2020 American Girl Doll of the Year First to Have Hearing Loss
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American Girl welcomes its newest doll, a surfer and cheerleader named Joss Kendrick, who uses a hearing aid.
On Tuesday, the doll company released its latest family member, who hails from Southern California as its 2020 Girl of the Year, in partnership with 17-year-old pro surfer Caroline Marks, who will compete in the premiere U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team, according to a press release sent to Yahoo Lifestyle from American Girl. The doll and book retail for $98.
“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” American Girl general manager Jamie Cygielman, said in the release. “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives. Working with Olympic hopeful surfer Caroline Marks adds real-world inspiration about what can happen when you go ‘all in’ on your dreams.”
Marks added, “I’m so excited to be a part of the Joss launch and share her message that passion and hard work can really take a girl places — even to the Olympics.”
In the book series about the 18-inch doll from Huntington Beach, Joss was born deaf in her left ear and wears a hearing aid in her right ear. Joss actually owns two hearing aids (one is for backup in case she loses it), along with a storage case and a brush to clean sand from the devices.
American Girl has sold hearing aids as accessories; however, a company spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they have not been included in a doll’s storyline before. The rep also tells Yahoo Lifestyle that unlike Gabriela, 2017's Girl of the Year, who had a stutter, the company took a larger step with Joss, who was born with the disability of congenital hearing loss.
“American Girl is always thinking about how our characters can reflect and resonate with a wide range of girls,” a spokesperson from American Girl tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement. “We’ve long offered dolls and accessories that speak to girls in a variety of circumstances and Joss is another great example of how we celebrate inclusivity. We’re proud to introduce Joss to fans and hope her story will help broaden understanding and respect for people’s differences, as well as spark conversations around hearing loss.”
To make sure Joss’s story was told correctly, American Girl consulted with a group of experts, and donated $25,000 to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). “What could be more exciting than to have an American Girl character be a role model for girls with hearing loss?” executive director Barbara Kelley said on the organization’s website. “HLAA is proud to partner with American Girl to help girls know that, like Joss, they can be and do anything — an empowering message for girls with or without hearing loss. I hope girls who read Joss’s inspiring story will help create awareness about hearing loss among their friends and family.”
In addition to Gabriela, American Girl has added the following characters to its collection in recent years: Z. Yang, a Korean-American who likes making stop-motion videos; Nanea Mitchell from Hawaii, who is growing up during WW2; and a male doll named Logan Everett, who loves playing the drums.
Article originally appeared on Yahoo News.