to be a prude, but the illustrations in Molly’s Meet Molly book aren’t the original 1986 illustrations by C.F. Payne. The illustrations they chose weren’t designed until the 1990’s. I’m kind of confused as to why they used the newer ones, though they have been claiming accuracy and authenticity throughout the website on every single page. Possibly they no longer have the rights to the original designs. It would have been best if they just had the doll without the book, if we’re talking accuracy.

Last, I would like to say that I was hoping the outfits would be tied into more specific collections. All of her outfits are mostly mix-and-match. I surely do miss the days of the large collections for each scene or event in the books. I would have liked her pet and school desk to be included. Who knows. It all may be coming soon. It’s not like she’s a Girl of the Year character. She’ll likely be around a while. Still, judging by the other more recent historical characters, it’s not likely her collections will be designed around the events in her story too neatly. Oh well.

Overall, that’s my spin on Courtney Moore.


Pros-Collection, Character’s Personality and Profile, Theme

Cons-Historical issues, Doll, Lack of Diversity

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of Courtney. Are you excited and happy? Or underwhelmed and disappointed? Or somewhere in-between?

Don’t forget to check out her new stop-motion movie coming soon! It’s bound to be cute! Ciao and peace!

American Girl Luciana Vega Gets Sued For Appropriation!

18 May

American Girl’s Newest Girl of the Year 2020, Joss Kendrick, Flies Above Stereotypes

1 Jan

American Girl kicks in the new year and decade with Joss Kendrick, Girl of the Year 2020, who dares to surf and take cheerleading chances…despite having a personal disability!

Book Synopsis

Book 1Joss: In this first book of her series, catching waves on her board, Joss is all in, 100%. When the surf’s up, she pops out her hearing aid, hops on her board, and paddles into the waves. Joss is stoked to enter a surfing video contest with her surf sister Sofia and Murph the surfing bulldog. If she can master a killer aerial like the frontside air and get her brother Dylan to catch it on video, maybe she’d even have a shot at winning. But Dylan throws her a curve: he dares her to try out for the cheer team. No way—Joss can’t see herself as a cheerleader. (What’s with those ginormous hairbows, anyway?) She’s 100% surfer girl, and Dylan knows it! Still, if she takes him up on his dare, then maybe he’ll help her with her video—it’s worth a try, right? 152 pages. 

Book 2Joss: Touch the Sky: In the second book in her series: Joss Kendrick is always looking for new ways to soar. So when her cheer team needs a new flyer, she can’t wait to step up (literally). Her high-flying skills on her surfboard and skateboard make her a natural for the role. But when her skateboarding act at the talent show turns into a total catastrophe—make that a dogtastrophe—Joss loses her confidence all around, even at the cheer gym. The cheer competition is coming up fast, though, and her team is depending on her to nail a tricky stunt. The problem is, Joss doesn’t trust them not to drop her. She wants to do an easier stunt, but if she plays it safe, can her team still win? And if they don’t, will her team ever forgive her? 144 pages.

The author is Erin Falligant.

Her Collection:

American Girl states, “Whether she’s on her surfboard or in the gym, Joss shows girls the importance of trying new things, pushing past stereotypes, and being a good team player.”

What American Girl might mean by “stereotypes” could be more than just the character Joss re-thinking her stereotypes regarding cheerleaders or about cheerleaders overcoming their prejudices about surfer girls.

Good Morning America stated,

American Girl partnered with experts specializing in surfing, competitive cheerleading, hearing loss as well as the portrayals of deaf characters in literature to create Joss.

In general, American Girl may have seen that among the hearing-impaired, or those with hearing loss of any kind, it’s a struggle to find diverse characters. Yes, American Girl’s Julie’s stories touch on such a disability from a friend’s perspective, but the character is what you would expect of an “underdog” character with a disability: kind of shy, timid, sad, and overtly bullied. This is actually a common depiction of kids with disabilities in literature, especially literature directed to children.

Well, in 1976, that may have been the real case, as people didn’t have the proper education or knowledge to truly understand people with differences. Even if they did, prejudice was normalized.

In 2020, people are making strides to show more confident and self-reliant characters, despite their disabilities, and are seeking to re-educate the public’s perception on America’s minority groups.

What is so empowering about these stories and the character Joss is that she’s not so absorbed in her disability the majority of the story. She has other things on her mind, other things to do, like surf and cheer. Like the average child today, she doesn’t appear ashamed of who she is and doesn’t let her disability set her back from achieving. As a collector, I tend to lean more towards the cocky, confident characters than to the shy and overtly well-behaved (which I never resonated with as a child and still can’t connect to as well). She’s also got that tomboy thing going on, and you all know how much of a tomboy I am. Joss is well-liked in this house.

However, by not really focusing on this character’s disability, it proves to be a double-edged sword, so I’m conflicted. On the one hand, the stories definitely capture this particular challenge as a minor inconvenience, not something to pity, and it is delivered to show that Joss is still a normal girl, no different from any other Girl of the Year.

But that’s just the thing. If we didn’t notice this character had a hearing aid, she would literally be just like any other Girl of the Year we’ve had before: white surfer living off of the California beach. In fact, the collection and concept is just like Kailey’s from the year 2004.

Before you go off saying, “That was over 10 years ago,” I moseyed on over to Youtube, just to see what the little chil’ren were saying about her. The most common comment is “Her collection is okay. Didn’t we have a surfer already before?” With the internet just at their fingertips and fandom pages around to give the most enthusiastic fan all the American Girl information they need, kids today don’t see the past the way we used to as children, before we had internet (I’m showin’ my age). They know what you did, and they are seeking to find that character you created on the secondary market.

Second, Joss is your typical brunette with an average collection. The only unique aspect to her collection is the cheer-leading portion (thank goodness). I felt this collection could’ve survived without the surfing aspect tied in, but hey, they had to rise above stereotypes in some way, I guess. Still, how many characters can you create with a bathing suit theme? I can run down the list of characters over the last decade that had bathing suits tied in, but there’s too many of them, so I don’t feel like putting forth the effort.

Honestly, if Joss’s story had touched more deeply on her challenges, it would have resonated more with with me. The depth that the historical characters have is still my standard, and for some reason I haven’t let that standard go. A part of me yearns for a modern story that shows both struggle and victory, but maybe I just get off on depressing story-telling. Hey, history isn’t all rainbows, and that’s the gritty truth.

And no, it’s not like the historical characters go way deep or anything, but they go much deeper than their contemporary cousins, that’s for sure.

Despite that little quirk, I’m loving Joss as a character and interested in her cheerleading adventures. Luciana, Girl of the Year 2018, is still my favorite from the last decade, but Joss is a great start to a new era and, in my opinion, a lot more interesting than last year’s Girl of the Year, Blaire Wilson. I can’t wait to see what else American Girl has in store in the 2020s.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you all think about Joss Kendrick!

Meet Rebecca Rubin, A Confident and Inspiring Girl Growing Up During America’s Peak Immigration Period in 1914

27 May

I saw that all the other American Girls had promotional videos online except Rebecca. I’d asked and asked about her, but none came after 7 years. This time I decided to make my own video for her.

Rebecca’s stories have a special place in my heart. Not just because the immigrant story fascinates me in this period, but the fact that I relate to her struggles. No, I’m not a Russian-Jewish immigrant or from an immigrant family. However, I was raised in an alternative religion from the standard “American” one. I relate to feeling forced or coerced into celebrating holidays that were just considered commonplace in America, and sometimes it seems people often forget that many of our holidays have a religious tone to them, reminding the world that Christianity is the dominant religion in the USA.

However, the 1st Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The original settlers left Europe to escape religious tyranny, and they created this section because they knew they didn’t want to be forced to think like everyone else.

Yet, sometimes, Americans carry that same attitude they tried to leave back in Europe, expecting everyone in the nation to abide by their own personal religious and moral feelings.

This is why I believe Rebecca’s stories are so powerful.

This is partially why I believe American Girl has avoided a video for her. There is some much anti-antisemitism lately, so much hatred for Jewish families, so many retarded conspiracy theories about these people, that it seems like companies want to shy away from the depth of the story.

Or maybe Rebecca isn’t as popular. Still, possibly she isn’t as popular because people don’t want to hear that others live and believe differently from them. That’s pretty problematic in itself.

