Happy 2015! It’s a new season, a new month, and a new year. Weeks have passed since my last post, bringing the solstice, the lovely simplicity of winter and the fleeting sparkle of the holidays. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, since a new year begins every moment (it’s now been a year since this moment last year, right?), but I do love the idea of starting fresh, and I do set goals for myself as a way to organize and channel the creative process. One of my goals is to post here on A Doll’s Picnic much more frequently. I have lots of dolls to share with you via overdue reviews, and the dolls themselves are clamoring for me to step out of the way and let them tell their own stories sometimes. I’ll do my best to let 2015 be a year of writing, sharing, and creativity–and dolls of course (but that goes without saying)!
To start things off, welcome to a new feature called Brown is Beautiful. In this series of posts I plan to showcase and celebrate the lovely dolls of color in my collection–as well as the occasional Caucasian doll with brown eyes. The point? To help spread the word that dolls with brown eyes, brown (or black) hair, and/or brown skin are just as desirable, just as lovable, and just as interesting as their lighter counterparts. American Girl dolls are my first love, after all, and the need for diversity and representation in the American Girl line of products is well established. The debut of the fourth Caucasian girl (with light eyes!) in a row in the American Girl of the Year line has brought the simmering discontent among many fans to a boiling point and sparked a new social media campaign. You can read about the motivation and manifesto of the #AGDoCGoTY social media protest movement at Nethilia’s blog, American Girl Outsider, here. While I don’t use social media (encroaches too much on my creative time), I’d like to support the cause by doing a better job here at A Doll’s Picnic in a couple of ways: 1) make sure my own collection is diverse, and 2) make sure I share dolls of color at least as often as I do Caucasian dolls.
A little background about myself and my collection is called for here: My impetuous and changeable method of collecting–varying with my latest interest or whim–means my doll collection is always evolving. From the very beginning of my collecting I’ve only been interested in actually keeping girls (as I call them) in my collection with whom I feel a strong bond, because I love simplicity and can’t bear to have dolls sitting around neglected when they ought to be getting love. Thus it is that many dolls, including most of the named American Girl character dolls, have passed through my collection, been appreciated and enjoyed for a time, and then passed on to new homes (including charitable causes, homes with family members, and more recently eBay). These have included several dolls of color like Addy–whom I’ve actually had in my collection 3 times–Cecile, Josefina–owned her twice–Kaya, Sonali, Kanani, #26, #28, #4 and #30, a Jess look-a-like. I mention this because looking at my doll bios a casual observer might not realize what a big fan I am of the dolls of non-Caucasion backgrounds that AG has offered. Josefina and Addy were my first two 18 inch dolls as an adult because I remembered how much I had admired them when they debuted in the original Pleasant Company catalogs. Since I change the names and stories of all my dolls when I get them, the question of permanently bonding with a doll or not has little to do with that doll’s ethnicity, but much more with how my imagination interprets her character. My doll collecting seems to be a process of getting closer and closer to who I really am and what I really like, which of course is always changing. I am glad to be able to say that some of my current favorite dolls–including #1, #45, #2, and Marisol–are dolls of color, and that my collection now includes a much larger percentage of dolls of color than it did at this time last year. (I also have several dolls of color on my wishlist, including #15 and #58). I can’t wait to share these beautiful girls with you!
And now, for our first Brown is Beautiful focus: the wonderful, adorable, and unique Addy face sculpt!
Addy Walker was introduced by Pleasant Company in 1993, and featured the first–and for 15 years the only–African American face sculpt in the American Girl line of dolls. She was the fifth historical character in the American Girl line. I would have loved having this doll as a child. I remember how excited I was when she came out: pouring over the catalog pictures with my sister, minutely admiring all her tiny perfect accessories and gorgeous outfits, and rendered practically speechless by her luxuriously long hair. At that time, hair was the most important feature for me in a doll, and I remember being awestruck by the catalog pictures which showed Addy’s tresses reaching past her knees (very realistic for her time period).
