The contemporary characters have stories that "reflect several important social issues, including racial equality, environmentalism, and immigration, and the value of working together to create a better world."
American Girl has long been a brand that took its responsibility to teach kids about the world around them quite seriously. For years, it has empowered its young customers through its unique blending of toys and educational stories and is once again doing so with the launch of its new cast of contemporary characters — Makena Williams, Evette Peeters, and Maritza Ochoa. According to a press release from the brand, the three new dolls have stories that "reflect several important social issues, including racial equality, environmentalism, and immigration, and the value of working together to create a better world."
Makena, Evette, and Maritza's stories — which overlap as the three become "passionate peers in speaking up for the causes they care about" — also emphasize the importance of friendship, respect, fairness, and inclusion. "American Girl was built on diverse and inclusive storytelling—narratives that have empowered an entire generation of girls to stand up for what they believe in with courage, resilience, and kindness," said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. "We created the new 'World by Us' line to accelerate our progress in diversifying our characters and stories to better reflect what it means to be an American girl today."
"Through Makena, Evette, and Maritza, as well as future characters to come, we hope our fans learn that they're never too young to contribute to the larger conversation and help make the world a more inclusive, unified place," Cygielman added. According to the American Girl website, the company brought in a number of acclaimed writers and advisors to help create these dolls and their stories to "elevate multicultural stories that reflect American girls" today. "American Girl product designers consulted with the authors and advisers who weighed in on critical design elements for each doll, including skin tone, hair type, and face shape to capture the unique looks—like Makena's exclusive face sculpt and rope-twist braids and Evette's all-new textured curls," the press release states.
Authored by Angela Cervantes, "Maritza is a caring, take-action kind of girl who loves celebrating her Latina heritage—from the delicious food to her community’s music-filled festivals. A leader on and off the soccer field, she finds her passion in advocating for others, especially helping to keep immigrant families together." Meanwhile, Makena's story was penned by Denise Lewis Patrick who wrote her as someone who "loves art and her close-knit family and [has] ties tracing back to Kenya. But her real passion is fashion, which she uses to express her views. After experiencing a racist incident in her own front yard, Makena uses her style to speak up about injustice."
Sharon Dennis Wyeth's Evette "loves vintage clothes, upcycling, and protecting nature, including the Anacostia River near her home. When she discovers racism in her own biracial family, she works hard to heal her world—family, friends, river, and all." American Girl marked the debut of its World by Us line with a special fashion show in partnership with Harlem's Fashion Row (HFR), the premier design agency that creates a bridge between brands and designers of color in fashion. It also donated $25,000 to HFR's nonprofit organization, ICON360, "to help raise awareness and funds for the next generation of BIPOC fashion leaders."
"HFR and American Girl understand passion and purpose," said Brandice Daniel, founder and CEO of Harlem's Fashion Row. "For our youth today, this partnership is all about possibilities and what it means to stand tall and dream big—no matter your race, culture, gender, or background. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the amazing potential in every child and inspire them to create positive and lasting change in their neighborhoods, communities, and beyond."