Table of Contents
- Get the news and special offers you want
- List of Girl of the Year Characters
- Traits of the Girls of the Year and collections
- Character Availability Timeline
- MegaBlok Sets
- Criticisms of Girls of the Year
- See Also
- American Girl Partners with Scholastic for New Curriculum
- Massachusetts Daily Collegian
- The new American Girl Doll is an insult to feminism
- Hang on for a minute…we’re trying to find some more stories you might like.
- Email This Story
- Meet Gabriela! American Girl’s 2017 Girl Of The Year Doll
— American Girl’s girl of the year doll for 2017 is a poet and dancer named Gabriela McBride, who uses the two art forms to help overcome her stuttering.
Gabriela is the newest doll in American Girl’s line of dolls, which depicts girls of diverse backgrounds and interests. The doll was revealed Thursday on “Good Morning America.”
Gabriela is described in a press release from the dollmaker as a “true creative talent” who uses poetry to help “break down barriers” and overcome her “personal challenge” of stuttering.
The 18-inch doll, which has brown eyes and curly dark brown hair, will be launched in stores and online on Jan. 1.
Gabriela comes with a book and performance-inspired outfits, plus a microphone and pretend headphones. Additional Gabriela products and books will be available starting in spring 2017, according to American Girl.
A series of three books about Gabriela, written by Teresa E. Harris, follows Gabriela as she grows up in a family of artists and finds her voice through poetry, which helps her save her beloved community arts center from destruction.
In addition to the books and doll, American Girl is partnering with Scholastic to release a curriculum program, Express Yourself, to teach poetry to students. The program will feature a poetry contest for kids to celebrate National Poetry Month in April.
The American Girl doll for 2016 was Lea Clark, who was described by American Girl as a talented photographer and animal lover.
Get the news and special offers you want
Sometimes it’s hard for girls to speak out about issues that they feel passionate about. But they all have the power within them to make their voices heard. That’s just one of the inspirational messages our new Girl of the Year™ Gabriela McBride™ has to share with your girl. Gabriela joins a collection of characters who encourage girls to make a difference, whether big or small. In Gabriela’s case, that’s using her creativity to fight for a cause she believes in.
Gabriela, our 15th Girl of the Year, has grown up surrounded by the arts—dance, painting, music, and theater. Her mother is the founder of the Liberty Community Arts Center, a beautiful, but crumbling, old building that is the gathering space for Gabriela’s network of family and friends.
In Gabriela’s stories, we discover that she has a lot to say. But it can be tough to get her message out. She struggles with stuttering, so when she tries to speak, she often finds herself in a battle with her own words. A new group at the arts center helps Gabriela embrace poetry as her art form of choice. When she speaks her poetry aloud with her friends, she finds that her words flow more freely.
While words don’t always come easily, Gabriela is determined to harness her creativity and speak out for change. From saving her beloved arts center to bringing together her classmates at her new school, she always manages to find the right words to rally her community when they need hope.
Gabriela’s story can help your daughter gain the confidence she needs to believe in the power of her own words. Now you can get to know Gabriela McBride and introduce her inspirational story to your girl today!
Joss, the current Girl of the Year.
Girls of the Year, also known colloquially as Limited Edition dolls, are dolls and characters that are available on a limited basis.
Originally characters were only available for one year before retirement but, starting with Gabriela McBride, remain available for approximately two years. Originally, the line was classified as part of the American Girl Today collection, but with Jess McConnell the line was separated into its own collection.
Girls of the Year were introduced in 2001 with Lindsey Bergman.
List of Girl of the Year Characters
- Lindsey Bergman was released in 2001.
- Kailey Hopkins was released in 2003.
- Marisol Luna was released in 2005.
- Jess McConnell was released in 2006.
- Nicki Fleming was released in 2007.
- Mia St. Clair was released in 2008.
- Chrissa Maxwell was released in 2009.
- Lanie Holland was released in 2010.
- Kanani Akina was released in 2011.
- McKenna Brooks was released in 2012.
- Saige Copeland was released in 2013.
- Isabelle Palmer was released in 2014.
- Grace Thomas was released in 2015.
- Lea Clark was released in 2016.
- Gabriela McBride was released in 2017.
- Luciana Vega was released in 2018.
- Blaire Wilson was released in 2019.
