American Girl’s First South-Asian “Girl of the Year”

American Girl, Inc.

Meet Kavika “Kavi” Sharma, American Girl’s newest “Girl of the Year.”

Anushka Shah, Staff Writer

   American Girl’s newest “Girl of the Year” is Indian-American Kavika “Kavi” Sharma. The American Girl website characterizes Kavi as someone who “loves singing, dancing, and performing with her friends.” She resides in Metuchen, New Jersey, which is located near Edison (home to a notable Indian-American population). 

   Luckily for Kavi, her hometown is also a train ride away from New York City, where she can attend her favorite Broadway shows. Her interest in the performing arts has prompted accessories like a stage set and a Bollywood dance costume. Amidst a society that stereotypes Asians into STEM fields and an Indian cultural tendency to look down upon the arts, it’s refreshing to see a South-Asian singer and dancer take up the 2023 “Girl of the Year” mantle. 

   The doll’s accompanying story is written by Indian author Varsha Bajaj, who has stated that she hopes Kavi’s tale is a “welcoming window for girls who might be unfamiliar with Kavi’s world.” The book that accompanies the doll, titled “It’s Showtime, Kavi,” depicts Kavi and her family celebrating Hindu holidays like Holi and Diwali. In a statement, Bajaj said that she thinks “South Asian girls and women of all ages will feel seen, included and represented.” Unfortunately, however, Kavi’s light skin tone will perhaps undermine this goal. 

   Colorism has remained extremely prevalent in India. In part, this is an unwanted leftover from British colonialism, yet the Bollywood film industry’s promotion of fair-skinned stars, caste and regional differences have done nothing to rectify the issue. As the rampant multibillion-dollar skin-whitening industry remains a constant presence within India, dark-skinned Indian girls are often encouraged to bleach their skin or to use products like the famous “Fair and Lovely” lightening cream. In recent years, adolescents and millennials have begun to recognize the unethical ideals behind India’s colorism, but currently, the prejudice still rampages through Indian culture. Many proponents of this dark-skinned bias believe that Kavi’s fair skin only perpetuates colorism among young girls and have chosen to voice their disapproval through social media. 

   Nevertheless, Kavi Sharma’s shortcomings haven’t prevented her from making history as the first South-Asian “Girl of the Year” doll. Since the debut of “Girl of the Year” in 2001, three other Asian dolls have gained a year-long spotlight: 2006’s half-Japanese Jess McConnell, 2011’s Japanese-Hawaiian Kanani Akina and last year’s Chinese-American Corinne Tan. In accordance with Kavi’s passions, American Girl will donate $25,000 to fund full and partial scholarships for kids participating in New York’s Camp Broadway summer programs. 

   Despite Kavi’s faults, she will likely provide a welcome source of representation to young girls. Hopefully, future American Girl dolls will better fulfill the company’s mission to tastefully diversify their products.