American Girl's 2020 Girl of the Year is 1st Doll with Hearing Loss
American Girl released their 2020 Girl of the Year doll, Joss Kendrick, a 10-year-old surfer and competitive cheerleader from Huntington Beach, California. She has two older brothers and a pet bulldog. She has long brown hair and brown eyes and wears a swimsuit, hoodie and shorts. Joss has hearing loss and wears a hearing aid, which is a first for an American Girl doll. The Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) executive director Barbara Kelley believes the doll will help children with hearing loss feel more confident. "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," Kelley explained.
According to Joss’s story, she was born deaf in her left ear. However, she can hear some out of her right ear with the help of a hearing aid. The hearing aid comes with the doll as an accessory as well as a backup hearing aid in case she can’t find hers. She also comes with a case to carry her hearing aid in. Joss is a fierce surfer girl who never backs down from a challenge—even if it means taking a chance on something new, like trying out for cheer. But landing a spot on the cheer team is harder than it looks: Joss is hard of hearing, and often misses the count. She’s determined to prove herself as a cheerleader and a surfer girl and realizes that an all-in attitude and an open mind might help her fly higher than ever before.
"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 launching the new character.
American Girl partnered with experts specializing in surfing, competitive cheerleading, hearing loss as well as the portrayals of deaf characters in literature to create Joss. American Girl announced they will be donating $25,000 to support the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), a nonprofit representing people with hearing loss. Shoppers can also opt to make a donation to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) on the American Girl website.
The brand has introduced more diverse and inclusive dolls over the years, including dolls of different skin tones and ethnic backgrounds, to make all girls feel seen or learn about another culture, according to their website. In addition, dolls are available without hair for anyone dealing with hair loss. Hearing aids, a service-dog set, glasses and a wheelchair are accessories that have been on the market, but hearing aids have not been part of the Girl of the Year doll's story before.
The Joss collection is available at americangirl.com and at all American Girl retail locations nationwide.