- Joss Kendrick was released in 2020.
Girl of the Year Companions
In 2009 Chrissa Maxwell came with two companion dolls, the only time that a Girl of the Year came with any other accompanying dolls. This was predominantly because Chrissa’s story emphasized friendship. Her two companions were:
- Gwen Thompson
- Sonali Matthews
Each doll came with the American Girl book Friends; there was no additional stories from their viewpoint or unique items for them in Chrissa’s collection. With the retirement of the Best Friends side lines, it is unlikely that there will be any future companions for a Girl of the Year, though characters continue to have friends mentioned prominently in stories and some are shown in MegaBloks releases.
Traits of the Girls of the Year and collections
Girls of the Year are always characters that originally are about ten to twelve years old in modern-day America during the year of her release. The character is given a story that expands on her personality, a specific situation she is involved in, relevant social issue, and/or her personal hobbies. This creates an overarching theme for the year which is expanded in the collection.
While the line started modestly, Girls of the Year now have sizable collections including multiple outfits and often one large “fancy” item. Originally the largest item was furniture such as a bed, but nowadays varies into things such as rainforest style huts, bakeries, or faux space habitats, that generally have multiple accessories.
Lea and Gabriela were also available through other retailers; packaging was initially adjusted to accommodate this and secure product for other retailers. Gabriela’s packaging was modified to open on top with a clear-front plastic opening. The doll slid out connected to a colorful cardboard backing; her first book, instead of laying on top of her, is tucked behind her. Outfits were packed in clear front boxes with contrasting thread to secure items; accessory sets were (and continue to be) packaged in closed boxes and sealed shut, with the items shown on a front image. However, this packaging was panned by consumers and, other than being used for Contemporary Characters and accessory sets, packaging has reverted to the clear-window style doll box and solid cardstock boxes for outfits. After Gabriela, Girls of the Year were no longer available at secondary markets.
In 2012–at the release of McKenna Brooks–older character pages began to be removed from the site. In 2015 Lindsey, Kailey, and Marisol were temporarily removed from the Girl of the Year Archives and no longer seen on the site; they were later restored. No characters further back than ten years were on the main Girl of the Year site ; the oldest was removed soon after the release of the next character. Starting with Blaire, the page focused on the current Girl of the Year and older characters were listed on the intertwined character page that includes Girls of the Year, Contemporary Characters and Historical Characters.
The Girl of the Year comes bundled with a book, much like Historical and BeForever characters. The books are targeted to ages eight and up. Originally books were smaller at only about five or six chapters and a little longer length than a Historical Character central story; they later expanded to roughly ten short chapters each. With the release of Grace Thomas, books no longer had illustrations (much like BeForever books) and consist of about thirteen to fifteen chapters, telling a longer and more involved story. Starting in 2014 or so, books became available in both e-Book and physical books.
Starting with Nicki Fleming, Girls of the Year started to receive multiple books. The first book is bundled with the doll and any additional books are available separately. The books expand the story and allows for a more rounded image of the character through the year. For several years, books had an after-story section which discussed real life girls who have done the same things the character has done; for example Nicki’s books talk about other girls who have worked with service animals, Mia’s had a question and answer section about sports, and Chrissa’s had a question and answer section about friendship and bullying. The books are all written in first person narrative from the viewpoint of the main character. With Isabelle, three books were available as well as a short story e-book. Three books and e-shorts continued with Grace and Lea, but no e-shorts were made for Gabriella and books were reduced back to two with Blaire.
Originally, American Girl kept all prior books in stock for purchase. Starting with the release of McKenna Brooks, American Girl began to phase out older books when the books Lindsey, Kailey, Marisol, and Jess were retired from direct sale. Books then started to be phased out or placed on sale for clearance after approximately three to five years after initial release.
Staring in 2017, Scholastic took over publishing the main books for all Girls of the Year and the new Contemporary Characters.
Chrissa Maxwell was the first Girl of the Year character to receive a movie, Chrissa Stands Strong. Movies were not released again until McKenna Brooks and her movie, McKenna Shoots for the Stars, but were consistently released through Lea Clark. While the doll’s collection was mostly released on January 1, movies generally did not premiere until closer to the summer.
Movies are available on Blu-Ray and DVD formats and were originally also broadcast–frequently on NBC–with commercial interruptions after the home release. Grace and Lea’s movies were launched straight to DVD/BluRay.