There are other American Girl promo videos for all to enjoy:

Blaire Wilson, Girl of the Year 2019, Is Trying to Balance Life on Pleasant View Farm!

18 Jan

I wonder if Pleasant View is a nod to the original American Girl company Pleasant Company?

Greetings Gen Next readers!

If you folks don’t know about “Girl of the Year”, let me explain. Girl of the Year is a line from the popular American Girl doll brand that’s known for its historical-based dolls and contemporary collection that focuses on what girls are experiencing today. Girl of the Year is one of those contemporary lines.

I’m creating this article because someone brought to my attention that I forgot to create an article for Girl of the Year 2019. Every year, whether I’ve loved the Girl of the Year or have been indifferent, I’ve created an article about the character.

Trust me, I knew about Blaire Wilson last year, but to put it bluntly, though she’s a beautiful doll and I love her accessories, I felt less inspired by her character than last year’s based on the leaks I saw. And that’s just the honest-to-goodness truth. So, writing any sort of article for her “slipped my mind”.

And it’s bad enough I care less for Girl of the Year than the historical characters.

I’ve also wanted to really get my hands on her books and collection before making any real judgments.

Surprisingly, Blaire has more than meets the eye.

I’ve been less than pleased with what’s been coming out of American Girl lately (Due to my last gripe with the 1920s character, you might think I’ve had a string of rants going American Girl’s way). But while she isn’t as captivating as Luciana, Blaire does have some interesting elements to her, too. I would say not to judge a book by its cover. In Blaire’s case, literally, because the cover of her books almost turned me away.

Unfortunately, Luciana set the bar, and she will be hard for Blaire to live up to. Even when I attended the American Girl Musical back in December, Luciana’s segment stole the show… 

I couldn’t imagine how things would’ve gone if Blaire’s segment was in the show. I don’t think it would’ve gone over as well.

Let me just share her story and collection with you all.

Blaire’s Character and Story

Blaire Wilson’s slogan is “connect to your creativity and watch relationships bloom”. Her stories are written by Jennifer Castle, and are advertised as centering on Blaire trying to balance “social media and her everyday real relationships”.

Blaire is considered a socialite. She is good at bringing people together and dispersing her energies in any area she can be of use. She is quite creative. Her hobbies include decorating, cooking, and gardening. Throughout her stories, Blaire tries to stay connected with everyone, both online and off, while managing her various projects and battling being lactose intolerant.

Blaire lives on a farm connected to a Bed-and-Breakfast in New York’s Hudson Valley.

American Girl’s Guide states this: “Like many girls today, Blaire’s learning to manage friendships, screen time, and even a food sensitivity. Life on Pleasant View Farm teaches Blaire, and all girls, the importance of balance, self-expression, and meaningful relationships.”

The first story’s synopsis goes like this: “Chef. Decorator. Chicken wrangler. Blaire does it all at her family’s restaurant, inn, and farm. In this first book in her series, her recent food sensitivity has made her time in the kitchen—and time with friends—a little tough. But now she has the perfect distraction: a wedding to plan! With her BFF by her side, and a million creative ideas saved on her tablet, Blaire is sure she can make the farm’s first wedding an epic celebration. But between dress disasters, texting mix-ups, and more than one incident with a mischievous goat, Blaire soon learns that wedding planning is a tricky business…and that balancing friendships is even trickier. Can Blaire find a way to make things right, or will this wedding, and her friendship, turn into epic fails?”

The second story’s synopsis:  A goat that does tricks. A lamb in pajamas. A celebrity designer who offers Blaire the decorating opportunity of a lifetime. Things are never boring in Blaire’s world. School gets interesting, too. Blaire’s determined to find a BIG idea for the Community Service Challenge. Her project becomes personal when she befriends a young girl at the local food pantry. With a love of cooking and a farm full of fresh ingredients, Blaire soon has a plan for making a difference. But it’s going to take help from her whole class—including a mysterious new kid—to keep Blaire’s creativity from becoming a catastrophe. 

My Thoughts on the Story

It’s actually not a bad story. The Bed-and-Breakfast setting adds some zing to it. I’ve never stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, so it brought the experience to life for me. I might just visit one some time in the future. I also appreciate that Blaire is more of a “normal” everyday girl than Luciana (I mean Space Camp is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Luciana has some serious leadership abilities, but that’s not every girl’s experience today).

However, I wasn’t blown away by the stories either. Luciana’s made me, an adult, learn something. Possibly the only people who can understand what goes on in a Space Camp are people who have been. I haven’t, so it was eye-opening. Blaire’s was rather charming, but there wasn’t too much for me to grasp my mind around. I really can’t learn too much from Blaire’s story. Maybe some kids could pull some information from this story, but the adult fans would find it lacking. I can’t clearly see the message American Girl is trying to send either.

I’m not sure if Blaire is set to get more books this year, but honestly I’m satisfied with just two. While the Bed-and-Breakfast setting was interesting, the story around it wasn’t that unique or different. I did want to know what was coming next, but there were a few days I wouldn’t even pick up the book. The setting was so interesting, but I kept thinking of millions of ways to make this story even more interesting. For instance, perhaps some cantankerous guests could actually rate the place low. Or perhaps there could be some mystery surrounding the place.

Maybe American Girl spoiled me with last year’s Luciana. I don’t know. The story and setting for Luciana were so unique, that GOTY 2019 is turning into the “epic fail”. Compared to a STEM-based Space camp, a girl of color from a Latin-American immigrant family, and a collection that is unlike any in the Girl of the Year line or Beforever line for that matter, Blaire just doesn’t measure up. After Luciana, I know American Girl can do better.

First off, why can’t we have more girls of color? Ya’ll are going to hate me for bringing it up because some of you might think race is a topic everywhere. But the issue won’t go away just because it makes some of you uncomfortable. It’s nothing personal, but to the company, out of 18 characters, only 6 were dolls of color. Yes, white people dominate in the USA, but SO WHAT? Different is good. Different is interesting. Let’s expand this brand. The world statistics show that there are far more Black people and East Asians out there, so why can’t the dominating race in the USA, start to peer into other people’s lives for once, like everyone else is forced to do?

I mean, I’m not against White or Caucasian Girl of the Year characters, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I have always felt American Girl was weak in the red-head combination department. However, GOTY is even weaker when it comes to characters of color. Of course, American Girl can’t create a character for EVERY LITTLE SITUATION, but it’s not too much to ask for at least one or two characters that represent other races and ethnic groups.

Not only is American Girl lacking enough characters to represent MILLIONS of Americans (because 13% of black people and 6% of Asian Americans still represent MILLIONS of people in the USA, which is equivalent to many smaller countries), but the Girl of the Year characters that were of color were either thrown together or “whitered down”.

Gabriela (2017), Kanani (2011), and Jess (2005) all proved to be disappointing in many ways. Gabriela was clearly thrown together with a recycled face mold and rehashed dancing theme (not to mention how stereotypical it was). Jess and Kanani were both “mixed”. I mean, Biracial is a start for Girl of the Year, but American Girl’s only fully Asian character was an accessory “Best Friend doll” to a white character in the 1970s. With only two other decent girls of “color” (Marisol and Luciana) in comparison to the vast majority of the other Girl of the Year characters, Blaire was not needed at this time. The need is greater for Girls of color.

By the way, I don’t consider Sonali to be a Girl of the Year character as she was an “accessory” to Chrissa. She doesn’t pass. She was also a bully. I just couldn’t gel with her.

However, a character like Sonali would’ve been more compelling as a lead this year than Blaire Wilson.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m sorry. I know a lot of fans are excited for Blaire. The Facebook feed was flooded with support. I don’t want to take your joy from you. But if you want to know why I’m not overjoyed, I can only be honest. I have no interest in a thriving farm-girl foodie, with too much time on her hands, from the “Hudson Valley”. Sure, I love to blog, too, but I think a more powerful character could adapt blogging as a center part of their story-line. Blogging could be used as a vehicle for change, not just showing off your “affluent” farm. I know it keeps the family in business, and I think it’s great a kid is willing to take on that responsibility, but I just think other girls have more serious stories to tell. It completely takes a stomp on all the things truly affecting children in 2019. We couldn’t find a better story to tell this year?

