Today, it was officially announced that self-described precocious and purpose-driven Marley Dias has come together with our childhood faves, American Girl, to bring to us the “American Girl Making Herstory Series.” The series will spotlight letters from young leaders making an impact in their communities, including a pen from the #1000BlackGirlBooks founder herself. According to an embargoed press release sent exclusively to HelloBeautiful, “the goal is for girls to see these stories and feel encouraged to use their voice for good” and “will highlight various female trailblazers who share their unique stories and perspectives to help foster empathy, equality, and respect.”
Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl, took to the press release to explain the importance and significance of this new digital platform featuring Dias and others including Paris Cares Foundation founder Paris Williams and American Girl author Denise Lewis Patrick: “For 35 years, American Girl has created timeless stories and diverse characters who show girls how to change the world with courage, resilience, and kindness. Through this new platform, we’re excited to give real girls the opportunity to share how their stories—and actions—are sparking meaningful conversations and positive change. We hope these stories inspire others to get involved and make a difference.”
“I grew up with an American Girl doll and that experience of having such a special gift made me a fan of the brand,” Dias told HelloBeautiful about what inspired her to want to move forward with the brand collaboration. “One of my closest elementary school friends had a huge collection, and I always spent hours creating worlds with her. American Girl has been a staple of toys for young girls, and they mean a lot to me.”
We caught up with the inspirational young writer and activist ahead of the partnership announcement to discuss the cultural relevance of the collaboration, why young Black girls should be included in conversations about racial and social justice and what her natural hair means to her. Check it out below!
HelloBeautiful: Tell me about ‘Conversations for Change’ and your role in the first episode, 4 Generations of Black Voices.
Marley Dias: ‘Conversations for Change’ is a wonderful series created by American Girl to help educate and empower parents and girls to become more socially engaged. Throughout the episode I discussed my #1000BlackGirlBooks Campaign, my book Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! I shared my love of reading and I discussed how that love helped me develop the campaign to diversify children’s literature. Hopefully by sharing my story with other girls I can help inspire young people to become change makers of today and tomorrow and help encourage and offer ways that parents can support their children.
HB: How will your involvement with American Girl inspired young Black girls to use their voices?
Marley Dias: I’m excited to share my story with all of the supporters of American Girl, and help motivate other girls toward civic justice! I am hoping that my involvement with American Girl will bring my message of social justice to a new and wider audience. I also hope that sharing my journey of social activism over the past five years will motivate other young people to learn more about the social issues within their communities.
HB: Why is it so important for toy companies and doll brands to increase Black representation?
Marley Dias: Representation is vital to the confidence of young Black people, and the social understandings of those who are not in the Black community. If the stories of Black people are rarely told, it sends a message that our lives and experiences are not as valuable as others, and the absence of our stories further fuels stereotypes and promotes other forms of hate. Including stories of Black people helps move the society toward greater inclusion and equity.
HB: Why is it important for young Black girls to see themselves in the toys that they play with?
Marley Dias: Representation provides “mirrors and windows” to toy lovers everywhere. This term was coined by Emily Style of the National SEED project, and I think it accurately captures the importance of diversity. Toys about Black girls provide mirrors, and reaffirms that Black girls are beautiful, powerful, and worthy. Diversity within children’s toys also provides windows for those who are not Black Girls, and gives them insights into our experiences and educates others on our stories.
HB: How important is it for young Black girls to be included in conversations about diversity and racial justice?
Marley Dias: Black girls must be included in all conversations about them and especially conversations about diversity and racial justice because we are often the victims of exclusion and inequality. If we are not able to be a part of these conversations, the resources needed for us, Black girls to be treated equally will not likely be promoted or provided. When we are able to speak our truth, especially to those in power, we increase the chance that we will get the support we need to be our best selves.
HB: When it comes to your hair, why do you find it important to embrace the natural state of your hair when taking pictures, speaking in public or just your day-to-day life?
Marley Dias: Hair is different for everyone, and all kinds of hairstyles are beautiful. I love to embrace my natural hair. I wear my natural hair or braided styles to send a message to any Black girls watching me that Black hair is beautiful. Oftentimes there is societal pressure for Black girls to wear straight hair, which I rarely do. I wear my hair natural as a form of resistance against the current beauty standards.
HB: What advice do you have for young girls who want to use their voice for advocacy, but don’t know where to start?
Marley Dias: The first place to start when engaging in social problem solving is learning more about the world around you. By reading articles, books, and watching videos about current events within your community, you can learn so much more about social issues and broaden your ability to discuss these issues. From these learnings, you can then develop ideas for how you can positively impact the world around you.