Addy was my second 18 inch doll as an adult, and I just adored her soft, round face and poofy hair. I always found her hair incredibly forgiving and easy to style–often needing nothing more than finger-combing to keep it looking its best. My first Addy had a penchant for dressing up in Victorian-esque fashions pinched from Samantha’s collection, and I loved how I could make her hair up into lady-like buns and up-dos. Although I gave my first Addy away to a sister when I felt she was falling behind a bit in my collection, I kept my interest in her, and after a few years I missed her enough to purchase Addy a second time. This second girl enjoyed staying in mid-1800’s fashions. After about a year my second Addy found a home with my other sister. She was followed by Melanie, a #26 doll. I loved Melanie’s medium-toned skin and gorgeous light-brown eyes, which reflected so much light that they almost looked real. And though Melanie eventually found a new home via eBay (I wasn’t crazy about her hair), I still kept my affection for the Addy face sculpt. Last fall I found my third Addy doll on eBay. She’s a 1997 Pleasant Company Addy, and very sweet. I’ve restrung her, but haven’t yet had the nerve to take her hair out of its original braid.
On Thanksgiving evening 2013, zooting around on eBay while hubby was preparing our vegan feast, I found a #1 doll in new condition being sold for an outrageously reasonable price. It took me about two minutes to look her up on AGPlaythings, find out she was retired (why, oh why?), fall in love, and buy her. Introducing Amy Gratitude Octavine Taylor, named after Thanksgiving and one of my great-grandmothers, with initials that spell out AGOT (or American Girl of Today, my favorite AG line):
Amy is very much a modern Addy–in fact, she loves to say of herself that she’s what Addy Walker would be if Addy were transported into the 21st century.
Her hair is identical in color and texture to Addy’s, and the style only differs in the following points: 1) Amy has no part, while Addy has a center part, and 2) Amy’s hair has a unique wig with two sections of hair at slightly different lengths. These sections are the front or top area and the back area. This wig style has received complaints from some collectors, but I think it is awesome! I love how easy it is to gather her hair into a half-pony or half-pony-braid. I love how poofy it is on top. In fact, I think Amy is wonderful in every single way and I wouldn’t change her one bit. The only thing ornery about my Amy is that she will not under any circumstances be historical. I once dressed her in Cecile’s adorable yellow summer dress outfit (one of my favorite historical ensembles). Amy looked perfect, but she gazed at me with a frozen smile that clearly said: If you do not remove this ridiculous outfit this instant I will happily kill you. I took it off. Amy is a modern girl, won’t be anything but. After all, her initials, as I’m happy to remind you, do spell out A…G…O….T. Let that be understood.
My Amy and Addy dolls have different skin tones, which I’d like to share with you here. Variations in lighting and my camera’s limits make it hard to see in pictures, but I’ll do my best:
My Addy has a lovely, rosy deep-brown skin tone, while Amy’s is a little yellower and perhaps not quite as dark. Some people might say Amy’s tone is a little grayer.
My Amy is a wonderful person: funny, strong, thoughtful, sensitive, bold, courageous, independent, authentic. She hates wearing anything too trendy; in fact, she simply won’t wear anything that doesn’t express her care-free, independent attitude. She is a civil-and-women’s-rights activist. She is a writer. And she’s not afraid to speak her mind, while still being very tolerant and open towards everyone, provided they don’t oppress her or anyone else. (By the way, she’s best friends with my Isabelle doll, Ashleigh–their choice, not mine. Amy’s the writer and Ashleigh’s the artist, and although they’re totally different they just seem to get along great!).
Last fall I found my third Addy face-sculpt dearie (well, fourth really, counting Melanie), also on eBay. Introducing the incredible, gorgeous Rebecca Grania:
Grania is one of those extra-special dolls I was always meant to have. I could tell this the moment Amy and I opened her box.