I think the modern My Journey characters have far more interesting stories. Why couldn’t American Girl borrow from them?

My second issue with this story is the fact that her farm is “thriving”. The second farm crisis almost hit the US in 2018, and her story barely hits that point (other than talking about the closing of a nearby farm). Instead, she’s “obsessed with screen time”. I’m not against blogging junkies okay (I am one), but they could’ve made this story more centered on the struggles farmers are facing today rather than her planning some “epic” wedding that turns into a disaster. I mean, who hasn’t heard a story like that before?

Blaire’s story is a bit unrealistic all around…How a child can help plan a wedding, make and cancel plans without speaking to an adult, among other things is beyond me…

After reading both stories, I feel that Blaire’s world wants to send too many different messages at once. Though American Girl says that Blaire learns to balance her “screen time” with her personal life, that’s only relevant to the first book. I’m trying to understand the true educational message of the overall series, but I can’t seem to find it.

My other issue deals with this book cover. I didn’t like it with Luciana, but with a less-captivating story like Blaire’s, the cover makes it worse. It’s almost telling me that nothing in this story relates to a real girl in 2019. I just don’t like it. I can’t bring myself to fall in love with it. At least Luciana had the interesting character and situation. Blaire is just blah. I’m all for the normal girls, but I like my characters to have substance, too.

That’s it. I don’t think it’s the story or the setting. I think I have an issue with Blaire as a character. Her interests are kind of boring. She enjoys cooking and gardening. I feel like we’ve had past characters in this line with the same interests. Lanie, GOTY 2010 gave me all the gardening feelings I needed. Grace, Girl of the Year 2015, gave me all of my baking feelings. Why do I care that Blaire is in the kitchen, too? Why do I care that she has her own garden and a lamb? Especially while Melody, Beforever character from 1963, is deprived of all of her gardening materials?

Last, while I understand balancing social media and the personal life is a problem for everyone today, I don’t think this story tackled it in a way that would actually show kids the benefit of putting down their phones and tablets. Perhaps American Girl didn’t want to send a message like “technology is bad”, but that it needs to be used in moderation. That’s cool and everything.

However, I think many children’s authors fail to go in a little deeper when it comes to social media and why kids use it. Kids are more “sophisticated” today, as American Girl has emphasized time and again, right? I’m sure kids would appreciate a story that’s deeper, even more nuanced. Does anyone ask why kids consume themselves with phones and tablets? What are they looking for while navigating online that they feel they can’t find in the real world? Why don’t kids WANT to spend time with their family and friends? Understanding those problems first will lead to other solutions surrounding the “internet obsession”. This story really could’ve helped kids unravel those inner worries and concerns and desires that cause them to get hooked on to technology in the first place.

Instead, this book focuses on trying to balance life with online through party-planning mishaps and poor texting, but fails to tackle the reasons why someone would be so connected in the first place. Yes, kids hear all the time that they will lose their real friendships and connections with family if they spend so much time on “the social media”. However, no one is there helping kids navigate their minds as to why they do so they can break the habit. No one is wondering what kids are running away from in the real world. This book series could have been the one.

I’ve come up with several theories as to why kids consume their lives with internet.  I knew I began to consume my life with it as soon as I received a computer in 2000. I couldn’t stand my family. I felt a loss of control over my life. The internet was the only space I could be myself, control my environment without grown-ups telling me what to do, and escape my outer world. When I couldn’t fit in with kids around me or share interests with anyone around me, online I could find a community to share any weird obsessions or quirks I had. There might be other kids out there like this.

Blaire’s story barely glosses over kids’ connections to the internet beyond making her create inspiration boards for her food recipes. It doesn’t even begin to tackle the issues around it. It could’ve been that teaching tool, but it wasn’t.

I mean, that’s okay too, but it would’ve been better if it had actually focused on what kids experience online and why.

And is the “food sensitivity” bit supposed to be American Girl’s response to the lack of disabled and handicapped characters in their GOTY lineup? Was that announced to draw in people with real life-threatening allergies to the brand? Initially, American Girl said Blaire had a “food allergy”. There was a bit of backlash about that. SPOILER: Blaire is Lactose Intolerant. It would’ve been more interesting if the story actually focused on an allergy! As someone who has dealt with both, it’s far more life-threatening than lactose intolerance.

I’ve got an idea. How about a character struggling with a real noticeable disability who also has a food allergy? Would have made for an even more educational story-line for kids than Blaire, I promise you that.

The story tries to be relevant to girls today, but it’s far more out-of-touch than the last two characters. I mean, really, read the synopsis for these books. Who uses the word “epic” anymore? I don’t think anyone has used that word in 4 to 5 years. Maybe this book series was written 5 years ago. I don’t know. It seems like it would’ve been a really relevant book back in 2013. It’s not so current now.

Blaire’s stories were definitely written to sell pretty farming merchandise rather than really teach kids about life. She isn’t the first Girl of the Year with that problem, and won’t be the last.

Speaking of merchandise, that brings me to the next topic.

Blaire Wilson’s Doll and Merchandise

Blaire Wilson has curly red hair and bright green eyes. She adopted the “Josefina” face mold (the mold that originated with American Girl’s 1824 Mexican character). It must be popular with the kids because it’s used quite a bit. However, I don’t think it has been used on a red-haired character before, so that makes her pretty unique.

I really love my red-heads, so I can’t say I’m entirely disappointed about getting one this year. However, my desire has been stronger for a girl of color, particularly for an Asian American character or modern Native American or indigenous girl.

She is a pretty doll overall, but I just can’t get myself into her. I think she should’ve come with a different eye color. We have all seen the red hair-green eyes combination before. It’s not the only eye color for red hair. What about dark brown eyes? What about deep blue? American Girl seems to shy away from the deeper and darker shades. Light eyes don’t always make a doll prettier.

Perhaps a haircut would’ve given her something different.

But maybe Blaire’s look will appeal more to kids. I’m not a kid, so I don’t count.

Blaire Wilson’s merchandise focuses on farm-based attire and accessories. I love her accessories way more than her outfits.

Her “Meet outfit” is a white “bumblebee” print springtime dress. She comes with purple sandals, too. Her dress is rather simple, but cute. It gives me “Gwen” vibes (the best friend to Chrissa, Girl of the Year 2009). The purple sandals are cute, but don’t match anything in the dress. Eh. I guess it could pass.

I think the bandanna bracelet is adorable and character-focused, which I love.

Blaire is trying to manage her time between online and her personal life, so she comes with different tools that help her manage things. Her tablet, a clipboard, pen, party planning book, and postcard are really great accessories for any character. There aren’t too many Girl of the Year characters released with technology (surprisingly), so this is a welcome difference. The tote bag has a bouquet.

Beyond her accessories though, I’m disappointed in the gardening/farm theme. We’ve had a character focused on gardening (Lanie 2010) and Chrissa lived on a Llama farm. Wellie Wishers has the garden playset, and then there’s Melody. I feel like these items could have been in Melody’s collection and were set to the side for this Girl of the Year. American Girl seems to be overusing the farm and gardening element, which doesn’t interest me anymore. Whatever.

I like the wedding items. Again, I love the accessories best of all. The clothing doesn’t “wow” me, but at least nothing is ugly.

I prefer Lanie’s gardening outfit to Blaire’s. This is another one I don’t need. When you’ve been collecting American Girl since 1997, you just can’t do repeats. Newer fans could appreciate this because they probably weren’t around when Lanie was in the picture. I can’t appreciate it.

The apron and gloves are so cute though! I would purchase this for Melody (since she’s in desperate need of gardening materials).

Beforever Felicity’s lamb makes a return, but this time not with Felicity.

The “Bed and Breakfast” is nice. However, I’ve found more interest in other playsets for lower the price ($300 for this). I heard there’s a real copper stock pot and metal silverware, though. The quality doesn’t sound too bad.

Overall, though, I hate to say it, especially because she’s one of the few red-heads, I’m a little bored with Blaire. I was already more focused on the Beforever line (considering I prefer the historical lines, characters, and stories), but this confirms what I was already feeling: Modern American Girl characters are too flimsy for my tastes. This isn’t just as far as the collection goes. The stories are often shallow, the collections are often rehashed, the themes are often generic, and the educational value isn’t usually there. I don’t necessarily need educational toys all the time, I just prefer them.