No character after Gabriela has received a movie; full length movies have mostly been phased out for new media distribution (such as shorter Amazon Prime Specials).
Starting with Nicki, American Girl has held contests and campaigns to promote the Girl of the Year.
- Nicki was a Real Girl 2007 contest to promote girls who were helping in service ways.
- Mia was Real Girl 2008 of girls who performed in inspiring ways.
- Chrissa was part of an anti-bullying campaign and American Girl partnered with the Ophelia Project .
- With Lanie, American Girl partnered with the National Wildlife Federation and the Be Out There™ Movement to encourage appreciation of nature and outdoor activities.
- With Kanani, American Girl partnered again with the National Wildlife Federation to raise awareness of endangered animals and promote wildlife preservation as part of the Shine On Now campaign.
- McKenna was part of an initiative aimed at increasing childhood literacy with Save the Children’s U.S. Literacy Program.
- Saige’s release included an arts contests for girls, a school grant contest for elementary arts teachers, and activities developed with Americans for the Arts.
- Isabelle’s release included an online sweepstakes contest for girls, but no noted partnerships with campaigns for dance or design.
- With Grace, American Girl launched a yearlong fundraising initiative, “For Goodness, Bake!”, to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to end child hunger in America.
- Lea’s release included an arts campaign, Wild at Art, along with a yearlong partnership to support the World Wildlife Fund.
- Gabriela’s release included a partnership between American Girl and Scholastic to create a custom curriculum program, “Express Yourself,” on using poetry as a tool of self-expression.
- With Luciana, American Girl, along with Scholastic, NASA, and Space Camp, helped fund the Blast Off To Discovery program, which included STEM-based lesson plans and activities. American Girl and Scholastic also hosted a Mission to Mars sweepstakes with the grand prize trip to Space Camp.
- With Blaire, American Girl is is not connected to any major programs or partnerships, but carried themes of farm-to-table meals, food allergies and sensitivities, and food preparation.
- With Joss, American Girl has donated $25,000 to the non-profit Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to support educational programs. Additionally, through December 2020, purchasers can make a $1, $5 or $10 donations through the site and at stores. there will also be promotion of a Walk With Joss with the Walk4Hearing in twenty cities.
Character Availability Timeline
The Girl of the Year is released on January 1st (regardless of which day of the week it is) with at least one if not both books about her, extra outfits, and accessories. A “large” furniture or playset item started to be released at launch as well, generally of a cost over $200 US.. While originally a “starter collection” of the doll with some of her beginning outfits and a few accessories came bundled at a discount, this has been discontinued. Grace, Gabriela, and all characters after her have not received a Starter Collection upon their debuts, though they could be bundled with accessories at a slight discount. At least one child-sized outfit is released, generally the meet outfit with any modifications needed (for example, Nicki’s meet outfit was separated into a top and skirt instead of the bodysuit the doll received).
During the first three days of release at American Girl Place locations, various events are held for the Girl of the Year, including activities. Starting with McKenna’s release, a small giveaway item was offered as well, only available at the stores; no purchase is needed, but it is only offered the first three days of release to visitors. Saige and Isabelle received white t-shirts with their personal name and matched logos. With Grace and Lea, the items came in unique envelopes.
- McKenna Brooks: Duffle Bag
- Saige Copland: Decorated Logo T-shirt
- Isabelle Palmer: Decorated Logo T-shirt
- Grace Thomas: Red Chef Apron
- Lea Clark: Pink Beach Sarong
- Gabriela McBride: Boombox Notebook
- Luciana Vega: Decorated Logo T-shirt
- Blaire Wilson: Striped Apron
- Joss Kendrick: Orange Drawstring Bag
Later in the year, near the summer or early fall, a second set of items is released. Lindsey’s and Kailey’s collections were small and so had no additional releases. Jess and Marisol had their larger items, Marisol’s Spotlight Stage and Tiara and Jess’s Motor Scooter and Helmet, released mid-year. From Nicki to Lea, all large items are released at launch and the second fall release is generally a single additional outfit and a related accessory set.
