One of the coolest parts about American Girl dolls is that the book illustrations are modeled off of real girls, which then inspire the dolls by way of illustrations. I was curious to see which lucky girl was American Girl's inspiration for their newest historical character Claudie Wells, and it's none other than Rio Lewis, an 11 year old from the Chicago area.
Just like Claudie, Rio is an artist and enjoys dancing, acting, music and modeling, which she has been doing since she was 4 years old.
Rio almost didn't get the part since the shoot would have taken place on the weekend of her brother's baseball game out of town. But last-minute, the game was rescheduled, and Rio got to model as Claudie. It's a good thing she got to- according to Wendy Walsh, the creative manager for Claudie's book, “This was one of those cases where the model gets on set, puts on the wardrobe, and she IS that character,” Walsh said in an email. “It doesn’t happen all of the time, but in this case it did. We all looked at each other on set and said, ‘That’s her! That’s our Claudie.’”
Rio has a few other dolls, including Addy Walker, but she considers it an honor to be the face of Claudie because "[she] touches people’s hearts [...] because it’s the first historical doll for like a long time, and also it’s the first Black American Girl doll with a positive back story."