This isn’t to say there haven’t been any Girl of the Year dolls that have gotten me interested. The fact that Girl of the Year actually produced the first Jewish and Bi-racial character was enough to get me interested in the beginning, but the lack of attention to what’s going on in the world makes it fall far behind its Beforever sister line. Blaire Wilson is the character that gives me that vibe. Luciana gave me hope, Blaire brought me back to reality.

I’m going to go ahead and give American Girl the benefit of the doubt right now because I’m a fan. Maybe with all the money they poured into Luciana last year, they just didn’t have the funds for something as big. Girl of the Year doesn’t necessarily have to take us into space and beyond to be great, but she could at least tell us a meaningful story, one that really impacts girls today. I think American Girl should start talking to girls about things that are impacting their daily lives. I think they can pull interesting stories out of the responses.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about Blaire. Do you love her or hate her? Do you feel she represents the girls of  2019? Let’s get the discussion rolling!

7 Dolls I Played With As A Kid That Shaped My Life As An Adult

23 Oct

Greetings Gen Next readers!

People often say that dolls can influence the children playing with them. As a huge doll enthusiast, I can agree with this to a certain extent. It’s amazing how a plastic item can make such an impact on a child. I’ve had dolls that really shaped my view of the world and I’ve seen dolls shape other children around me.

With that being said, I understand why parents, particularly mothers, are so concerned with how dolls influence or shape the lives of their children.

However, I can honestly say that kids view things from a different perspective than adults. While mothers might think a doll brand will influence their child in one way, the child may pick up a completely different message depending on the other surrounding things going on in their lives.

I can honestly say that has been the case for me. Growing up in the 1990s and early 2K, we didn’t have the technology these little kiddies have. We had TOYS! And in the 1990s, toy aisles had anything a kid could ever want to play with. They were filled to the brim.

My parents encouraged me to play at a young age. I was a shy anti-social kid who didn’t like playing too much with the neighbor’s kids. Toys were my escape. My mother, along with other family members, always tried to find the best toys for me. My family always considered how each toy would impact my life, but they never knew exactly how that would occur.

Toys became an integral part of my life. Being raised a girl, my parents and grandparents always saw it fitting for me to play with dolls. Early on, my mother encouraged me to be feminine. She would encourage me to play with the most pro-girl and pro-feminine dolls she could find. She was that way. Little did she know I would grow into a tomboy who loves androgynous fashion!

My other family members, like my grandparents, also tried to find dolls that instilled values.

With my family members encouraging me to play, you can imagine I had a lot of toys, especially dolls, growing up.

Still, you might be wondering, “How did those dolls influence you to the point they impacted or shaped your life right now, as an adult?” Well, let me run down SEVEN dolls I played with as a child that shaped my life today as an adult. When I mention how they influenced me, you might understand more…

I will do a countdown style.

If you hate reading, skip down…Skip


7. Kenya

Created by Tyco, Kenya was a doll that promoted the beauty of African American girls’ hair. Her slogan was literally “the beautiful hairstyling doll”. You could style her hair just like you do yours African American girls!

This was probably one of the first pro-black dolls I saw on TV. Seriously, all of the dolls that came out of the Kenya brand were images of black girls.

When I first saw Kenya in the commercials, the thing that stood out to me, as a kid, was how her hair could be styled to look just like mine. To me, she looked like my vision of a “real girl”. A “real girl”, in my mind, was someone who looked like me! It’s kind of how I feel about American Girl’s Melody now. Kenya was the “Melody” of the 1990s. She was more of a modern girl that encouraged me to love myself. And I could feel that message as a kid. She was actually one of the first black dolls I was exposed to and I loved that doll. I played with her everyday. I even tried to draw my own tattoos on her…Which didn’t turn out too good, but at least she was loved.

I think having a doll like Kenya did something to me. For starters, It exposed me to the country of Kenya. In school, when we were studying countries, I never forgot about the country of Kenya because the Kenya doll had the same name. Every time the teacher would ask us to name one country in Africa, I would always remember Kenya. And I still remember that country to this day. I paid a lot of attention to that lesson and now I know so much about the country.

Then, Kenya helped me love being black with thick hair and made me desire more black dolls. I think after seeing Kenya, the generic white Barbie wasn’t satisfying enough. I began looking for more diverse brands with dolls that looked like me. Kenya made me aware of the underrepresentation present in the media because I couldn’t find any other dolls like Kenya. I always wanted to braid my dolls’ hair and put beads in my dolls’ hair. There were few dolls that offered that.

Seeing Kenya take that spotlight helped me see the beauty in being African American. I think that’s why I push for representation and equality to this day.

The only thing I never loved about this doll was the commercial. It was basic and cheesy then, and it still is. XD

I heard Kenya made a comeback some time in 2012. She came with more modern clothes and more diverse skin tones. I heard she even came with a 12″ Barbie looking type. Kenya is still making waves with trying to push representation…


6. Global Friends

I’m sure most of you guys know nothing about this 18″ doll brand. It didn’t even come with a commercial or anything fancy (though they had a website back in the 1990s, which was a big deal back then, but I didn’t have a very good computer in the 1990s and the internet was dial-up). If you grew up in the 1990s, maybe you got one of their catalogues.

Created by the company of the same name, Global Friends Company, inc, it spawned a brand of around 12 to 13 dolls, all from different parts of the world. Their collections and accessories centered on their cultures and their friendship through the Global Friends pen pal service set up online. At that time, the computer was just becoming a household item, and the internet was the newest advancement. With the internet age, people were able to connect with other people from all over the world. I remember when I was in 4th grade, I got my first online pen pal. She came from a different world. That was so amazing to me at the time.

This brand was trying to encourage girls to connect with girls of different cultures and backgrounds. It was a brand trying to expand the minds of girls.

Like the other 18″ dolls of that time, they were apart of the “18”” doll trend (though they were technically around 14″), meant to look like real girls, and were sold only by “mail order catalogues”. That was the allure of these dolls. They were exclusive and expensive, yet educational and wholesome.

Unfortunately, I never got to buy a Global Friends doll until I was an adult. However, I always got their catalogues in the mail and would flip through them for hours.

Though the dolls may have highlighted mostly stereotypical forms of girls from around the world, they were the first dolls that got me interested in other cultures and traveling. The dolls looked so pretty to me and the outfits were bursting with color. The diversity was fulfilling. It filled my eyes up like I-candy.

Basically, these dolls at least exposed me or became a gateway to the world. The one thing I remember most about the dolls was their “greeting” printed next to them in the magazine. I literally learned how to say greetings in many different languages because of this brand. Gretchen from Germany was first, so I always remembered “Guten Tag” (which means “Good Day”). I always remembered “Jambo”, “Ni Hao”, “Oi”, “Ahllan”, “Dobree Dyen”, Bonjour”, “Konnichiwa”, among others! I may not have learned how to properly pronounce these greetings, but I learned OF them. It was an introductory exposure to other cultures. And it worked!

The brand expanded my worldview and got me thinking about how other people live outside of my existence. I think ever since I got into these dolls, I developed a desire to travel and meet people from so many different backgrounds. I still have that desire, and I want to take the greetings I learned with me.


5. Amazing Amy

Amazing Amy, the interactive doll by Playmates Toys, Inc, with over 10,000 phrases. This company had a lot of interactive dolls come out of it in the 1990s and early 2K era.

And oh no, I can’t forget about Amy. I still have the commercial jingle lodged in my head, “Amazing Amy! How does she know?” And she responds, “I just know!”

Of all the dolls I grew up with, this doll actually had quite a negative impact on me.

Maybe most of us have had a negative fear of dolls before, right? Especially fearing dolls that talk. I know people who have doll phobias. I’ve never really hated dolls neither have I been scared of them. Toy Story might have scared my friends, but it didn’t scare me…

But then came Amazing Amy.

Amazing Amy was battery-powered and mechanical, which was becoming a thing at the turn of the 21st Century. She had her own clock, which could be set to the player’s specifications. She came with lots of accessories. She was blonde and wore pink. I was told she had a black version, but I knew about the blonde one from the commercials.