After the second release, a character’s “whole world” collection originally become available for purchase; this included every item available for the doll and all books bundled at a discount. Chrissa was not given a whole world set which was assumed to be because of her companion dolls. Lanie was also denied a Whole World Collection. Kanani received a Whole World collection, but no character since her has received Whole World Collections; this is likely due to the prevalence of larger items in collections.
Occasionally, items that are not specific to the stories or character outfits but connected to the collection are released for children; these generally involve shirts and accessories, some based on the character’s items.
All items in the collection originally remained available through about November or December, though larger items may begin to sell out in October. Previously, starting in November any items that become sold out are retired and not restocked. The entire collection, regardless of any remaining stock, was officially retired after December 31st and no longer made available to purchase. The character is also listed on the American Girl Archives.
The first break from this after Kailey was Gabriela, who remained available until December 2018. The current method is to keep the doll and multiple items available for about two years. Regardless of the prior availability of the previous character, the new doll and collection is not released for purchase until January 1st of a new year (barring early release parties). For a while post retirement books and other media (such as movies) remain available through American Girl for purchase.
Sometimes outfits and items are rereleased for the My American Girl line in sales post retirement, but may be modified or be missing components; these generally sell quickly.
In 2016, American Girl partnered with Mega Brands, a subsidiary company of Mattel, to create various MegaBlok sets (later rebranded as MegaConstrux). Girl of the Year sets have so far focused on Nicki, Mia, Lanie, Kanani, McKenna, Saige, Isabelle, Grace, Lea and Luciana. McKenna, Saige, Isabelle, Grace, Lea and Luciana have had sets that include friends or family mentioned in their stories.
Criticisms of Girls of the Year
There are several major criticisms of the Girl of the Year Line.
With the focus by American Girl on the Girl of the Year Line–particularly the original emphasis that she and her items were only available for one year–other lines, such as the Historical Characters line, suffered in lack of focus. Many American Girl Place locations give larger or more dominant display space to the Girl of the Year, emphasize the character more prominently (barring any other product launches or changes), and items and meals in bistros generally focus on the character. With the BeForever rebranding and continued emphasis on the Historical characters post, this has been less of a concern but is still brought up frequently.
Lack of Character Ethnic/Racial Diversity
There has been a considerable lack of diversity through the life of the product line. In the years since the launch of the line in 2001, only Marisol Luna, Jess McConnell, Sonali Matthews, Kanani Akina, Gabriela McBride, and Luciana Vega have been the Girls of the Year of color (not of a white background), for 1/3rd (33.3%) of the dolls. Of the six characters, only three main characters–Marisol Luna, who is Latina (specifically Chicana/Mexican), Gabriela McBride (African American) and Luciana Vega, who is Latina (specifically Chilean)–have not been either white or partially white. Jess and Kanani’s stories each explicitly state that they have one white parent (Jess’s father and Kanani’s mother). Sonali is said in books to have a South Asian (Indian) mother (her father is not specified), but she was a companion to Chrissa’s collection and not a main character.
There were no fully Latina-identifying characters released for several years after Marisol; Lea is marked as one-eighth Brazilian through heritage, but does not personally identify as Latina (and in the movie was played by a white actress).
Not all cultures have been represented fairly. For example, no East Asian or South Polynesian characters that have not been white-biracial and no Native American characters have ever been released in the line.
Critiques to the company about a lack of diversity in the Girls of the Year Line have frequently been dismissed, often with customer service suggestions that consumers may look towards the Historical Characters or Truly Me lines available (and later, the Create Your Own) for diversity in purchasing items. However, these problems are specifically with the Girls of the Year line, which receive the large foci and launch on the first of a new year and are given full books and modern-day collections.
The line has seen a frequent repetition of themes. Of the sixteen main characters, three–Marisol, Isabelle, and Gabriela–have all had themes of ballet dance and each one was given ballet or dance outfits (even though both Marisol and Gabriela only had ballet-style dance as minimal plots in the stories). Both Nicki and Saige had a collection that in part centered around a horse and the character’s interaction with them, and had a large horse as part of the collection. Most collections focus in part on pets and animals, traditionally feminine activities, or non-science pursuits. The closest to a character that focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics) was Kailey’s interest in saving tide pools and Lanie’s personal interest in animal biology before Luciana’s collection; however, Kailey’s collection did not discuss anything STEM and Lanie’s collection items and themes focused more on outdoor play and camping.
