For 2020, American Girl has unveiled a doll that embodies physical courage and psychological fortitude. Their new arrival, Joss Kendrick, is a young girl who is born with hearing loss, but who never lets her difference defeat her. Rather than seeing her hearing issue as a disability and a problem, she resolves to defy conventions and expectations. The Joss character grows to become a surfer, a cheerleader, and essential part of a team. While being deaf and a surfer might reflect a lone wolf/solo athlete vibe, Joss’s story follows her as she becomes a friend and a team player.
As always, American Girl hopes to inspire their fan base with the doll, her two accompanying storybooks, and website. “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,” Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl, shared. “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.”
Caroline Marks is the ideal person to work as an advisor for American Girl’s latest launch. Marks is barely past the age of doll playing herself. Just 17 years old, she is described as a “surfing prodigy.” In fact, Marks is making her mark in the sport by becoming a member of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team.
“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,” said Marks. “This is my chance to show girls it’s possible to achieve your goals, no matter how high they may be.”
When Marks was told that she had qualified for the brand-new Olympics team venture, she knew there would be detractors. “I think a few people definitely doubted me, like, ‘Oh, she’s too young, she still has to finish school.’ For me, it’s like, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t!”
The timeless philosophy of perseverance and persistence is at the root of Joss Kendrick’s 2020 story line. In her tale, young Joss is challenged by her brother to try out for the competitive cheer team. Initially, she is dismissive of the dare. Joss mistakenly believes that cheerleading equals dancing around, chanting, and waving pompoms. The book chronicles her discovery that competitive cheerleading includes strength, agility, flexibility, and courage.
Just as she rides the waves and hangs ten, Joss discovers that cheerleaders have to be bold and brave. They can’t be afraid when they build pyramids, tackle height-defying jumps, and engage in fast and furious flips. The books detail how a surfer girl learns that she can reach new heights of self-discovery within a gymnasium.
In addition to Caroline Marks, who applauds the American Girl surfer doll, the company worked alongside experts to tailor-make this success story. The panel of professionals includes Crystal DaSilva (national and world title holder, Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion), Dr. Sharon Pajka (specialist in portrayals of deaf characters in adolescent literature), and Jennifer Richardson (founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation). The other three advisors include Bianca Valenti (big-wave surfer and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing) and Sara Jo Moen & Julie Peterson (co-owners of Fury Athletics, a training gym for competitive cheer teams).
Besides the in-depth background research, the American Girl team also gave their 2020 heroine a large array of accessories and defining details. American Girl has created a surfboard and swim gear for the doll, along with cheer outfits and equipment. The 18-inch brunette doll has brown eyes and comes in a swimsuit, hoodie, and shorts. There is a removable hearing aid in her right ear.
When kids want to pretend that she is gearing up for cheering, they can use her cheer backpack, slides, and special competition shoes. These were made in partnership with Nfinity. In the spring, Joss will also have a Volkswagen Surf Bus to call her own. It will include 50 components, such as a storage bench that folds into a bed, along with a pop-up stove and foldout table. The Volkswagen bus will have working headlights, turn signals, and windshield wipers. It will come with a radio and sounds for the horn and ignition.
Finally, what would a champion be without her very own cheering squad? Joss has her own best friend and canine companion, an English bulldog named Murph the Surf Dog. Children can purchase the pooch to round out Joss’s captivating life story. When they’re not engaging in hands-on play, girls are encouraged to turn on the weekly online series “Meet Joss.” The American Girl team has programmed Joss-inspired music, videos, DIY crafts, and other videos on the brand’s YouTube kids channel.
Each Joss doll and book retails for $98. The two Joss books are priced at $7.99 each and can be purchased at American Girl, its website, and online booksellers. To honor their 2020 doll, American Girl has pledged $25,000 to the Hearing Loss Association of America, (HLAA). Their donation will help to fund the nonprofit’s education and awareness programs. American Girl is also supporting HLAA’s 2020 “Walk4Hearing” event. This 15th annual outing is an opportunity for families across the United States to come together to encourage “hearing health and living well with hearing loss.”
Beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31, 2020, American Girl will collect donations for HLAA at all of their stores nationwide and via their company website.