Quite frankly, I’m glad I didn’t get the black doll. If any doll wanted to influence me to form self-hate tendencies, it would’ve been the black Amazing Amy.

This doll…was the most annoying piece of plastic ever to come into my life.

I first saw her in a commercial and thought it would be cool to have this cute doll that could talk to me. I thought it was appealing to be able to take care of my own daughter. Appealing…So I thought.

Amazing Amy came with some pretty cool accessories, too. She had a toothbrush, a partly chewed popsicle, a bottle of milk, hot dog, juice, pizza, a banana, a cookie, and a plate of disgusting-looking “mashed food”. She liked to play “Simon Says”, “Feed Me Something”, and her “Squeeze Games”, too. She had a dress, diaper, and pajamas.

Oh yes, Amazing Amy was going to be my daughter. It didn’t matter to me that she was white and blonde in comparison to her black mother. I was excited to have my very own daughter.

So how did this cute and interactive doll shape my life negatively?

Maybe it’s not all negative to everybody, but…I believe Amazing Amy is the reason I resolved in my heart, at a young age, that I never wanted kids. To this day, I not only take motherhood seriously but I have no desire to have a baby too soon. On the plus side, I think that’s why I avoided teen pregnancy.

When I got this doll at 8 years old, I was not ready to take care of a baby. Having Amy around and turned on was like taking care of a baby. Once you set her clock in the middle of her body and turned her on, her slogan took full effect: “She knows what she wants and how to ask for it!” At first, I enjoyed taking care of her needs and feeding her. Her sensors would glitch, which would be annoying, but overall I enjoyed giving her what she wanted.

Well, one night, I forgot to turn Amazing Amy off. All night, Amy kept asking for food, to play a game, to get her hair brushed. I was knocked out sleep. Well, Amy cried. She cried so loudly, it sounded like an alarm clock piercing through the night. She woke me up at 4:00 AM so that I could change her diaper, feed her, and play games with her. Then she glitched, so she started crying AGAIN! When I turned her around to turn her off, the button was stuck on “ON”! I tried taking out her batteries, but it was hard for my little hands to get the back open. So, she cried.

Eventually, frustrated, I snuck in the kitchen, picked out a fork, and pried out her batteries. Once those batteries were out, I never put them back in again.

The next day, I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake at school. My mother asked me why I was so tired. When I told her Amazing Amy kept me up all night crying, my mother laughed and said, “Imagine a real baby! But with your own, you can’t just take the batteries out!” That statement stuck with me.

So, now, every time I even think of having a kid, I think about how hard it was for me (at the time) to take care of that annoying, expensive little doll. Now, that I’m older, I’m wiser, but I still understand that taking care of a child is no glamorous or easy task. Amazing Amy definitely taught me that at a young age. Whenever my friends would say they wished they had a baby sister or a baby, my mind would flash back to this doll.

In some ways, I’m glad it taught me to take parenthood seriously. But when I’m interacting with others who really want children, I might not sound the most positive.


4. Barbie

Barbie has impacted thousands of girls the world over, including this girl.

Barbie is the world’s #1 fashion doll. Created by Ruth Handler while on vacation in Germany, and produced by the company Mattel, her husband’s company, Barbie was meant to be a challenge to the Baby doll industry and a response to the growing love of adult paper dolls. Ruth Handler wanted to create an actual plastic figure of famous comic and paper doll characters because she noticed her daughter preferred them to the baby dolls.

At the core, Barbie was meant to be a doll young girls could admire and dream of being one day. She fit the American ideal: white, blonde, beautiful, stylish, wealthy, glamorous, and forever young.

I grew up with her in the 1990s when she’d already had a huge empire and had expanded beyond the fashion world. Barbie could do and be anything by the 1990s! That’s the vision they sold us.

This blonde adult figure inspired a lot of playtime out of me growing up. I would always pretend she was my mother. She reminded me a lot of her. My doll was white and my mother was black, but they both were stylish, career-oriented, and could do things I couldn’t at my age.

Interestingly enough, Barbie’s fashion sense never appealed to me. I didn’t like her for her fashion. I liked her for all of the mini items she came with. For example, my Teacher Barbie came with a chalkboard, mini chalk, and desks. I always thought it was cool how I could create my own classroom in a mini-sized version.

So how did Barbie come to influence who I am today? How did she influence a messy tomboy like me?

It might shock you, but Barbie ushered me into the technology age. Yeah. She also expanded my interest in dolls. I have to give her credit for this.

When we first got a computer in my home, one of the first websites I knew about was Barbie.com from commercials. I can’t find that commercial anymore.

The jingle went like, “What can you be there, what can you see there? Now you can be there, uh-huh…” Something like that.

Anyway, Barbie encouraged me to navigate the internet. It was the first website for dolls I’d ever heard of.

Barbie also introduced me into video games. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I had always watched my young uncles and cousins play video games, but I didn’t have a system or games of my own. My mother and grandmothers didn’t think it was a suitable toy for “girls”. I would try to play games like Mortal Combat and NBA Sports at Arcades or at restaurants or laundromats.

But when I first got my playstation, the first game I played was Barbie Race and Ride. By playing this game, I learned the mechanics of the playstation system. Eventually, I moved on to more advanced games from there. I loved Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, Tekken and Street Fighter, and eventually RPG games like Kingdom Hearts. It was because of Barbie that I fell in love with video gaming. I still love video games to this day.

I also used to play Barbie Super Sports (which was a little more challenging than Race and Ride) and Detective Barbie. The most fun Barbie video game I played was a PC/CD-Rom game called Secret Agent Barbie. That was my first PC game. I wish I could still play that game. It’s not compatible with anything nowadays.

In all honesty, Barbie made me into a gamer girl!

Barbie also got me interested in diverse and unique dolls. A lot of dolls have claimed to have been the first major diverse dolls out there, but Barbie has always had sister and spin-off brands that focused on a group of diverse dolls. Generation Girl was about 8 best friends from different backgrounds and cultures who attend International High. Diva Starz was also a diverse brand, and probably the first I saw with the big head and big feet design. Polly Pocket was innovative. Myscene was stylish and mature. Even to this day, Barbie’s sister brands Monster High and Ever After High continue to produce diversity. Going to Barbie’s website, I was able to get in touch with the other lovable brands.

Barbie’s mini world inspired me to look for more out of my collections. She pretty much set the bar for how far a doll line could expand. Barbie has had it all. I can only be impressed by how much this doll brand has accomplished for over 50 years. It’s amazing. The appeal of Barbie was that I could be in a lavish mini world I wouldn’t naturally be able to afford in real life. I could be anything when I had Barbie.

Barbie developed my interest in building a career, believe it or not. I always had working women around me. I didn’t have the privilege of a stay-at-home mom. My mother had to work. Barbie made that seem okay for me. Through Barbie, I could always pretend she was in a career. She had so many career options in the 1990s. I believe she inspired my ambitious nature.

Barbie may have had an influence on me, but she didn’t turn me into a materialistic and superficial broad. She may have done that to some kids, but not me.

Little did I know I would take this influence and drive it towards a rival brand…


3. Magic Attic Club

Oh, The Magic Attic Club. This club was like the Babysitters Club of the 1990s, only it dealt with magic and younger girls. But it was the club every girl wanted to be in. Magic Attic Club inspired me in many ways but also taught me valuable lessons. Let me explain.

Magic Attic Club was following that “18” doll” format. They were sold by mail order catalogue, were expensive, and exclusive. They were cheaper than American Girl though. Unlike American Girl, Magic Attic Club was a modern and more fantastical line. They came with a series of books that followed the characters’ adventures through a magic mirror that would allow the characters to explore their imagination. The adventures they would go on would also teach them how to deal with their everyday life (though the things they go through might seem minor).

Magic Attic Club dolls passed through the hands of many companies before retirement. They were first sold by Georgetown. They filled the gap American Girl didn’t fill at the time: They produced modern girls (while American Girl still primarily sold historical dolls). Eventually, Magic Attic Club went to Knickerbocker and last Marian (which was a company created by actress Marie Osmond and her husband Brian).

Magic Attic Club influenced my life in five ways.

First, Magic Attic Club got me interested in the fantasy genre. Magic Attic Club was able to be and do anything, at 10 years old. I was always excited about whatever adventure they would go on. And the outfits they came with! They were just bursting with color and luxury!

