American Girl announced its 2018 Girl of the Year today, and she's someone we'd want our young selves to be friends with: Luciana Vega, a creative and confident 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person on Mars.
"For us, it's all about helping girls develop their strength of character — something that is more important in our world than ever," American Girl spokesperson Julie Parks tells Refinery29. "Luciana shows girls what it means to be a girl of strong character — where creative thinking, collaboration, and STEM literacy provide opportunities for meaningful growth and development. Luciana empowers girls to push boundaries, defy stereotypes, and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life."
It's a progressive move for the toy and accessory manufacturer, founded after its creator visited Colonial Williamsburg, that still has as its calling card a line of traditional, U.S.-history inspired dolls like Samantha, Felicity, and Addy. But it has updated its selection in recent years, launching its first boy doll and first Korean-American doll earlier this year and making accessories like a wheelchair and a diabetes care kit in a nod to its customers with disabilities and illnesses. The brand, which is owned by Mattel, also represents various body types and complexions, as well as eye and hair colors. (Fun fact: Luciana has a purple streak in her hair.)
Luciana — who is of Chilean descent — comes with a variety of accessories, like a flight suit and space suit, and her story is chronicled in a book written by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic. American Girl worked with an advisory board that includes a former NASA chief scientist and a former astronaut to ensure she and her accessories are true to life, and is even sponsoring 20 scholarships for girls to attend a real space camp. Luciana will be available on January 1 in American Girl stores, and through its catalog and website.
"We know from various studies that encouraging girls in STEM opportunities can positively influence their personal development and identity," Parks says.
The 2017 American Girl of the Year was also a person of color. Her name was Gabriela McBride and she was a dancer, artist, and poet out to inspire change. Her motto? "With the right words, I can break down barriers and break through to people." It looks like Luciana is breaking down some barriers of her own.