Hello there, Friends! A Doll’s Picnic is back! Today I’d like to share my thoughts about a very beautiful doll of color: American Girl of the Year 2017 Gabriela McBride! There are many wonderful reviews of Gabby already available, including some great Youtube reviews. So instead of a real, in-depth review, I just want to share some pictures and my opinion of this beautiful doll.
First, I want to apologize for the quality of the photos. I took them on a very stormy day when my camera wasn’t cooperating with me, so they’re not as clear and well-lit as I’d like. It’s a little frustrating because Gabriela has such a stunning face and lovely coloring. Hopefully I can get some better outdoor photos in the days ahead and share those with you sometime soon.
Now for the background: It took me a little longer than usual to bring this doll home because lately I’ve been feeling very annoyed with American Girl. The news that modern AG dolls are now being manufactured with permanent, sewn-on undies that are part of the doll body, as well as a gradual overall decrease in the quality of AG dolls at the same time that their prices have steadily been rising, has really disappointed me. Besides this, I am not happy about the way AG handled Gabriela’s collection and debut. Unfortunately these issues have affected my enthusiasm for one of my favorite lines, the American Girl of the Year.
However, I knew I wouldn’t be happy with myself unless I bought the Gabriela doll. As little as I want to support AG right now for their marketing decisions and product changes, I do want to show my support for them at last producing an African American Girl of the Year character. And all my issues with the company aside, I’m glad I bought Gabriela, because she is truly a stunning doll. My photographs simply do not do her justice. It’s not that she’s not photogenic, because she is–she’s just so much more beautiful in real life. Frankly I don’t think most of the stock images of Gabriela in the catalog or online do her justice–but then that’s not anything new.
The Gabriela doll is a redressed re-release of the American Girl Truly Me #46 doll, who was retired specifically for this purpose last year. I’ve never had #46 before; the curly hair scared me and the Sonali face mold is not my favorite. So I knew Gabriela was going to be new to me, even if she was a major disappointment for many collectors. However, it upsets me that American Girl took the short-cut of pulling one of their modern dolls out of the line-up and redressing her to sell as a Girl of the Year character. Previously every single Girl of the Year has been carefully designed to be unique from her predecessors in some way. The #46 doll is no longer available in the Truly Me line, but Gabriela is identical to the #46s already existing (any slight differences of coloring, hair length, etc., are simply production batch differences). This gave her debut a half-hearted feeling, which comes across as incredibly disrespectful for the first-ever African American Girl of the Year character. When combined with her unorginal collection which merely recycles ideas already used in Marisol’s (2005), Saige’s (2013), and Isabelle’s (2014) stories and collections, it seems clear that AG simply did not care to put a lot of time, money, and effort into the development of this doll.
Furthermore, it seems apparent from the unoriginality of the doll and the skimpiness of her collection, as well as the debut of Tenney Grant only two months later, that Gabriela was not originally intended to be Girl of the Year 2017. It could just be a glaringly obvious marketing strategy that Tenney Grant was given the original story and features and all the big ticket accessories and fancy outfits. Did AG simply not want to put all their eggs in one basket with Gabriela? Or was Tenney originally designed to be the Girl of the Year 2017, and only demoted to “Contemporary Character” status when the customer outcry over the lack of diversity–and specifically the glaring lack of an African American character–became too loud for AG to ignore any longer? Either way, American Girl needs to know that their fan base has noticed. It doesn’t look good.
However, American Girl has finally managed to create an African American Girl of the Year character. Whatever the disappointments and shortcomings involved, I am able to separate the doll from these issues and appreciate her for what she is: a beautiful and enjoyable doll. Gabby’s character is a poet in addition to a dancer and artist, which is a new idea. I love poetry and the arts, so there’s no reason for me to not like her collection. I also have most of Isabelle’s outfits, so I was hoping Gabby might commandeer those in addition to her own (I have ordered one of Gabby’s outfits, which was on back order and has just shipped). There are currently only four outfits in Gabby’s collection, including the one she arrives in, so I do hope they release a few more outfits for her before year’s end. Right now I just have the doll and her Showtime Kit accessory set. I would normally have purchased the regular accessories, but I think Gabby’s accessories are pathetic and over-priced, so I skipped them.