The lack of activity/theme diversity has let to complaints that character ideas are being recycled and not branched out past typical themes of dance, art, and/or animals. Luciana is being touted, however, as a STEM character; her collection shows deep emphasis on space exploration, astronomy, and aspects of engineering.
Starting with Marisol’s release, characters were emphasized as being only available for a single limited calendar year. This led to the frequent complaint that consumers who received or purchased a Girl of the Year for a December holiday celebration–often without knowing the limited time of the collection– would have only a short time to purchase additional items, running the risk of not being able to purchase much from a specific character’s collection if anything. This was especially prominent if items or dolls had retired early in December before the bulk of the holiday purchasing season; for example, Nicki and Mia dolls sold out very early in December 2007. This was partially addressed with Gabriela being available into 2018, and currently, this has been carried forward for characters after her.
Gabriela and Tenney
It is heavily theorized that Gabriela McBride was a last minute shift by the company into being the Girl of the Year. Her Truly Me look-alike, #46, was pulled from purchase availability shortly before her launch; consumers who had purchased #46 within a short time frame of her launch were sent an offer to receive Gabriela’s complete meet outfit separately for no cost, and it was sold separately from the doll for some time. She was the first Girl of the Year in several years to not receive a movie, no large items were initially available at launch like had been done since Nicki, and later her “unique” earrings were made available for Tenney Grant when piercing a doll. Comparisons between Gabriela’s collection and the character after her, Luciana, show marked contrast in item design and detail.
It has been suspected–though it will likely never be confirmed by the company–that Tenney Grant was intended to be the 2017 Girl of the Year, but she was instead used to launch the contemporary character line after the last minute change.
- Contemporary Characters, a smaller modern character line
- Truly Me, the modern unnamed character line
- The first exception was Lindsey, who was available for about a year and a half. However, she did so poorly in sales that it was not until 2003 that another Girl of the Year was released. Kailey was also available for multiple years.
- While Jess’s book was predominantly set in Belize, she is from Michigan.
- This was also done with WellieWishers items.
- Kanani is the exception; her books are written in third-person narrative similar to the Central Series, Short Stories, and Historical Character Mysteries for the Historical Characters.
- See more on the Scholastic article page.
- Since Chrissa’s movie was released when Blu-Ray was not a widespread format, it is only available on DVD.
- Chrissa’s movie was broadcast on HBO and Isabelle’s movie was broadcast on the Disney Channel.
- American Girl’s 2016 Girl of the Year Is Lea Clark, Photographer and Animal Lover, abcnews.com, accessed December 31, 2015.
- American Girl’s 2017 Girl of the Year™ Inspires Girls To Find Their Creative Voices And Speak Out To Make A Difference, accessed December 31, 2016.
- 10.0 10.1 American Girl’s 2018 Girl Of The Year™ Is On A Mission To Inspire Girls To Push Beyond Boundaries And Reach For The Stars, accessed January 1, 2018.
- Hearing Loss Association of America Partners with American Girl® to Increase Education and Awareness of Hearing Loss, accessed January 2, 2020.
- Or the first two, with characters that had three books.
- Chrissa did not receive a “large” item, likely due to the two companions that were released.
- The notable exceptions are McKenna and Lea, who had starter collections with exclusive outfits.
- Lindsey’s and Kailey’s Meet outfits were not made available for children, though Kailey’s Bikini was.
- With the exception of Gabriela, who did not receive her loft bed until the summer.
- The earliest an item has sold out is Grace’s French Bakery which went out of stock in September.
- With Isabelle, multiple additional components were made available in AG sales online after her retirement for some time, though the doll remained retired and items could not be purchased in store.
- Note that, however, STEM as an acronym and educational focus was not widespread or heavily emphasized before 2005.
The restrictions run the gamut in Germany. For example, “Hello Barbie,” an interactive doll, is sold in the United States but not in Germany, where the news media has dubbed it the “Stasi-Barbie,” a reference to the widely hated East German secret police that infiltrated the everyday lives of Germans to such an extent that even relatives were distrustful of one another.
Cayla is already under scrutiny in the United States. In December, advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Genesis Toys had violated the rules on children’s privacy because the Cayla doll records and transmits the voice prints of children to Nuance Communications, a computer-software company.
