A Tale of Two Dolls

I was surprised the first time I heard a ‘less-than-enthusiastic’ comment about American Girl’s® Addy doll. It’s not that I think American Girl walks on water or anything, but as a competitor in the doll business, I had to respect the tremendous success of the brand, the marketing and everything that goes into making American Girl such a huge success.

The Pattycake Doll company didn’t always carry 18 inch American Girl type dolls. We were geared more to the baby doll and rag doll market. But we kept getting requests, and finally I asked one of the mothers who had called me – once again – to find out if we carried 18″ Black Dolls: “If you want a Black 18 inch doll, why don’t you just buy American Girls’ Addy?”

The answer floored me. “I don’t want to give my daughter a slave doll.”

18 inch Doll Portraits -12-2

So gradually, Addie and I added 18″ dolls for children of color to our store. First we just had one Asian 18″ doll, one Black 18″ doll, and one Biracial/Multicultural/Hispanic skin tone 18 inch doll; but we quickly expanded as we discovered that there was a definite need and desire for these American Girl clones. And the more we looked, the more we found… Black American girl dolls with straight hair, and Black dolls with curly hair, eventually reaching 12+ different skin tone – hair style – hair color combinations. And because none of them were ‘Addy,’ there were no books, or ‘background stories.’  They were just dolls. Beautiful Dolls.

But this year we started carrying a new 18″ Black doll, from Madame Alexander, who comes dressed as a Ballerina. And she is simply stunning.

Ballerina 18in Doll Portrait

And for all those mothers who were reluctant to present their daughters with a ‘slave-girl story,’ we could suggest something different. Because in America today there are some really beautiful Black ballerinas with tremendously inspiring stories. Like Misty Copeland and Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams.*

American Girl’s Addy has a wonderfully inspiring story – but as we learned, it’s not for everyone. Maybe a Black Ballerina Doll, and your daughter’s imagination, can create an alternative story more to your liking?

* Neither Madame Alexander nor Pattycake Doll are inferring that this beautiful 18″ doll is meant to represent any of the real Black ballerinas mentioned in this post.

American Girl Makes It Harder

18" American Girl Doll Clones

Portraits of the current 18″ Dolls of Color Selection from The Pattycake Doll Company

Many years ago The Pattycake Doll Company got a call from a mother looking for “Black American Girl’ type dolls. (We specialized in dolls of color at that time too, but mostly for babies and toddlers. American Girl® dolls start at age 8)

And although we carried a Madame Alexander Black American Girl clone ( at less than 1/2 the price no less and safe for ages 3 and up,) we simply asked why she didn’t buy the American Girl Addy doll, it was so beautiful?

Well the answer shocked us: “I don’t want to buy a slave girl doll for my daughter.” One of my favorite expressions is: ‘You don’t learn a heck of a lot from the second kick from a mule.” I sensed a business opportunity, and today The Pattycake Doll Company is the largest seller of ethnic 18″ dolls of color.

So we found it interesting today to read that American Girl is retiring (read that as cutting the number of 18 inch dolls of color available) while they revamp their historical line-up: Post by American Girl. Their Asian 18 inch doll is American Girl’s Ivy Ling, and Cecile Rey is a Black American Girl Doll.

I, like everybody else, will be interested to see what dolls they come out with to replace American Girl® Ivy Ling and American Girl® Cecile Rey.

Clones of American Girl® Dolls

18" ethnic dolls of color for children

A selection of Black, Biracial, Multicultural, Asian and other ethnic 18 inch dolls

It started with a simple phone call:

“Do you have any Black American Girl® Dolls?”

And although I did have one (a clone by  Madame Alexander called ‘Oh So Groovy’), I didn’t realize it at the time and said “sorry, I don’t, but American Girl dolls are beautiful and very well made and I’m pretty sure they have a Black one.” Being in the doll business you know darn well that I knew about the phenomena that is American Girl dolls!

But I was shocked by her answer… “I don’t want a Slave Girl doll for my daughter!”

[In case you didn’t know, American Girl Dolls are exclusive to American Girl stores and their website, or in the aftermarket like Ebay. Mattel does not allow any other stores to carry them.]

The doll she was referring to of course was American Girl’s Addy, who is marketed by American Girl as an escaped slave of the Civil War era.

Today of course 18″ American Girl Doll clones are available everywhere, including PattycakeDoll.com, so there are lots more choices. But for us, then, it all started with a phone call.