I actually have had two Gabby dolls. The first was ordered online along with another doll. When the order arrived, though, there were two problems. First, Gabby’s lips were painted so crookedly that they were about a quarter of an inch askew. Secondly, I ordered Gabby with pierced ears but the other doll in the order arrived with pierced ears instead. That’s the first time I’ve had two problems like this in one order. Fortunately, we had to make a trip down to the Bay Area anyway, so we were able to go to the San Francisco store and exchange both dolls. That meant I was able to choose my Gabby doll in person! Yay! I looked at every single Gabriela doll in the store (there were probably thirty boxes or so out on display). I found several I liked, but I was a bit disappointed because none of them evoked a special response. The very last doll was tucked in an awkward corner under a display case facing the store windows. I picked her up, looked at her face, and spontaneously cried, “Ooooooh!” I knew she was the one. And here she is:
My Gabby has a breath-taking face. I think it’s a combination of her head-tilt and her sweet, peaceful, earnest, kind expression. I wish I could capture it better on film.
Her head was turned slightly to the left originally, which exaggerated her head tilt and sweet expression, but the store employee straightened it in order to pierce her ears.
You can see that my Gabby’s teeth are painted a bit crookedly, but this doesn’t bother me. I wish I had a picture of the first Gabby’s lips–they were painted about a quarter of an inch off her mouth to the right side.
I just love her expression and coloring, which was accentuated by her arrival outfit and the beautiful interior of her box. The Sonali-mold has large, deep eyes which make her seem extra thoughtful and sincere. Her coloring is rich and rosy. She has a serene quality about her.
Here’s a picture of her out of the box with her hair net still on. In the sunlight you can appreciate her rich, chocolate brown, and yet golden coloring. You might think that a doll with deep brown skin, dark brown eyes, and dark brown hair is a bit monotonous, but Gabby isn’t at all. Her hair has a golden glow (which my camera doesn’t capture very well) and her skin tone has almost a rosy hue.
Here she is with her hair loose for the first time. A note about the hair: Gabby’s wig is exactly the same as that of Truly Me/ My AG / Just Like You #26 and #44. It is exactly the same as my brand-new #26 doll that I picked out at the same time: same length, same color, same curl style. Her hair is reasonably thick and short hairs cover the wig cap well.
This wig style has evolved over the years and the curls are now much looser than the tight, perfect corkscrews it used to feature. It’s a bit longer and the curls droop lower on the dolls’ shoulders, and to me they look more natural. Honestly, I like this new wig much better than the original. For some reason I am less afraid to mess it up.
Many parents and collectors shy away from dolls with curly hair because they think it has lower play value: that it will be difficult to keep the hair looking nice or that it can be messed up more easily than some other hair styles. It is true that it is impossible to play with this kind of wig and keep it in pristine condition. As I have (gently!) changed Gabby’s outfits her hair has inevitably loosened up and frizzy fly-aways have appeared. But it is totally untrue that you can’t play with this type of hair. It can be put in all kinds of styles, including braids, and all it takes is some water or braid spray and finger curling to neaten it up again after play. It can even be brushed (gasp!), though you won’t want to unless you deliberately want to restyle the entire wig. What many parents and collectors don’t realize is that the hair on this wig wants to return to its original curl formation. I know because I once had a #26 doll whose hair was like-new but extremely dry. I brushed the entire wig out into a fluffy mass. It wasn’t a matted mess, like people will claim; it was actually soft and pretty. Then I used braid spray and my fingers to reform the curls. I was surprised to find the strands of hair jumping back into their original position. There are Youtube videos that will show you how to recurl hair of this kind. It isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming–and to reiterate, the hair when played with will never look exactly as it did when the doll was new. It is a mistake to let this wig keep you from buying or playing with your doll! Play dolls aren’t meant to be perfect.
I love Gabby’s arrival outfit–except the shoes.
Um… do kids actually wear shoes like this?? Are they supposed to be dance shoes? I would have preferred a pair of Converse-style sneakers or even ballet flats.
But her outfit is gorgeous. I love the layers, I love the cool, jewel-like colors (they’re some of my favorites!), I love the “dream” logo, I love the stretchy fabrics.
I love that either shirt can be used alone. The layers also give her outfit a little more value. According to AG the tee on top is a “sweatshirt,” but it is not made out of traditional sweatshirt material. It’s a nice sturdy fabric, though.
