American Girl’s 2023 Girl of the Year doll is here, and, no surprise, it’s making company history once again. Kavi, short for Kavika, is the first South Asian doll to take center stage in the new year.
For more than a decade, the annual limited editions have functioned as a distinctly modern line of American Girl dolls, designed to embody children’s current special interests, social issues and identities. Following last year’s unveiling of Corinne Tan, the first-ever Asian-American Girl of the Year, and the introduction in 2022 of Claudie, a Harlem Renaissance-era doll that honors the era’s extensive contributions to art and culture, Kavi is the latest in a growing range of culturally diverse offerings for American girls.
“Kavi joins the company’s long line of contemporary characters, introduced more than 20 years ago and representing a wide range of backgrounds to reflect what it means to be an American girl today,” the company wrote the release of the new doll. “Through Kavi, young readers will learn the importance of finding a healthy rhythm in life and will be inspired to pursue their own unique talents and pursue their dreams.”
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Kavi enjoys playing the piano, dancing and singing, but is particularly interested in the world of Broadway. In It’s Showtime, Kavi, the children’s bound novel accompanying the doll’s release, Kavi makes her way to New York City to see her first show on the main stage – Wicked, of course – to celebrate her twelfth birthday.
Her story, which also touches on the Sharma family’s Indian heritage, was written by author Varsha Bajaj, known for her best-selling middle-class novels Thirst, Count Me In and Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. “Kavi’s story is important for all young readers who will see parts of her life portrayed. I took great pleasure in showcasing parts of Indian culture including dance, yoga traditions, food, clothing and magical festivals such as Diwali and Holi,” Bajaj wrote in Kavi’s announcement.
Kavi loves both musical theater and her pup. Credit: American Girl
Kavi also celebrates her Indian heritage in a variety of ways. Credit: American Girl
Since its first American history-focused launch in 1986, American Girl has strived to expand its range of representative dolls, reflecting a larger shift in inclusivity by parent company Mattel. Following several other dolls with East Asian heritage, including 2011 Girl of the Year Kanani Akina, the company introduced Z, a Korean-American doll that was launched as part of the permanent American Girl doll line (she is now retired ), and 2021 Girl of the Year Corrine Tan.
The 2017 Girl of the Year doll was Gabriela McBride, a young black activist grappling with her passions and the stigma attached to stuttering. And in 2019, American Girl introduced Joss Kendrick, the first girl-of-the-year doll with a hearing loss.
In June 2021, the company extended this effort to its non-doll products as well, releasing a new entry in its A Smart Girl’s Guide series titled Race & Inclusion: Standing Up to Racism and Building a Better World.
The dolls are paired with real “do good” initiatives by the doll company. In addition to Kavi’s release, the company is donating $25,000 to the New York-based nonprofit Camp Broadway, which funds full and partial scholarships for children ages 7 to 14 attending the camp’s summer 2023 program in New York City. The nonprofit organization provides cultural enrichment programs and other resources for young people interested in performing arts, entertainment and culture.
Kavi will be available online December 29th and in retail January 1st. To learn more about Kavi and Bajaj’s story and to purchase the new doll, visit American Girl’s website.