(Bloomberg) — Meet the newest American Girl: Her name is Corinne, she likes to ski, and she’s the only Chinese American doll in the beloved brand’s roster.
American Girl Brands, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc., debuted Corinne Tan on Jan. 1 — just after the holiday season — in part a response to increased violence against Asian Americans.
“We created Corinne to be a positive role model our fans can look up to and learn from as we all work toward a world where everyone is treated fairly and with respect,” American Girl General Manager Jamie Cygielman said in a press release. The Corinne doll — along with a bevy of themed accessories, books about her life and a little sister Gwynn — will be available at the American Girl website and the company’s destination stores for at least two years.
Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has long been criticized for a lack of racial diversity in its offerings and for perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards, though it has recently released more non-White dolls. Among the dozens of American Girls debuted over the years, Corinne is one of six of Asian descent. The company in 2014 discontinued production of Ivy Ling, its first Chinese American doll.
“What I really hope is that there is some part of Corinne’s story that makes readers feel seen, whether it’s because they are Asian American, or because they’re part of a blended family, or because they love skiing,” Wendy Wan-Long Shang, the author of Corinne’s books, said in a press release. “I think when readers feel seen, they realize that they matter and their experiences matter, and that they are meant to be the stars of their own stories.” Shang developed the characters along with illustrator Peijin Yang.
For writer Rae Chen, this kind of diversity in children’s toys is long overdue.
“When I grew up, there were no Asian dolls that you could buy at any toy store,” they said in an interview with Bloomberg News, adding that one doll out of a roster of over 60 “is not a lot. And I don’t think it’s enough.”
Corinne, like many Asian American women and girls depicted in media, notably has blue-streaked hair. Chen, who in 2018 wrote a Teen Vogue article noting the tendency for Hollywood to give rebellious Asian women colorful hair, called that decision disappointing.
“They’re pushing this idea that in order to have agency, to have an independent identity as people of color, we have to intentionally modify the thing that makes us a person of color,” Chen said. “You shouldn’t have to dye your hair to have main character energy as an Asian person.”