When I was a little girl, I had a doll that looked just like me: pink cheeks, wispy blonde hair, and blue eyes. My next door neighbor, Susan, and I would serve tea to our dolls, read stories to them, and pretend they were our children. Susan also had a doll that looked like her: thick chestnut hair and brown eyes.
I don’t remember it being important that our dolls looked like us. I don’t know if I’d have felt slighted if I didn’t have a doll that shared my basic physical characteristics, but then again, I never had to worry about it.
That’s not true for every child, though.
Think about it. What if your child’s outside is a little bit different than the average bear? What if they stand out a little bit? What if there’s no doll that looks like your child? Is that a big deal to them?
I think maybe it is.
Meredith Bailey’s daughter has alopecia, which is a type of hair loss that occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Alopecia occurs most commonly in people under 20. An estimated 90 percent of those affected usually experience some regrowth and while the condition is not life-threatening, losing your hair does have an emotional impact. Of course it does; it’s hard not to fit in.
There can be many explanations for why a child doesn’t have hair, but maybe the reason doesn’t matter. When you’re a child and you just want a doll that looks a little bit like you, that shouldn’t be an impossible star to reach, right? Fortunately, the people who make the famous American Girl dolls see it this way, too.
Bailey’s daughter was thrilled to receive an American Girl doll without hair for Christmas this past year, but asked her mom why the dolls that looked like her weren’t on display at the store. Traditionally, American Girl dolls without hair have been available online and by request in stores, but this little girl wanted to know why the dolls that looked like her weren’t sitting on shelves along with the other dolls in the American Girl Store.
Leave it to kids to ask the tough questions we don’t have easy answers to, right?
But, on her most recent birthday trek to the American Girl Store in Natick, Massachusetts, Bailey’s daughter got what was perhaps the best gift of all:
The American Girl doll without hair was displayed prominently in the store and in more than one location within the store. Bailey had this to say in a thank you post on the American Girl Facebook page:
“These dolls were not hidden in the back and had to be asked for. They were there for all to see, especially for my daughter who wondered why they were not out before. This may feel to your company to be ‘no big deal,’ but to little girls who may feel ‘alone’ and so desperately want to see dolls that reflect their beauty — it means more than you know. I cried many happy tears yesterday. Thank you so much for including ALL children.”
Clearly, American Girl “gets it.”
The doll without hair didn’t have to be special ordered. No one has to ask for her to be pulled off a shelf in the back room. She was on display loud and proud for everyone to see. For a little girl who might love her and identify with her to see.
Since Bailey wrote this thank you note on June 28, the post has quickly gone viral — garnering over 18k likes and 2k shares. Hundreds of comments flooded in, too, in praise of American Girl’s diverse selection, from gluten-free dolls and ones with hearing aides, to special accessories like epi-pens and allergy-free lunch sacks.
These dolls represent true beauty for all girls around the world. And this picture of Meredith Bailey’s little girl hugging her doll serves as a reminder that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Well done, American Girl. Well done.
h/t: PopSugar Moms