Cayla and a similar toy, i-Que, made by the same company are Internet-connected and talk and interact with children by recording their conversations.
“These voice recordings are stored and used for a variety of purposes beyond providing for the toys’ functionality,” the complaint said.
Last year, Norway also found the products potentially in breach of its advertising regulations.
“It’s quite disturbing because the company reserves the right to direct marketing towards kids,” Finn Myrstad, technical director of digital services at the Norwegian Consumer Council, told the BBC at the time.
Genesis Toys has not yet released a statement on the German ban. Attempts to reach the company on Friday were unsuccessful.
American Girl Partners with Scholastic for New Curriculum
These last few weeks we’ve been getting to know a new friend, and are so excited to introduce you to her. Meet American Girl 2017 Girl of the Year (GOTY) Gabriela McBride. She is a quiet and creative girl who has learned to use her creativity to overcome obstacles in her life.
Many thanks to American Girl for partnering with About a Mom, and sending Gabriela to us.
The minute I saw Gabriela I knew she was the perfect doll for Tati. They have a lot in common. Both have beautiful, curly dark-brown hair and warm brown eyes. Gabriela likes to wear the color purple and has a fun, sporty look just like Tati.
Gabriela arrives in a cropped purple sweater and soft turquoise tank top, plus jeggings, underwear, and shoes. Also included are a pink double headband, 10 hairbands, and the Gabriela paperback book by Teresa E. Harris. I’ll tell you more about the book in a moment. It is the first of three.
There are some similar personality traits too. Gabriela McBride is a quiet and creative girl growing up in a family of artists. In her story, Gabriela struggles with stuttering, but uses the power of poetry to find her voice and gain the confidence to make a difference in her community.
Gabriela’s story has already been so empowering for Tati, and I am sure many other girls.
As told in a series of three books published by Scholastic and written by Teresa E. Harris, Gabriela inherited a love of the arts from her parents, especially her mother, but spoken word poetry is becoming her own passion. Although Gabriela often finds herself in a battle with her own words because of her stuttering, she discovers that her poetry, filled with wit and honesty, helps her speech flow more easily and gives her the confidence to find her voice to help save her beloved community arts center from being torn down.
It is so nice to see her play with Gabriela, and care for her. Tucking her into bed at night and getting her dressed to go shopping with us or even out to dinner. They are the best of friends.
We currently have the doll and the first book, and look forward to adding some additional outfits and accessories. Gabriela also comes with several performance-inspired outfits and accessories, including a dance barre, rehearsal and dance outfits, plus pretend headphones and a microphone. Additional Gabriela products and books will be available starting in spring 2017, and—for the first time—the new Girl of the Year collection will be available for a full 12 months and beyond.
The Gabriela McBride collection is available through American Girl’s catalogue at americangirl.com and at all American Girl retail locations nationwide.
There is also some fun Gabriela online play available! Girls can visit the Gabby-dedicated site at americangirl.com/girloftheyear for free book excerpts, videos, activities, wallpaper and e-cards, and much more.
To connect both boys and girls with Gabby’s inspiring message, American Girl is partnering with Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and leader in comprehensive educational materials, to create and distribute Express Yourself, a custom curriculum program that teaches 3rd-5th grade students how to use poetry as a tool for self-expression. The free materials will be available on www.scholastic.com starting March 1, 2017, and include teacher lessons and corresponding classroom activities, a poetry poster, plus parent tips and learning ideas to do at home. In addition, to celebrate National Poetry Month, the program also features a poetry contest for students that will run throughout the month of April. The Express Yourself program will encourage all students to find their creative voices and share their own personal stories, while building confidence along the way.
The newest American Girl Doll is here and ready to make a difference. The 2017 Girl of the Year is Gabriela McBride, and she’s a creative girl who uses poetry to overcome her stutter, according to a press release from American Girl.
Courtesy of American Girl
Gabriela’s parents are both artists, but she discovers her own passion for spoken word poetry and dance. She’s frustrated by her own speech impediment, but finds that reading poems “filled with wit and honesty,” helps her speak freely. The inspirational poems she writes help save the local community arts center from being torn down.
Gabriela comes with performance-inspired outfits and accessories, including a dance barre, rehearsal and dance outfits, plus pretend headphones and a microphone. You can buy the doll and accessories starting on January 1, and she’ll be available for 2017 and beyond.
