American Girl is starting off the new year right by promoting inclusivity with the introduction of its first-ever “Girl of the Year” doll with hearing loss, Joss Kendrick.
The 2020 doll, which debuted on Good Morning America, is a 10-year-old surfer and competitive cheerleader from Huntington Beach, California. Joss has two older brothers and owns a pet bulldog. Sporting long brown hair and brown eyes, the character wears a swimsuit, hoodie, and shorts.
But the most remarkable piece of item in her whole ensemble is a hearing aid.
“She has congenital hearing loss. She was born deaf in her left ear and can hear a little bit in her right ear,” American Girl president Jamie Cygielman told USA TODAY.
Joss makes history as the first-ever American Girl doll who has a disability.
While the Mattel-owned company has been creating inclusive dolls over the years, including dolls with crutches, wheelchairs, and those that can be fitted with hearing aids, what makes Joss unique is that she is the first doll whose disability is part of her story, according to Cygielman.
“Whether she’s on her surfboard or in the gym, Joss shows girls the importance of trying new things, pushing past stereotypes, and being a good team player,” American Girl said in a statement revealing the new character.
The release of the Joss doll is also timely, as surfing will make its debut as an Olympic sport this July. Thus, American Girl partnered with the real-life surfer, Caroline Marks, 17, to launch Joss.
Marks told USA Today that she and Joss share the same message about pursuing ambitions.
“This is a chance for to me to help show girls that it’s possible to achieve your goals no matter how high they may be, you know, if you are passionate and willing to work hard for them,” she said.
Cygielman says that Joss’ disability doesn’t define her or limit her dreams. To make sure that her story was authentic, American Girl teamed up with the hearing loss community. Specifically, it worked with the Hearing Loss Association of America, a group that represents and advocates for consumers with this disability. The company also made a $25,000 donation in support of HLAA’s future endeavors.
“If you have a child with any type of disability or any type of difference or wearing a hearing aid, to have a doll that mirrors that image I think goes a long way to help with the stigma and the stereotypes,” HLAA’s executive director, Barbara Kelley, told USA TODAY.
The 18-inch doll retails for $98 and is available for purchase at americangirl.com and all its retail locations nationwide.
Watch the video below to witness Joss’ debut in Good Morning America.