Oddly, the tank underneath doesn’t close with velcro–it has to be pulled off over the doll’s head. Which is fine, except that repeated changes can stretch out the shirt and will definitely mess up Gabby’s curls. I would have preferred the usual closure. It’s so pretty, though.
Gabby looks fabulous in both the rich plum of the upper tee and the serene aquamarine of the tank top.
I do wish they had given her a decent hair accessory, though. The stretchy pink double-ribbon hair band she comes with doesn’t match her gorgeous outfit and is cheap. Come on, AG–this is the Girl of the Year! In some of the pictures here I’ve used the braided silver hairband that comes in her Showtime Kit accessory set to hold her hair back, and this is the kind of thing she should have come with. (And a bracelet! Tenney gets a bracelet–why not Gabby? Argh).
Anyway, to the earrings.
Here are the special earrings that Gabriela (and Tenney) get, if you want to have their ears pierced. But the musical theme of the earring set, which is the same set for both dolls, makes it clear it was intended originally for Tenney, not Gabby. I so wish they had seen fit to give Gabby her own special earring set–maybe with a little silver pen for a poet? Or paintbrush for an artist??
The final pair of earrings are small, pale aqua roses, which are beautiful, but also one of Tenney’s motifs. I couldn’t get my camera to take a good picture of them.
I haven’t talked about Gabby’s box yet. It is a new box style and initially I was not happy about this change. The traditional lift-top box has become to me almost a part of the AG doll–it has always been an important part of the doll-buying experience, anyway. It feels precious, it stores well, it’s easy to return the doll to, it’s nostalgic, and there aren’t many dolls on the market with that style of box. That being said, when I saw the new boxes in person I was surprised to find that I disliked them a lot less that I expected. The main thing I noticed is that the new boxes still present the dolls in a beautiful way. The only thing I really don’t like about them is the glaring product warning printed right on the front. Why couldn’t that have been printed on the side? Otherwise the boxes are sturdy, attractive, and well-designed. The dolls are held in securely and I like how the boxes are specially decorated for each character. It doesn’t take significantly more time to take a doll out of the new box style, although the wrist straps seem totally superfluous.
Anyway, I love the colors on the inside of Gabby’s box. They echo Gabby’s arrival outfit, and I especially love the mosaic motif. I think the interior of Gabby’s box is far more attractive than Tenney’s.
Gabby is such a beautiful, pleasing doll that I was hoping she would prove versatile as far as what kind of clothes she looked good in. I was particularly hoping that she would claim the Isabelle mix-and-match pieces I love, but which my other dolls don’t seem to like. I spread out a bunch of artsy separates on the floor.
These are all modern–I wasn’t ready to try any historical styles yet.
Gabby quickly put together a string of outfits, which I’m happy to share with you:
I found that she looks best in rich colors.
She seemed comfortable in a range of looks.
Here are the Isabelle ensembles she created:
I can’t get anyone else to wear those funky pants!
She especially glows in peaches, purples, and lavenders.
She looks best in more saturated colors, though–some of her choices seemed a bit too pale.
I found she never really strayed too far from the palette she arrived in.
Gabby dressed up as Isabelle:
But she prefers to be herself, rather than imitating someone else.
Finally she settled on a casual pairing of an AGSF store tee and her own stretchy jeggings:
A note about Gabby’s body fabric: Some collectors are up in arms over the change in AG’s body fabric. My Gabby does have the new fabric, which is slightly thinner and more shiny than the previous fabric. However, I want to point out that AG’s body fabric has changed several times over the years, and some of those changes weren’t for the better. From the white muslin of the original dolls, AG went to tan, and then to a horrid orangey-beige sometime during the mid-90’s. In the mid-2000’s they went with a fairly stretchy fabric, and then it changed back to a nice, sturdy muslin again. This latest change doesn’t seem particularly significant to me. I’m much more concerned about the squishy vinyl that’s been showing up in some of the dolls (my Gabby is normal). The perma-panties looming on the horizon, though–that’s a whole different thing.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures just in case you were still on the fence about Gabriela.
There is a special, intangible quality about her beauty.
She’s not just another pretty AG doll. She has soul.
Thanks for reading! Happy Spring from A Doll’s Picnic!