Let me start by saying that I am no stranger to the American Girl doll brand.

I just had no idea what they meant to young girls and women.

Turns out, these aren't just toys. It's almost like a rite of passage and getting the Rolls Royce of dolls.

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Move over Barbie. There is indeed another Girl in town.

I first heard or saw these dolls several years ago. I was in between jobs and working at Target. I had to stock these in the toy section. I noted they were bigger dolls and came with a lot of stuff. Clothes, accessories, shoes, pets, horses. Almost like enough stuff to make a backstory. I mean, I knew about Barbie, Malibu Barbie, Ken, dream houses, and the like.

But this was a bigger doll sizewise. More detail. Looked a little more expensive. Regardless, it couldn't be that big of a deal and hold a candle to the iconic Barbie brand. Could it?

I mean, what's the deal with American Girl dolls anyway?

What I didn't know about American Girl dolls.

Good Morning America via YouTube
Good Morning America via YouTube

How big of a deal are they? Well let's start with Good Morning America has a tradition of revealing the American Girl "Girl of the Year Doll".

In her story, written by award-winning author Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Corinne is a Chinese American girl living in Aspen, Colorado, with her blended family. Through her stories -- which are filled with fun, outdoor adventures -- readers will learn about how Corinne gains courage to speak up when faced with xenophobic comments and how she advocates for positive change. (GMA)

Inclusion. Backstory. History. All those things are what make these dolls REALLY special.

People like these dolls because they come with their own histories and stories as if they were real people. They have nicely made clothing and accessories galore, so there are lots of play opportunities with them. Parents like them because they encourage an interest in history in their children. (Quora)

What this doll meant for my niece.

McConnell Adams TSM Lansing
McConnell Adams TSM Lansing

My niece got her American Girl doll for Christmas. I was there when she opened it. She loved it. I could tell it meant a lot to her. The doll even had the same name as her. And turns out, that's a big part of the allure of these dolls as well.

Because the dolls have such realistic features, it enables children to change them up frequently and treat them like real people. The accessories and options available to customize these dolls are endless. ... Not to mention, some children may want their doll to mirror them. (Distractify)

And speaking of accessories, my niece's doll came with hair extensions. Soon, this doll and her unboxing became the center of attention not only for my niece but myself, her mom, and dad as we tried to figure out exactly how and where these things were supposed to go on her head.

McConnell Adams TSM Lansing
McConnell Adams TSM Lansing

Dad was a champ. The doll was a hit.

And now I have a really good idea about why these dolls mean so much to young women. Grown women as well. My partner on the air started gushing when we talked about these iconic toys. She told me there's an American Girl store that every girl needs to at least visit once. It's the original one and it's in Chicago.

The first store, the 35,000 square-foot American Girl Place, designed by Nancye Green of Donovan/Green, debuted in Chicago in 1998. It was followed by stores in New York City and Los Angeles. (Wikipedia)

There are at least 12 stores in the U.S. and one in Canada. 

These folks went to Nashville to check out the Girl of the Year doll for 2022 as featured on GMA.

I feel enlightened and informed. American Girl dolls are more than just toys. They mean so much more to young girls than that. They are iconic, informative, historical, and a rite of passage.

Also, a challenge for grown men to figure out their hair extensions.

Just saying.

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