Courtesy of American Girl
American Girl is taking Gabriela’s spirit far beyond the doll, and has partnered with Scholastic to make a poetry curriculum that teaches boys and girls how to use poetry as a tool for self-expression. Starting in March, teachers and parents can download free teaching materials from Scholastic.
People are super-excited that American Girl chose to represent poets and people who stutter:
The speechie in my brown self is all for this new American Girl doll who uses art to overcome her stuttering https://t.co/3zoo1igHU0
— Zazie Beetz (@AfroFrias) December 29, 2016
Last year’s doll was Lea Clark, a photographer and animal lover, and we love that there’s another doll in the squad who inspires girls to follow their artistic pursuits.
Massachusetts Daily Collegian
The new American Girl Doll is an insult to feminism
The old American Girl is gone
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The new American Girl Doll is an insult to feminism
By Lily Robinson, Collegian Contributor
November 14, 2019
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As temperatures drop and we replace ghosts and ghouls with turkeys and pumpkin pie, it’s time to admit that the holiday season is once again upon us. Just in time for the spending spree that is the next two months, American Girl has released a new product to remind young girls what this time of year is really about: money, glamour and commercial spectacle.
Earlier this week, American Girl announced that they will soon be releasing a new product: a crystal encrusted doll worth $5,000. The company will produce only three of the dolls, one of which will be displayed in each of their flagship stores. With American Girl Brand sales dropping 30 percent in 2017, as reported by MarketWatch, the publicity stunt is not surprising. Not only does this latest choice go against the brand’s founding philosophy, it makes a statement about the value of young women that is unacceptable in 2019.
Founder Pleasant Rowland said in a speech for the 25th anniversary of American Girl that her original idea was to create, “a series of books about nine-year-old girls growing up at different times in American history. There would be six books for each and the stories would reflect the important moments of girlhood and how it changed and how it stayed the same over the years.” She said that, even when faced with skepticism, she knew the idea would be a success because it was exactly what she would have liked as a child.
In the beginning, the dolls were a celebration of young women and the struggles they have faced throughout American history. The original three — Kirsten, Molly and Samantha, who have now been archived — were from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and represented progressive American values such as leadership, activism and being a self-starter. Since then, the brand has started down an increasingly disappointing path.
In 2001, American Girl started releasing a “Girl of the Year,” basically a marketing ploy where a new doll is released and featured on their website for a year before being archived. As described on their website, “the Girl of the Year line empowers girls to make a difference—and reach for their dreams,” and it is updated annually to “ensure that the line remains relevant and reflective of girls’ experiences today.”
Knowing this, the 2019 version must be a middle school class president with dreams of one day breaking the ultimate glass ceiling, or maybe a bilingual pre-teen climate activist who travels the world to save our planet, or at least a member of her school’s STEM club. Except, she’s not. The 2019 Girl of the Year is Blaire: a redheaded, Caucasian New Yorker who likes to cook and throw parties, but struggles to limit her time on social media. No, I’m serious, read her bio.
Even for a franchise, American Girl has always been a bit profit hungry. Along with the dolls and educational materials, the company offers endless accessories to keep people buying. It has a spa where girls and their dolls can be pampered, it hosts tea parties and takes birthday party bookings. There is even a “doll hospital” where customers can ship their dolls for repairs.
Given all this, the situation isn’t hard to understand; American Girl isn’t doing as well as it once was, sales are down and the pressure is on from their parent company to turn things around for the holiday season. In a state of panic, the company needed to create a spectacle, and what is more spectacular than gluttonous wealth?
The problem lies in the message that this sends: when it comes to girls, powerful and progressive doesn’t sell. A company can’t thrive by promoting the education and celebration of women. Instead, when times get tough, the only solution is to revert to the tried and true: pretty, glitzy, sparkly and expensive.
Since 1998, when Mattel bought American Girl, the company has slowly been leached of the feminist spunk from which it was born. The release of the $5,000 seasonal doll marks the moral crash of a once progress-oriented, female-led startup. The original message, which urged girls to learn, dream and support each other is now telling a generation of young females that their most marketable qualities are skin deep.