I think the mystery behind the Magic mirror was so intriguing that I longed for that mystery in other genres. To this day, my interest in the fantasy genre has expanded. I enjoy Harry Potter, Circle of Magic, Jewel Princesses…I got into a lot.

Second, Magic Attic Club made me realize indigenous people still EXIST, not as a foreigner but in my own country. Yes, I was an ignorant little child back then. I used to see indigenous groups as groups belonging to the past. I didn’t realize that there were still people from these groups, even little girls like me, living modern lives while trying to hold on to their ancestry. Rose Hopkins, the Cheyenne girl in the Magic Attic Club, taught me that. To this day, there are still very few doll lines that have a modern doll representing the indigenous groups of people. Ever since I was introduced to Rose, I have felt she was a rare gem, and I have looked for that kind of representation in every doll line. Rose is also one of the most gorgeous dolls in the brand.

Global Friends also had an indigenous doll, but at the time, it didn’t dawn on me that the character was “American”. Unfortunately.

Third, Magic Attic Club taught me to shut my mouth and stick with real friends. When I was younger, about 8 years old, that was the one time in my life I wanted to fit in with the other girls. I had so many popular girls in my class. They were kind of mean and stuck up to some of my friends. I used to be like a loser or an outcast because I would hang out with the underdogs.

But one day, I had been talking about the Magic Attic Club. All the “cool” girls liked Magic Attic Club because of how exclusive and pretty the dolls were. These girls found out I loved Magic Attic Club, knew a lot about the dolls, and let me be apart of their clique because of it. Me, being a fan of Magic Attic Club, would share fan info with these girls, insider knowledge. At that time, they were giving me some attention, and I liked it.

Eventually though, that died down. They started cooling off from me. I guess all they had in common with me were these dolls. So what did I do? I came up with the biggest and stupidest lie. I told them that my grandmother works for the company that makes Magic Attic Club dolls and that she could get them dolls for free.

After that, the girls came back around me.

But see, I had to keep up with this lie. The girls kept pressuring me and asking when they would get their free dolls. I had to keep pushing back the date to make it believable. Eventually, one of the lead girls got suspicious. She came up to me and said, “I don’t believe your grandma works for the company.” I tried to defend my lie. And I managed to defend this lie up until I was 10. I finally confessed that my grandmother didn’t work for Magic Attic Club and that my grandmother just happened to buy me two dolls and books. Obviously, this made me the bum of my elementary school days. I deserved it.

On the other hand, my real friends stayed by me and liked me for who I was. From that Magic Attic Club encounter, I learned that you can’t buy friendship and I learned to shut my mouth. If I can’t speak truth, I don’t need to speak. I learned not to lie about who I am.

The fourth way Magic Attic Club had an impact on me was it actually got me interested in doll fashion. The one thing Magic Attic Club had over all the other 18″ dolls of the time was they were girls my age that wore trendy and modern clothes. They were the first dolls that got me interested in the fashion aspect of doll brands. Beforehand, I just liked the stuff dolls came with. Magic Attic Club had an array of different outfits and clothes, but they were also on trend in my eyes. Barbie was fashionable, but she was an adult. The MAC were wearing clothes I could wear and WANTED to wear. My interest in their fashion expanded my interest in fashion dolls in general (even though they weren’t fashion dolls!).

Last, Magic Attic Club has influenced my summers. Magic Attic Club always reminded me of summers spent with my great-grandmother (who I would visit every summer). When I was younger, I couldn’t afford all of the Magic Attic Club books. However, during the summer, my great-grandmother would take me to the library and I could find all of the MAC books! I would check them all out. The librarian knew which books I would get every summer. Eventually, this turned into a tradition. Every summer, even up into high school, I would check out the Magic Attic Club books and read them.

Eventually, the library closed. I also couldn’t spend as much time with my grandmother. But I managed to buy all of the ones in print (still looking for Jane in a Land of Enchantment). I still read them every summer. Summer doesn’t begin for me unless I read these books. Having the dolls also remind me of those lovely summers.

Overall, the Magic Attic Club dolls have had a profound impact on my life.


2. American Girl Dolls

The American Girl dolls come from a brand focused on educating and inspiring girls through play. They come with a line of historical characters and modern characters fleshed out through dolls, accessories, and books. Through storytime, their characters help girls face the real world around them. Honestly, of all the 18″ dolls, American Girl was the first to do this and has always been the most effective at this.

American Girl was originally produced by Pleasant Rowland through Pleasant Company. It was designed to combat Barbie’s influence as an adult figure and bring back dolls that looked more like girls. It also bounced off the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie, which had been popular decades prior due to the TV series. The dolls were meant to help connect girls today with girls of the past, to bridge generations of girlhood, tell history from the female perspective, and inspire future leaders.

Ironically, Barbie’s parent company, Mattel, ended up buying American Girl. American Girl continues to educate and inspire girls.

This company definitely inspired me. I got into American Girl in 1995 with the books I would get from my school library. I received my first American Girl doll in 1997. At that time, the modern girls were just becoming a thing.

American Girl influenced me tremendously. First, this doll brand inspired my love of history. It was the gateway to learning the important events in my country. And as they say, if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I think American Girl encouraged me to appreciate the place I live and even to appreciate the histories of other countries! American Girl made history come alive for me, and made history fun and appealing. In school, I always got As on my history tests. I would win history bees and competitions. American Girl didn’t have all the answers, but they were the only books telling history from an everyday perspective, not from one of those glamorized and over-dramatic perspectives. They would go over things about history I honestly never heard of, like what foods people ate and what clothes they wore. I literally got interested in how people live.

American Girl is the reason I have the job and career I have NOW. I was inspired to get into education. I was inspired to build up my own community of African American children and help them value education. Addy was my first American Girl and she made slavery and reconstruction even more real for me. I’ll never forget when she got her freedom and she still had to build her life. It wasn’t a walk in the park. The books were so real for me, not cheesy at all.

I currently work with black children and I try to get them into their own roots and history. I try to inspire them the way American Girl inspired me. I wanted to give back. American Girl showed me the importance of doing that.

American Girl instilled some really strong morals and character traits in me. I think the brand helped me develop courage, a spirit of adventure, open-mindedness, kindness, compassion, sacrifice, strength, and determination. Whenever I thought my life was hard, I would think about girls who came before me who had it harder. I try to live up to these qualities everyday. I think American Girl helped me see the importance of developing these qualities early in my life.

Having the dolls really made history real for me. I could pretend to be from a different time and place, a different race or culture, and through that playtime, I learned to understand people and I learned to understand life. I’ve learned how to cook foods and prepare them in ways different from my own. I’ve learned to study the way people dress and live. I’ve learned to melt my own prejudices when seeing someone different.

I definitely learned to transcend myself. Perhaps my favorite non-black characters are Kaya, Kit, Molly, and it doesn’t feel like American girl without Felicity. I’m still into the brand and have loved newer dolls like Melody and Julie. I do hope to have a 1920s character soon as well. That’s on my American Girl wishlist. Through these characters, I feel like I’ve lived several lives…

I feel like I’m recording a brand ad or something right now…

American Girl also helped me connect with my elders. By learning about times in the past, I knew about some things my grandmother and great-grandmother enjoyed. My great-grandmother always felt she could talk to me because when she did, I knew what she was talking about and showed interest. It helped me bond with my family. I was able to appreciate doing things with my grandparents and my mother, things a normal child wouldn’t find interest in. I think it helped me respect women of all ages and what they have done for me.

American Girl showed me that women can be strong leaders, and I take the lessons from the brand with me into my adulthood.


1. Bratz

Bratz is a brand of cutting-edge and fashion-forward dolls that arrived shortly after the 21st Century began. These dolls were meant to make the beginning of a new century, and they did that for me.

Just when I was losing interest in playing with dolls and was growing into a tween collector, out came the Bratz.

The Bratz were created by designer Carter Bryant (freelance designer on break from company Mattel) and produced by MGA Entertainment.

I got into the Bratz late 2000 when the website was under construction. Most of my followers know the story. I was actually looking for new dolls to get into. Something interesting. I had been looking for a particular doll when I accidently typed in Bratz. When I pressed the link and saw the website under construction, I thought it was going to be some kind of fashion cartoon (which I felt would’ve been awesome).

