MIDDLETON, Wis.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, American Girl, a cornerstone in the Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT) portfolio of purposeful brands, introduces a new cast of contemporary characters —Makena Williams™, Evette Peeters™, and Maritza Ochoa™—whose stories reflect several important social issues, including racial equality, environmentalism, and immigration, and the value of working together to create a better world. As told in a unique series of overlapping stories, the three young friends become passionate peers in speaking up for the causes they care about. Shared scenes told from multiple perspectives showcase each girl’s point of view and 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.”
To bring the World by Us characters to life, American Girl engaged the following acclaimed writers:
Angela Cervantes author of Maritza: Lead with Your Heart. 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.
Denise Lewis Patrick author of Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me. Makena loves art and her close-knit family, with 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 author of Evette: The River and Me. 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.
The following team of advisers also collaborated on the project, offering real-world insights and reviewing manuscripts and the product line for cultural authenticity and accuracy:
Katrina Lashley: program coordinator at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and leader in the Women’s Environmental Leadership Initiative
Yasmine Mabene: California State Director of March for Our Lives, social media coordinator of Earth Uprising, and student at Stanford University
M. Lucero Ortiz: Deputy Director for Kids in Need of Defense, Mexico, and human rights attorney who represented migrant families and unaccompanied children before the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice
Dr. Deborah Rivas-Drake: professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan, who studies how teens navigate issues of race, ethnicity, racism, and xenophobia
Deanna Singh: founder of Flying Elephant, a consulting firm that helps women and people of color become social entrepreneurs, and author of four children’s books about racism, including American Girl’s new Smart Girl’s Guide™: Race & Inclusion
Naomi Wadler: teen activist focused on racial justice. At age 11 she was the youngest speaker at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.
World by Us Product
The new characters come to life via beautifully detailed 18-inch Makena™, Evette™, and Maritza™ dolls, along with a signature outfit and accessories for each. 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. Extending the play value is the doll-sized World by Us Community Center inspired by where the friends first meet—featuring a premium, transformational structure that offers 360-degree play options. By mixing and matching the colorful furniture, reversible cushions and rug, and numerous accessories, like lamps, pillows, and posters, kids can design their own unique environment for hours of imaginative play.
American Girl Fashion Show Event
To celebrate the debut of World by Us and American Girl’s 35th anniversary, the brand is hosting a special American Girl Fashion Show on Thursday, September 23, 2021, at American Girl Place™ New York and via livestream. Created in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), the premier design agency that creates a bridge between brands and designers of color in fashion, the show will feature reimagined girl and doll designs for American Girl’s original historical characters—Felicity™, Josefina™, Kirsten™, Addy™, Samantha™, and Molly™—by fashion force Carly Cushnie. Also hitting the runway will be bold, modern-day looks inspired by Makena, Evette, and Maritza created by celebrated HFR designers Nichole Lynel, Samantha Black, and Kristian Lorén.
As part of the event, American Girl is supporting HFR’s nonprofit organization, ICON360, with a $25,000 donation to help raise awareness and funds for the next generation of BIPOC fashion leaders. In addition, American Girl is donating Cushnie’s doll designs to be auctioned by eBay to benefit Girls Who Code and its mission to close the gender gap in technology. The World by Us-inspired doll fashions will be on pre-sale during the event and available for purchase at American Girl retail stores starting March 2022.
“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.”
Kicking off the event is world-famous fashion designer Prabal Gurung, known for embracing diversity, inclusion, and justice in his work. Prabal, who partnered with American Girl on his Spring 2022 show during New York Fashion Week, will introduce the designers and celebrate with fans. Closing out the event is the exclusive premiere of an original World by Us song and dance written and performed by 14-year-old hip-hop artist That Girl Lay Lay. The music video will be available on American Girl’s YouTube and YouTube Kids Channel starting September 27, along with a new stop-motion doll series, featuring the new World by Us characters and other adventures.
Beyond the special event, children’s fashion brand Janie and Jack is debuting three exclusive World by Us-inspired outfits—one for each character—in a first-ever collaboration with American Girl. The Janie and Jack outfits will be available September 24, 2021, at American Girl retail stores in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas, and via americangirl.com and janieandjack.com.
With its roots in children’s publishing, American Girl has long championed the belief that strong readers become strong leaders. This fall, to further support children’s literacy and provide more diverse books to U.S. schools and public libraries, American Girl is donating $60,000 worth of World by Us books to the following organizations: Reader to Reader, Kids Need to Read, and Little Free Library Read in Color Initiative. This donation is in addition to the $500,000 in diverse American Girl titles gifted to these same organizations in the past year. And, since June 2020, the brand has made its numerous stories written by Black women and featuring Black heroines available via its free online library to help educate, empower, and spark important conversations.
The World by Us collection is available today at americangirl.com and American Girl retail stores nationwide. The World by Us books ($7.99 each) can also be purchased via retail booksellers.