Rowland’s speech at the 25th anniversary of American Girl was in 2011. She released another comment to consumers of the product five years later at the 30th anniversary in 2016. I have been unable to find any more recent commentary, but the question stands: would the American Girl of today be a product that a young Pleasant Rowland would have picked up off the shelves? Would Blaire have inspired that future high achiever to get an education, to teach, to write or to become an entrepreneur? Or would Rowland have walked past a lavishly dressed but otherwise generic doll in a New York storefront and shook her head before walking on to pursue her dreams?
Lily Robinson is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at
“Gabriela” redirects here. For the doll, see Gabriela McBride (doll).
Gabriela McBride is the fifteenth Girl of the Year released by American Girl. She was released in 2017.
In July 2018, American Girl announced that they would archive Gabriela’s entire collection; she and her collection eventually became unavailable for purchase. Gabriela’s books remain available for purchase.
Gabriela lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
She has a stuttering problem, and is using spoken word poetry to help with the situation along with speech therapy. She dances tap, hip-hop, and ballet at her community center, Liberty Arts.
She loves poetry, and is very good at writing. She also becomes a member of the Student Council in Gabriela Speaks Out. Gabriela often tries to work hard and impress others, though she can be insecure about her stutter. She doesn’t like backing down from her beliefs, and tries to speak from the heart.
In Gabriela (book), she is in fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School; in both Gabriela Speaks Out and Gabriela: Time for Change, she is in sixth grade at Kelly Middle School.
She lives with her parents and her cousin Red, who is staying with them while his mom is overseas. Her best friend is Teagan, a computer coder, and she is also friends with Isaiah, a Shakespeare lover. She used to be antagonized by Aaliyah, but eventually befriended her by reaching out and telling her that she liked her confidence, and the two of them are co-councilors for the sixth grade at school.
- Gabriela by Teresa E. Harris
- Gabriela Speaks Out by Teresa E. Harris
- Gabriela: Time for Change by Varian Johnson
The Gabriela McBride doll.
See: Gabriela McBride (doll)
- Face Mold: Sonali Mold
- Skin: Dark
- Hair: Dark Brown, curly
- Eyes: Brown
See: Gabriela’s Collection
- Minor Characters in Gabriela’s Stories
- Gabriela is the first Girl of the Year since Kailey Hopkins to explicitly say that the doll will be available past the end of the year the collection was initially released.
- Gabriela is the first Girl of the Year since Kanani Akina to not recieve a movie.
- Gabriela is the first Black Girl of the Year character, and was the first since Marisol Luna to not be of some partial or dominant white background (or at least half white).
|Girls of the Year|
Mia St. Clair
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Meet Gabriela! American Girl’s 2017 Girl Of The Year Doll
American Girl is making company history: For the first time since 2001, their Girl Of The Year Doll is Black. The doll was recently announced on ABC’s Good Morning America.
The doll—Gabriela McBride—is a dancer and poet, and is working to overcome stuttering. According to GMA, the 18-inch doll, which has brown eyes and curly dark brown hair, costs around $120 and is available in stores and online.
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Meet Gabriela McBride—our new Girl of the Year! She’s a true talent who gets creative for a cause. #GOTY2017
Gabriella comes with a dance barre, rehearsal and dance outfits, headphones and a microphone and is accompanied with a book, “Gabriela,” by Teresa E. Harris. In the book, Gabriela fights to save her beloved community arts center from being destroyed and gains confidence by developing her voice through her poetry.
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In addition to the books and doll, American Girl is partnering with Scholastic to release a curriculum program, Express Yourself, to teach poetry to students. The program will feature a poetry contest for kids to celebrate National Poetry Month in April.
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“When speaking up gets scary, I focus on expressing my true feelings—My Poetry is My Power.” -Gabriela McBride #GOTY2017 #MondayMotivation
“The goal has always been to be able to create mirrors and windows for girls to see either a direct reflection of themselves or a window into a life or a culture that may be different from their own,” Stephanie Spanos, an American Girl spokesperson told The Daily News.
“Overall, we’re just really proud to feature a diverse and inclusive set of dolls.”
But over the years, American Girl, which is owned by Mattel, hasn’t been the most diverse. Out of the last 20 dolls in the company’s Historical/”BeForever” line, only six have been girls of color, three being Black, the Daily News pointed out.
But either way, having a doll that our girls can see themselves in is still incredibly important. Expect to see more Gabriela products and books this spring.
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