A few months later, the first Bratz commercial hit the scene and I was a different girl. The rest was history.

You might be wondering, “How can a line of fashion dolls top a girl-empowering line like American Girl?” I didn’t think that could happen either.

At the time I got into Bratz, I was what most people considered “too old” for dolls, especially during the surge of popularity Bratz received in 2004. I was a teenager by then.

The first thing Bratz taught me was that you’re never too old to like dolls. Bratz was set to target girls like me. I soon realized that. When I first heard Bratz was meant to target girls my age, I was shocked and excited. I knew that something different was brewing in the toy industry.

Bratz truly made me a COLLECTOR. I loved dolls before, but the clothing, items, and edge was so inspiring, I actually saved my money and bought even the hardest to find dolls if I could find them. Some items you couldn’t get anywhere.

Bratz exposed me to the toy industry in general. I’m not talking about as a toy but as a business. Bratz was on the rise during the computer age. MGA was one of the only doll companies FULLY open to suggestions back then. I remember I would email Mattel ideas of mine and would get one of those automated responses. I only got one real response and it was pretty rude.

MGA always responded in a very thoughtful and engaging way. And the things I asked for at my age…They delivered! I think after I heard Bratz was releasing a CD in Japan in 2003, I asked for MGA to get a CD created for worldwide release. Shortly after, Bratz’s “Who We Are” and “Bratz Rock Angelz” was released. When Bratz had a show released in Japan to tie in with the CD, I asked for the Bratz movies and shows and got it shortly after! I wouldn’t say my emails made a difference, but by seeing the results, it made me feel like my opinions mattered.

I realized my own fan power in shaping the success of my favorite brand and I brought this fandom power into many other fandoms.

I also realized harsh truths about the doll industry through the Bratz. I think the Bratz business is the only one I’ve followed closely. I’ve seen how a doll line could rival another doll line in sales. I saw how that impacted the direction of toy brands. All of this at age 11 to 17.

I began to see the difference in companies. When I was a kid, companies didn’t matter. I didn’t know Amazing Amy, American girl, and Barbie were even from different companies. They were just toys.

After getting into Bratz, I realized the difference.

I learned the legal system that works around toys as well, especially seeing the legal issues surrounding Carter Bryant, MGA, and Mattel. I learned that just because you created something doesn’t always mean you are allowed to have full rights over the product. That whole situation made me “business-smart”.

Bratz has taught me so many valuable lessons about toys in general.

While American girl inspired the career I’m in now, Bratz is inspiring my future goals. Everytime I see a Bratz doll, I feel inspired to get creative. The amount of detail and coolness that goes into Bratz draws out a lot of ideas in my mind.

Bratz has even inspired my sense of fashion and developed my social identity. I think I told followers that I was raised in a very super-feminine home. It was so suffocating, I couldn’t slouch, spill messes, or accidentally ruffle an ounce of my attire. I used to hate fashion and femininity because of how I was raised.

When I first saw the Bratz, and this may not be anyone else’s experience, I saw girls in baggy pants, beanies, bandanas, and sneakers. The dolls were wearing a diverse range of styles. They didn’t fit into one feminine box. Sure, some wore skirts. But they could throw on a denim jacket and sneakers in a heartbeat. That had an impression on me. I finally felt I found a doll brand that represented someone like me.

Later on, Bratz tried many outrageous styles, which helped me explore all possibilities in fashion and even other forms of art! I had developed an interest in cutting edge and avant-garde fashion. I really began taking a liking to androgynous fashion. As a youth, the Bratz produced an image that encouraged me to be my individual self. They helped me explore my identity.

Bratz has developed me into an adult that is willing to take risks, stand in my truth, and explore my options. I believe these were the last dolls that truly inspired me. Bratz has changed my whole world vision.

Bratz set the bar for this century. For all new dolls, I’m looking for a spirit of individuality, style, and innovation. I take that attitude with anything I do.

That’s my list of dolls that have had an impact on who I am today! Leave me a comment and let me know of any dolls or other toys that influenced you in your youth! What do you think of my list? Let’s get the discussion rolling!

American Girl’s Native Hawaiian doll, Nanea Mitchell from the 1940s, Has Arrived!

5 Aug

For those of you who don’t know, American Girl is a brand that produces a line of wholesome and family-friendly dolls centered on encouraging girls to be the best they can be and to make their mark on history. Pleasant Company originally produced the American Girl collection in 1986 with their line of historical dolls as the focus, now called Beforever. Soon, the brand was sold to Mattel, creators of the Barbie doll, and it has expanded since then to include Bitty Baby, Wellie Wishers, Girl of the Year, and other contemporary and historical lines throughout the years since it’s been around.

Lately, American Girl has been pushing for “diversity” in their brand of dolls. Earlier this year, the first African American Girl of the Year  , Gabriela, was released followed by American Girl’s first boy doll. Z Yang, a young Korean filmmaker, was also added to the group.

And finally a new doll was added to the Beforever lineup: Nanea Mitchell, a native Hawaiian girl from 1941, during the early WWII era.

I’ve done write-ups on the dolls before, if you want to check those articles out. –>Check it out here.

To promote the new 1941-1942 Native Hawaiian American Girl doll, American Girl has allowed all of their “Rewards” members early access to the doll! That’s right. Instead of waiting until the end of the month, AG Rewards members will receive their Nanea as early as this week!

Many AG Rewards members received their Nanea on August 1st, and already there are reviews everywhere of her. American Girl fans who have been excited for her arrival were surprised when American Girl bumped up her release for their active consumers.

And Reward members weren’t just getting a doll. Oh no. They received a collection.

What is AG Rewards?


It is just like any rewards membership you get with any retail store. The more you buy, the more points you get. Attending American Girl events can also give you points.

It’s free to join.

It’s kind of difficult to find on the main website. But you can access it by going to the “Shop” page, clicking “Sign in/Register” at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Or you can access it by going to the “Shop” page or “Stores” page, scrolling all the way to the bottom, clicking “About American Girl”, which then gives a drop-down menu that includes “AG Rewards”.

You must be 18 years or older to join, so kids should ask their parents first.

Other F.A.Q.s are listed on the page if you scroll down.

But don’t expect to get Nanea just because you decided to be a member today. You had to have accumulated 350 points or more (Gold status and Berry status) to be able to get the doll and her collection.

The doll and her collection run about $216 for pre-order. Nobody over my way can afford that right now, but happy days to the rest of ya’ll who can.

What was included in the Nanea collection?

Included in the collection are the doll in her Meet outfit, some accessories that go along with it, a hula outfit with some floral accessories, her Pjs, and her cute little dog.

There are videos out now from people who received their collection. I haven’t gotten anything yet. :/

One of the best videos I’ve seen has been lead by a very intelligent and bright child.


Another great video is by the Youtuber American Girl Ideas.

After watching the videos, I have my own review.

My Review

Nanea’s Meet Outfit and Accessories

I’ve already seen it a thousand times already. But I never really gave my opinion on it until now.

Nanea’s Meet outfit comes with a pake “Teatimer” blouse that became really popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

More searches on “Teatimer” blouses

She also arrives with sailor-inspired moku shorts. She has crisscrossed strap sandals. She has a bag/purse that can turn inside-out to match her outfit. And she has a blue-white shell necklace to tie it all together.

I love the color and style of the “Teatimer” top as well as the cute little shorts. But I’m not sure I like everything together. For some reason, it just seems like the jewelry and handbag are off with the outfit. The red in the shirt is the only color that pops. The blue with it isn’t doing it for me. The blue is nice too on its own. But it doesn’t seem like there’s enough to go with the red in her shirt.

But separately, everything looks really appealing. The doll itself looks stunning. Yet, I don’t know why they saw the need to paint the ends of her eyes. Was that to make it look more slanted than it was supposed to look?

Regardless, I personally appreciate the historical emphasis put into the wardrobe. I was especially interested in her Meet items.

Some other Meet items include a letter from one of her best friends, Donna, and an envelope. I read a bit about Donna, but there will be no spoilers from me. 😉 We can see Nanea’s address on the front of the envelope. This friend Donna lives in California …I’m assuming Donna’s family moved after the events of Pearl Harbor, December 1941.

