When Will We See More Curly Haired American Girl Dolls?

After the company launched in 1986, American Girl was all the rage in the 90s, and even now, over thirty years after their initial release, American Girl continues to be a household name and a much-loved doll for girls everywhere. For those who don’t know, American Girl is part of the Mattel toy company, which also makes Barbie, and each 18-inch doll comes with a small children’s book which tells the dolls’ story and details some of her adventures. During its earlier days, American Girl dolls focused on teaching history, and each doll would come from a different time period in history and include would be a book that taught children about these historical time periods. These historical dolls still exist, but American Girl has branched off in numerous other directions and has continued to grow the company even after thirty years.

American Girl is so popular in fact, that they have almost 20 stores nationwide devoted to all things American Girl; dolls, accessories, books, clothes for your child and the doll, hotels, beds, campers, really everything you can think of! The flagship American Girl store is located in New York, in Rockefeller Plaza. I recently visited the store with my daughter, Ari, the original Curlee Girlee, and while she shopped, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of dolls who had curly hair like my daughter. As I navigated the different floors and displays of dolls, I counted only a handful of real curly haired dolls, even though the NYC store sells over 85 different dolls to choose from. I realized just how underrepresented my daughter and girls like her still are, and how far we still have to go for society to begin to view curly hair as equal to straight hair.

Thankfully in the past few years, Mattel has been incredible with listening to what consumers want and is continuing to become more inclusive so every child feels represented. In the past few years, Barbie has come out with several new curly-haired dolls, even plus-sized dolls, and dolls that come with a wheelchair and wheelchair ramp. American Girl is also making new and improved changes to their brand. They now offer accessories such as hearing aids, guide dogs, diabetes kits, among other items.  We support and applaud them for this.  You can read about their efforts toward representing disabilities here

Another effort from American Girl to represent more children is the Truly Me option on the American Girl website, which allows children to choose from different hair colors and skin tones to find a doll that looks just like them. The whole idea of the Truly Me dolls is for children to feel included by having a doll that looks like them. This, however, isn’t exactly the case. There are nearly 50 dolls to choose from, but barely a quarter of them have curly hair. There are only three dolls available with black hair, only one of which has curly hair. 

On a more positive note, American Girl made headlines for their inclusivity a few years ago when they introduced their first-ever boy doll, Logan. American Girl spokeswoman Stephanie Spanos said of Logan, “A boy character has been a top request from our fans for decades…For boys, we know Logan can speak directly to them and give them something unique and special to call their own.” Logan was created as part of American Girl’s Contemporary Characters line, which was launched in 2017 and is devoted to broadening their range of dolls and making them more relatable to kids growing up in current times. This contemporary line also includes Tenney, a blonde curly girl, and Suzie “Z” Yang, the company’s first-ever Korean-American doll, who came just ten years after the company launched its first-ever Asian-American Doll in 2007 during a push for more diversity in the 2000s as their under-representation became more noticeable. This was another excellent stride toward representation in children’s toys and gives us hope that if enough people request, Mattel will hear our calls for more dolls with curly hair, and dolls that will look as unique as our children.

Almost 25 years before the Contemporary Characters line, American Girl launched Addy, its first-ever African American doll, seven years after the company was first launched. And just recently American Girl featured Gabriela McBride as their first-ever African American Girl of the Year. Gabriela is a fellow curly girl who also has a speech impediment. This year’s Girl of the Year is Blaire, a redhead with wavy hair that has a curl to it, which gives us more hope that we are beginning to make strides in getting more curly representation. 

In another effort to double down on more representation, American Girl launched their WellieWishers line in 2016. This line features five girls, all diverse from one another, who go on adventures together. Two of these girls Willa and Kendall sport curly hair. The WellieWishers is also a book series with excellent representation, and you can find the first book here.

If you and your curlee girlee are new to American Girl and don’t know where to start, you may want to consider Rebecca, a mini and less costly American Girl doll who also has lovely curls. Thankfully, American Girl also has plenty of resources and accessories that your child can use for their curly dolls as well! They have a specially made hair pick made just for curly girls, as they advise children to not use a brush on their doll’s curls. If your doll’s curls are becoming unruly, watch this helpful tutorial on how to get those gorgeous curls back, and check out American Girl’s official guide for hair care, which even has a section specifically for curly hair. Your curlee girlee can also play with her doll’s hair with this adorable salon caddy, which comes with many hair styling items, including a hair pick! Your daughter can even match her doll by trying these 7 Easy Hairstyles for Long, Curly Hair together! 

Many studies have been done about representation in media and pop culture, and why it matters especially to children, and the results have been consistent. Children want to see characters who look like themselves and will feel more included and cared for if they see characters like them. Showing diversity and representation is an incredibly important factor when it comes to a child’s self-esteem, and so we need to include whatever representation we can, so more children grow up happy and confident with who they are. We have even written before about What to Do or Say if Your Daughter is Showing Signs of Hating Her Curly Hair because curly hair is so underrepresented in the media or is even looked down upon. If we can begin to show our curly children more characters and dolls with curly hair, we can begin to change their inner dialogue for the better!   Look out for the Curlee Girlee doll, debuting soon,  which will be the first truly curlee girlee doll for curlee girlee’s everywhere.

 

Atara Twersky, Author of Curlee Girlee is a TODAY Show Style Icon. Her mission is to teach girls to embrace the beautiful curls they have with power and confidence. Join us as together we change the “coarse” of curly hair. Don’t forget to check out our recent article on What to Do or Say if Your Daughter is Showing Signs of Hating Her Curly Hair.

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