In a recent interview with Vogue magazine, Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman said American Girl used her likeness in 2017 without her permission. As Gorman told the publication, she had been booked to speak at an American Girl outlet to celebrate their annual “Girl Of The Year,” a doll called Gabriela, when she noticed something unusual about the doll.
Apparently it resembled her.
The 2017 Girl Of The Year doll Gabriela is described on the American Girl website as “a true talent who gets creative for a cause.” She is a brown-skinned doll with curly hair. Gorman is brown-skinned with curly hair. People who bought Gabriella could also take to the website to create their own Gabriela poem, much like the young poet. At the time, Amanda Gorman had just been named Youth Poet Laureate for Los Angeles and was a freshman at Harvard University. When she was told about the Gabriela doll the night before helping to introduce her to the world, who was described on the American Girl website at the time as a girl who “loves the arts and uses poetry to help find her voice so she can make a difference in her community,” she was shocked. “She was a Black girl with a speech impediment,” Gorman told Vogue, and as someone who grew up with her own speech impediment, this hit home for her.
American Doll told Vogue that the doll was not styled after Gorman, and the young poet still participated in the event because “I felt like if I backed out of the event,” she told Vogue, “I would have been failing the girls who would have this Black doll.”
Despite American Girl’s denial, a 2016 story published by ABC News noted that Gabriela McBride was indeed described as a girl who uses poetry to “break down barriers” and uses the medium to overcome her own personal challenge of stuttering. She was also sold with “performance-inspired” outfits, colorful choices that resembled Gorman’s own flair for dramatic colors. Scholastic also partnered with American Doll to host a poetry contest in honor of Gabriela. The similarities are pretty striking.
Four years after Gabriela was created, Gorman’s star has risen considerably. She skyrocketed to international fame after her incredible poetry performance at President Biden’s inauguration and has gone on to be interviewed by people like Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton. There was even a little boy who dressed as Gorman for his school’s “Dress As Your Idol” day.
Not Gabriela. Amanda Gorman.