Doll company American Girl has made steps in recent years to diversify its popular lineup and did so again this past Friday with the naming of its “Girl of the Year” doll. The latest is African-American girl Gabriela McBride, the first Girl of the Year doll since 2011 who isn’t white.
Fans of American Girl dolls have known for years that the only African-American doll available for a time was Addy, a 9-year-old girl born into slavery who eventually escapes to freedom. Addy’s story, important as it was, was seen by some critics as a limiting view of the African-American experience.
Gabriela is just the fourth black American Girl doll after Addy, the discontinued Cecile, and the latest doll who came out this past February, Melody Ellison. Gabriela is a spoken word artist and dancer who uses poetry to display confidence and get past her stuttering.
Gabriela is American Girl cute with curly dark-brown hair, big brown eyes, and an outfit tailor-made for a dancer with a penchant for expression. Gabriela also comes with some fancy headphones and a microphone for her performances, along with an accompanying book, Gabriela, written by Teresa E. Harris.
The young artist is hard at work in the book with the intention of saving a local community arts center from being destroyed by using her voice as a poet to challenge her speech impediment and to speak out for what’s right.
Mattel, which owns American Girl, says Gabriela will be available throughout next year, unlike previous Girl of the Year dolls in times past. The tradition began back in 2001.