She is Just Like You/My American Girl #45. She was apparently only available for two brief years between 2009 and 2011 before she was retired. I was so disappointed when I discovered she had been retired (serves me right for not buying her when I could), and so thrilled when I found her new on eBay. I. Adore. This. Doll. Why? Because she’s perfect, period. Seriously, I love everything about #45. I adore her hair. It is lighter brown than both Addy’s and Amy’s, but still a rich, dark brown. It has a straightened-but-still-textured feeling, which I love. It just feels great to my fingers. It is shiny and glossy. It is thick. It has short hairs generously planted over the wig cap. It is layered. It looks great in every single style. And it has a fringe! Look at all that beautiful BROWN!
Grania is much more girly than independent Amy. She loves artsy, feminine outfits, and unlike Amy, Grania is happy to dress in historical outfits, looking wonderful in practically everything I’ve put on her (including Rebecca’s BeForever Meet outfit, Samantha’s Play Dress, and an Anne of Green Gables outfit I bought on Etsy). She promptly clued me in to the fact that she–not Isabelle–is the dancer.
I think she looks amazing in Isabelle’s mix-and-match ensembles.
The bright colors just pop against her rich brown skin.
So much so that she easily convinced me that this is the Isabelle doll AG should have produced, but didn’t.
Here’s Grania with her sisters Addy and Amy:
Besides the difference in their wigs, Grania’s skin tone is also a bit different. She is a touch lighter than both Addy and Amy and has a beautiful golden glow. Her lips and cheeks are also just a bit rosier. As far as eye color goes, I think they’re all the same, but sometimes it seems to me that Amy’s eyes are darker. It’s difficult for me to visually isolate the exact color of the brown eyes from the overall complexion, so set me right about this if I’m wrong.
And finally the last member of my Addy face-sculpt quartet: Elodie Rain!
Rain is a Just Like You #11 doll. Like #45 and #1, she is now retired from American Girl’s modern line, and like them this is a terrible shame. It is particularly unfortunate in the case of #11 as she is arguably one of the most ethnically diverse and interesting dolls AG has ever created. With her medium brown skin tone, dark brown eyes and truly black (not black-brown, but really black) hair, Rain can represent a wide variety of ethnicities, including but not limited to: Native American, Native American/black mixed-ancestry, Native Canadian or Alaskan, Native Australian, Filipino, and South Sea Islander. My interest in #11 came about through my sister, who always thought of her as Maori (Native New Zealander). Like her sisters Amy and Grania, I found Rain new on eBay. I haven’t yet developed a strong sense of her character, but she seems quieter and calmer than her Addy face-sculpt sisters. I also like to think she’s a rain charm, because immediately after she arrived it rained in Northern California for the first time in months (and yes, I had already named her Rain).
Rain is the second of my Addy face-sculpt dolls (after Melanie, the #26 I didn’t keep) to have medium-brown skin instead of dark-brown skin. My favorite feature is her jet black, super-glossy hair. From what I can tell, she has the same exact wig as #4, which was really exciting to me, as these two dolls are the only ones I know of in the whole of American Girl’s history to have truly black hair–that is, hair that doesn’t have any brown highlights in full sun. It has almost a blue cast to it in direct light. It is a very thick wig, but has been criticized by collectors because it lacks the short hairs to cover the wig cap when her hair is parted into pig tails or twin braids. It isn’t a perfect wig, but the color and ultra-sleek texture as well as the flip at the ends make up for this shortcoming as far as I’m concerned. Here you can see the variations in color and texture between the wigs of my four Addy face-sculpt dolls:
And again, here:
Conclusion? The Addy face-sculpt is one of my very very favorite American Girl faces ever. I believe it has been used a total of nine times–once in the historical line for Addy herself, and eight times in the Girl of Today/Just Like You/My American Girl line–exclusively for dolls of color. It is cheery, intelligent, sweet, round and loveable. And it is very VERY much needed in the American Girl of the Year line. With such wonderful possibilities, how can American Girl resist?
Here’s to a year of doll of color love! Until next time, celebrate the beauty of brown!