Meet Kavi—the First South Asian American Girl Doll

Meet Kavi—the First South Asian American Girl Doll

By Pooja Shah

American Girl unveiled its 2023 Girl of the Year: Kavika (“Kavi”) Sharma. Retailing at $115, Kavi has made history as the first South Asian American doll, aligning with the company’s goal to create products that spotlight examples from diverse backgrounds and cultural roots.

“Kavi joins the company’s long line of contemporary characters, introduced more than 20 years ago, that represent a wide range of backgrounds to reflect what it means to be an American girl today,” the company said of the new doll’s release.

Based on New York Times bestselling author Varsha Bajaj’s novel, It’s Showtime, Kavi (set to debut in March 2023), Kavi is an 11-year-old Indian American girl from Metuchen, New Jersey. Only a train ride away from New York City, Kavi loves the magic of Broadway and watching the performing arts. As someone who enjoys singing and dancing, she tries to balance her on-stage interests with schoolwork, budding friendships, and the trials and tribulations of childhood. In reality, today’s kids also face the challenges of balancing their interests with family and school responsibilities.

American Girl worked with developers to create an authentic product without misrepresenting South Asian culture. In fact, even the doll’s nickname means “wise” or “poet” in Sanskrit and is a common gender-neutral name. Various accessories can be purchased alongside the doll, such as the “Song & Dance Bundle,” that includes a red, blue, and gold lehenga (a traditional form of South Asian clothing), matching South Asian jewelry including a tikka (head piece), necklace, and a pair of bangles. Other accessories also include backstage wardrobe essentials and various sparkly outfits.

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Growing up, my wishlist of gifts for any major holiday (and by that I mean Diwali and birthdays over Christmas and Thanksgiving) always included dolls. As a child of immigrants, my parents didn’t quite understand my obsession with these figurines and instead encouraged me to play with educational toys. But having a doll in my toy rotation meant having the ability to bring her to playdates and playgrounds with children my age. It was my quintessential “American Dream” to own this toy and fit in with other children my age; this was the acceptance I deeply craved.

But the dolls I was so accustomed to playing with all had blonde hair and blue eyes. The thought of having a doll that looked like me and wore similar clothes was merely aspirational. Over the years, American Girl has recognized the importance of creating versions that are more inclusive and in which children can see themselves. Last year, they even launched Corinne Tan, the 2022 Girl of the Year, who was the company’s first doll of Chinese descent.

I had a baby girl this year, and I am thrilled to know my daughter will grow up with toys that represent her and will know from a young age that she is beautiful, powerful, and seen. — PRERNA GUPTA

The 2023 launch of a South Asian doll represents both progression and hope. According to Bajaj, “Kavi’s story is important to all the young readers who will see parts of their lives represented. I took immense delight in showcasing slivers of Indian culture, including dance, yoga traditions, food, clothing, and magical festivals like Diwali and Holi.”

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In addition to progression, Kavi’s presence in the market gives South Asian parents the comfort of knowing that the doll will promote awareness and acceptance of their culture to those unfamiliar with it.

“Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, I wanted so badly to be seen and appreciated for who I was. I faced constant discrimination for the way I looked and for the foreign culture I represented. What kept me strong as a child was my imagination—would tell myself stories about living in a different world, one where my differences were my strength, and my culture was my superpower. If only I had a doll to tell those stories with,” states Prerna Gupta, parent and Founder & CEO of Hooked, a storytelling platform that highlights short form text, audio, and video content for consumer consumption.

As a mother, Gupta also recognizes how the doll exemplifies the direction in which storytelling is going because it empowers young children to use it as a tool to start important cultural related conversations that reflect their identities.

“I had a baby girl this year, and I am thrilled to know my daughter will grow up with toys that represent her and will know from a young age that she is beautiful, powerful, and seen,” Gupta adds.



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