American Girl revealed the company’s 2022 Girl of the Year doll on Thursday, and a lot of Asian American moms are thrilled.
“We know representation matters, and we’re proud to welcome Corrine Tan to our lineup of important characters who reflect what it means to be an American girl today,” Jamie Cygielman, general manager at American Girl, said in a written statement exclusively provided to TODAY Parents. “Wrapped around Corrine’s outdoor adventures are important messages about kindness, tolerance, and love — showing kids that they’re never too young to contribute to the larger conversation and stand up for positive change.”
Corrine Tan lives in Aspen, Colorado, with her sister, Gwynn — the first “little sister” doll standing 14’’ tall. Corrine loves to ski with her dad, and wants to train her dog to be a ski patrol rescue canine. Her story, written by “The Great Wall of Lucy Lu” author Wendy Shang, explores changing family dynamics. Corrine deals with her mom remarrying after her parents’ divorce, explores her Chinese heritage, and is exposed to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
In 2020, the country experienced a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and anti-China rhetoric regurgitated by elected officials. In newly-corrected data released by the FBI in Oct. 2021, anti-Asian hate crimes rose 73 percent in 2020. Between March 19, 2020, and June 2021, Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that gathered data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, received 9,081 incident reports.
“An iconic American Girl is more than blonde hair and blue eyes,” said Ria Pretekin, 40, a Filipino-American mom of two living in Illinois. “An Asian American girl is also American, and in the wake of anti-Asian hate it would help to dispel the otherness. I’d love for Asian American children to feel the pride of their identities.”
Pretekin said that as a daughter of immigrants she wasn’t exposed to the American Girl brand when she was a little girl, and never saw herself represented in any of the dolls.
“It would have meant so much to me to have a doll that looked like me. It would have helped shape my idea of beauty to know that brown skin and black hair was also beautiful,” Pretekin said. “Growing up in the 80s and 90s, whiteness was and is still very much centered and it didn’t allow me to see Asian Americans in any toys, shows, movies, or books.”
Larisa Courtien, 32, an Asian-American mom of two living in New York, says she didn’t feel connected to the American Girl dolls as a child either.
“I remember the cool girls in school always had them. I liked reading their stories, but never felt like I could relate to them,” Courtien said. “By not having dolls or toys that looked like me growing up, I essentially grew up not thinking that the American story was my story. I didn’t realize I could be the ‘main character’ until my adult life. I always felt like the side character or the best friend.”
Now, Courtien said she is hopeful that Corrine will be just one of many AAPI dolls that children, like hers, can relate to — something she said is a step in the right direction.
“It fills me with so much hope. And I hope they don’t stop with just one. Having one Asian American Girl Doll is not a catch all — there are so many amazing AAPI women who have made the American Dream their own, who have rich and diverse histories of how they and their families came to America, and of how they continue to love their culture,” she said. “To see AAPI girls represented by the franchise means so much to me — I hope I can share this with my daughter and that she can see our family and her unique face in such a beloved brand.”
Pretekin said she, too, is excited to share the franchise with her daughter, and hopes that Corrine will give Pretekin’s own daughter something she never had as a child — an American Girl doll that looks like her.
“My daughter loves American Girl and we are so happy to see that there is now racial diversity among the dolls to choose from. We currently have the Nanea doll, which is Hawaiian and the closest representation for being Asian Pacific Islander,” she said. “We would love to see more Asian American representation among the American Girl brand. As a mom, it is important for me to celebrate Asian American identity and allow space for my daughter to embrace who she is.”
To further support Corinne’s important message, American Girl is partnering with AAPI Youth Rising — a middle school youth organization that recently launched a pledge requesting schools devote at least one day of the school year to Asian history and culture.