The American Girl “Girl of the Year” doll for 2023 is here, and, no surprise, she’s making company history again. Kavi, short for Kavika, is the first South Asian doll to hold the New Year spotlight.
For more than a decade, the limited edition, annual releases have acted as a markedly modern line of American Girl dolls intended to embody the current special interests, social issues, and identities of children. Following last year’s unveiling of Corinne Tan, the company’s first-ever Asian American Girl of the Year, and the 2022 launch of Claudie, a Harlem Renaissance-era doll that honors the period’s expansive contributions to art and culture, Kavi is the latest in a growing array of culturally diverse American Girl offerings.
“Kavi joins the company’s long line of contemporary characters, introduced more than 20 years ago, that represent a wide range of backgrounds to reflect what it means to be an American girl today,” the company wrote of the new doll’s release. “Through Kavi, young readers will learn the importance of finding a healthy rhythm in life and feel inspired to pursue their own unique talents and reach for their dreams.”
Kavi loves playing piano, dancing, and singing, but is especially interested in the world of Broadway. In It’s Showtime, Kavi, the hardback children’s novel accompanying the doll’s release, Kavi is making her way to New York City to see her first main stage show — 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 bestselling middle-grade novels Thirst, Count Me In, and Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. “Kavi’s story is important to all the young readers who will see parts of their lives represented. I took immense delight in showcasing slivers of Indian culture, including dance, yoga traditions, food, clothing, and magical festivals like Diwali and Holi,” Bajaj wrote in Kavi’s announcement.
Credit: American Girl
Credit: American Girl
Since its initial American history-focused launch in 1986, American Girl has made an effort to expand its offering of representative dolls, echoing a larger inclusivity shift by parent company Mattel. Following several other dolls of East Asian heritage, including 2011 Girl of the Year Kanani Akina, the company unveiled Z, a Korean American doll launched as part of the standing American Girl line of dolls (she has since been retired), and the 2021 Girl of the Year Corrine Tan.
The 2017 Girl of the Year doll was Gabriela McBride, a young Black activist navigating her passions and the stigma associated with having a stutter. And in 2019, American Girl unveiled Joss Kendrick, the first Girl of the Year doll with 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 world “do-good” initiatives by the doll company. Alongside Kavi’s release, the company is donating $25,000 to NYC-based nonprofit Camp Broadway, which will fund full and partial scholarships for kids ages 7 to 14 who are attending the camp’s 2023 summer program in New York City. The nonprofit provides cultural enrichment programs and other resources for young people interested in performing arts, entertainment, and culture.
Kavi is available online starting Dec. 29 and in retail stores Jan. 1. To learn more about Kavi and Bajaj’s story, and to purchase the new doll, visit the American Girl website.