Nanea’s Meet accessories also come with two $1.00 bills with HAWAII printed on the back. This is a very historical detail. Right after the Pearl Harbor attack (so these accessories have to have been related to events that took place in 1942), dollar bills were issued with a Hawaiian print. This was so the US could distinguish the money during a Japanese invasion, if such were to happen. If an invasion were to happen, the Japanese could seize millions of dollars from institutions on the island. But with the Hawaii print, the USA could easily declare the money useless since the notes weren’t actually the legal currency of the nation. It was like making a bunch of fake dollar bills for people so the Japanese wouldn’t still the real ones.

All  “bank notes” that were not stamped had to be turned in. Hawaiian residents were not allowed to use any other form of currency unless they had permission.

History on the Hawaiian Bank Note

So far, the most interesting parts for me about the Meet stuff are the accessories. I like everything else, but the other items just adds to the overall historical and story experience, which is something I appreciate about American Girl. The letter in its envelope kind of reminds me of the American Girl’s “adventure” books. You know, like Kit’s Railway Adventure? Samantha’s Ocean Liner Adventure? Molly’s Route 66 Adventure? I loved those books so much.

The Hula Outfit and Accessories

Sigh. I am not shocked, but mildly disappointed. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from Nanea. It’s an era I’ve already collected so much for (because I’ve had Molly, one of the original dolls, since 1997, and have shopped around for off-brand WWII items for her). The things that make her different from Molly deal with her culture, the unique setting, and the extra floral prints.

But I was sort of hoping for maybe a more authentic Hula dress that was less…I don’t know…stereotypical?

I thought it was bad enough that Molly’s perception of Hawaii was the grass skirts (to add Molly’s mom thought it was a good idea to be a hula dancer for Halloween, but this was the 1940s).

But having a “native” Hawaiian girl perpetuate the same stereotypes as Molly almost gives off a worse vibe. This doll could be a gateway for little girls to learn more about Hawaiian culture and history.

When girls see Molly, they know she is just an ignorant white girl who doesn’t know any better. But when they see Nanea, they will think that she really is what she’s advertised as: a “Hawaiian” girl.

So, something a little less stereotypical would’ve been nice. Where was the advisory board when this was designed?

This is not to say there were no hula outfits with ti-leaf skirts being designed in the 1940s. The ti-leaf skirts may have been more common in the late 1800s and early 20th century, but they had them in the 1940s, too.

Before more hula skirts were being made with cotton, hula skirts were often made from raffia fibers. But originally, in the 1800s and before, Hawaiian ladies would just wear the skirts-and nothing else.

Because white missionaries wanted to spread their morality and religion, the style of clothing for the hula changed. It had to so it could fit the current “moral codes”. The dance was banned sometime before the 1940s because of the movement of the dances, the different spiritual undertones, and how “scantily clothed” the dancers appeared.

But by Nanea’s time, hula had moved beyond a traditional spiritual ritual and had become more of an art form. Girls by the 1940s wouldn’t have flounced around in grass skirts all the time. They often wore colorful skirts that may have been made from simple cotton. Then again, if they were trying to appeal to tourists in the 1940s, they may have used the grass skirts instead. Still, there were other styles that I wish had been made for Nanea.

The true evolution of the hula outfits have yet to be elaborated on by any entertainment mediums presented to children. And American Girl joins the other bulk of companies that fall into capitalizing off of the stereotypes.

Perhaps someone should’ve looked up the various different outfits hula dancers wear. Even girls today could provide better and more accurate examples of what is appropriate for hula. And it’s certainly not always grass skirts. Maybe they didn’t want Nanea looking so close to Kanani, but Kanani’s Luau outfit looks more unique than Nanea’s “hula” outfit.

Kanani Luau dress

Today, the hula is mostly done for entertainment and to embrace Hawaiian heritage and culture. Many Hawaiians do still wear the raffia skirt. But wouldn’t it have been refreshing if American Girl had gone a little deeper?

But no. I wasn’t shocked they didn’t. It was exactly as I expected. Still, I was disappointed that they met my low expectations with this outfit.

I prefer the Holoku dress on the cover of her second book.

And from the look and feel of the hula outfit and the accessories, it just seems cheap and lazy. I know doll companies are struggling, but come on. Any time the lei and floral accessories and outfit are worse than Kanani’s, we’ve got a problem. Even the kid in the video can feel it!

The historical line of dolls should be of higher quality than the contemporary dolls. People can get away with wearing plastic everything nowadays. Nanea’s outfit is supposed to reflect the 1940s. Plastic was rationed! I understand the floral accessories can’t be too real because then the flowers could wither and die without proper care. But it should at least look and feel real. It’s just unacceptable.

Sure, Kanani’s doll came out years ago when American Girl could afford to make high-quality items. The doll industry is really suffering nowadays. Mattel might be losing two of its biggest doll lines of the decade (Monster High and Ever After High) and may not be able to bounce back from that. But it still would’ve been nice if there was some effort to be original or different.

The top that goes with the skirt is nice, but Nanea has enough red in her Meet outfit to go around. And it kind of makes it look like a tropical version of Molly’s “costume”.

The “strapless” look of the hula top kind of reminds me of Disney’s Moana, but okay.

Overall, again, Nanea looks good in the hula outfit once everything is put on her. But the look of it is better than the overall quality. It’s like having food on the table that looks better than the taste.

Nanea’s Pajamas and Mele the Dog

The pajamas are cute. They kind of seem to relate to modern fashion styles. This isn’t to say this style wasn’t popular in the 1940s, but I can see how it can be pretty trendy for today, too. American Girl presenters said on facebook that Nanea’s outfits were sort of designed to be “timeless” where girls could mix and match some of her 1940s outfits with modern outfits.


While that’s thoughtful and all, I’m not too on board with the idea of mixing the contemporary styles with those of the past. I enjoy the authenticity of the historical line, and quite frankly I find the modern outfits to be something I can find at my local target from another popular 18″ doll line.

But overall, I find the pjs to be okay. They look soft and comfy and I would like a pair for myself.

Mele is cute as a button. I love that doggy!

Overall, her collection seems okay. I’m not as into the outfits as I am the accessories this time around. But I’m glad this dress was released!

Some fans have gotten hold of Nanea’s family market!

1.Once again, the items are the most interesting part of Nanea’s collection for me. I’m seeing some Victory Garden stickers. XD Flashbacks of Molly comes to mind.

2.  I do see a sticker asking people living in Hawaii to donate their empty bottles. TRIVIA: The war brought a shortage of bottles on the island. This is probably when “recycling” really took off the ground. People were encouraged to bring their empty bottles, which were often glass, back for further use. Milk bottles used to be delivered to people by a milkman in glass bottles instead of people going to the store to purchase them in cartons.

3. Did you see how cheap stuff was in the 1940s? Jello….5 cents!

4. The first edition of the Honolulu Star newspaper!

5. The canned spam and the rice bags are two of my favorite items. Canned became a favorite in Hawaii when the army men and air force, the GIs, fell in love with it. It didn’t require refrigeration and had a long shelf life. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Menuism/why-do-hawaiians-love-spam-so-much_b_1901306.html

Hormel shipped over 100 million pounds overseas.

6. There’s beautiful fabrics! I wonder if any are truly long enough to make doll clothes with…



Check out the rest of Nanea’s items!

I love the rest of Nanea’s collection. Really time-period ready!

Learn more about her at americangirl.com!


I hope I don’t sound too disturbed in some parts of the article. But I’ve been put-off from her since I found out I wasn’t going to be learning about a new era and was revisiting the 1940s. Forgive my skepticism. I’m trying to be fair.

I was also put off when I found out she isn’t really fully “Native Hawaiian”. She’s also not really fully a “doll of color” because like all the other Asian/Pacific Islander dolls from American Girl, one of her parents are white. I supposed that’s to make her “prettier”.

But it is more realistic for a Hawaiian girl to be mixed in the 1940s. Few islanders were fully Hawaiian by the 1940s. And even fewer are today.

Oh well. I guess it’s better we get some history on Hawaii now than not at all.

That’s my review of Nanea’s collection. What do you all think? Do you like everything you see? Are you impressed? Are you disappointed? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!


%d bloggers like this: