American Girl's 2018 Girl Of The Year Is Luciana Vega, An Aspiring Astronaut & STEM Role Model
When I was six years old, I told my parents I wanted to be an "astronaut detective." It's not totally clear what I meant — did I want to solve mysteries in space? Did I want to solve the mysteries of space? — but I watched every episode of the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon and dreamed, one day, of riding a rocket out into the universe. Now, today's young girls can get excited about space, thanks the American Girl's 2018 doll of the year, an aspiring astronaut named Luciana Vega.
American Girl, which is owned by Mattel, announced their annual Doll of the Year on Good Morning America on Thursday. Luciana, the company said in a statement, is 11 years old, and is an "aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars."
"Luciana is our first character that's really immersed in STEM," Rebecca Dekuiper, one of American Girl's designers, said in a video documenting the doll's creation. "We've had STEM products before, but we really wanted to do a whole character to show girls that STEM is cool."
GMA introduced the doll to a group of young girls dressed in tiny NASA uniforms, which tore out my The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the U.S. Space Camp Mission-marathoning heart. They also each got a doll:
Though American Girl hasn't yet started selling Luciana and her gear online (the countdown clock suggests we'll get her come Jan. 1), it appears she comes with a very cool looking space suit, in addition to her own NASA uniform and, apparently, part of a space station. MY GOD, what I would have done to get this doll in 1996. The gear is all quite technologically accurate (if, you know, slightly smaller than the real thing), since American Girl worked with a number of Real Deal NASA experts to help create Luciana and her accessories.
Those experts include NASA astronaut Dr. Megan McArthur Behnken; former NASA chief scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan; manager of strategic alliances at NASA Maureen O'Brien, and Dr. Deborah Barnhart, the CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Never let anyone tell you girls don't do space stuff.
"I was able to follow Lucy through all of her story and adventures, and provide feedback from an astronaut's perspective on the authenticity of her story and the activities that she participated in," Behnken told ABC News. "I've been in space and fixed the Hubble space telescope, so I have some perspective on how we use robotics, how we train for robotics." Luciana's story, told in a three-book series, follows the tween through a summer she spends at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
American Girl got its start in the 1980s by selling historical dolls (shout out to Samantha!) their stories, and time period-appropriate outfits and accessories, but later added contemporary dolls and more modern gear. In 2001, the company started making "Girl of the Year" dolls, with each doll boasting its own unique story and set of accessories. The series notably offers a more diverse set of dolls than its OG collection, though unfortunately each doll is only available for one year.
Luciana is American Girl's 16th Doll of the Year, and she's got some good company. 2017's doll, Gabriela McBride, is an aspiring poet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who uses the arts to overcome her stutter. She was preceded in 2015 by Lea Clark, a tween photographer who visits her brother in the Amazon rainforest. In honor of Lea, American Girl teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to encourage artistic young girls to sell some of their work and donate the proceeds to the WWF. More importantly, they made Lea a tiny sloth.
Keep on the lookout for Luciana in 2018 — with all the recent UFO and ~alien~ news we've had lately, we'll need her expertise now more than ever.