Amanda Gorman Recalls Mattel Seemingly Using Her Likeness In 2017 For American Girl Doll
The rockstar poet shared a story with Vogue about her longstanding problems with being in the public eye.
April 07, 2021 at 6:26 pm
Gordan, who also graces the cover of the magazine's May issue, spoke candidly during the interview about her stark rise to fame and its downsides.
"Honored to be the first poet EVER on the cover of @voguemagazine, & what a joy to do so while wearing a Black designer, @virgilabloh. This is called the Rise of Amanda Gorman, but it's truly for all of you, both named & unseen, who lift me up," Gorman wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
.@TheAmandaGorman is our May cover star!
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) April 7, 2021
Gorman sat down with New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félix and reflected on an instance in 2017 when toy company Mattel asked her to perform at the American Girl boutique in Los Angeles to introduce its newest doll and "Girl of the Year," Gabriela McBride.
The doll's backstory eerily resembled hers almost exactly, but American Girl told Vogue it was not based on Gorman at all. Despite the denial, a 2016 story published by ABC News reported that McBride is based on a young Black girl who stutters and uses poetry and dancing to cope with her disability.
Gorman, herself, has a speech impediment and had just been named Los Angeles' first-ever Youth Poet Laureate at the time.
Then 18, Gorman had returned to Los Angeles from school at Harvard University for the winter break holiday and was approached by American Girl about appearing at the event.
Both Gorman and St. Félix called the event "Peele-esque" in reference to Jordan Peele's Get Out, in which the bodies of Black people are taken over by elderly white people.
“She was a Black girl with a speech impediment! I felt like if I backed out of the event, I would have been failing the girls who would have this Black doll,” Gorman told St. Félix.
She said she began to resent the doll and her connection to it even as she gained notoriety in poetry circles. She added that friends started to tell her that the doll resembled her and had a similar background.
— American Girl (@American_Girl) January 1, 2017
Gorman told Vogue that she didn't want to blow the story out of proportion but noted that it was one of her first lessons in the downsides of fame. She explained that she is still somewhat haunted by the idea that a company or artist could use facts of her life and effectively sell it off in doll form.
The incident, she added, made her realize what “a public figure’s life” actually entailed and said it forced her to think about how she was being perceived by others.
“I built up this narrative in my head that, you know, I had to be some type of ‘role model,'" she told St. Félix.
Since appearing on the Inauguration stage and performing “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman has received an avalanche of endorsements, job opportunities and book sales. She was featured on dozens of shows following her spellbinding performance but says she is now trying to be more judicious about the opportunities she commits to.
“I don’t want it to be something that becomes a cage. Where to be a successful Black girl, you have to be Amanda Gorman and go to Harvard. I want someone to eventually disrupt the model I have established,” Gorman said.
“I’m trying not to judge myself. When you’re someone who’s lived a life where certain resources were scarce, you always feel like abundance is forbidden fruit,” she added.