Joss Kendrick: 2020 Girl of the Year from American Girl

A big thank you to American Girl for sending Joss Kendrick, the 2020 Girl of the Year for us to love. Joss Kendrick AG in girl's armsWe all want our kids to try new things, buck stereotypes, and show dedication in all that they do. But, kids these days are pulled in so many directions and expected to excel at school, in sports, and in social aspects as well. I’m sure it can feel overwhelming at times.

Now imagine also having a disability on top of it all. The newest 2020 Girl of the Year from American Girl, Joss Kendrick, shows girls that being born with hearing loss isn’t going to stop her from pursuing her love of surfing. American Girl has been inspiring girls for over 3 decades now, and Joss is ready to carry that torch and help girls learn and grow with confidence.Joss Kendrick American Girl in arms

5 things we learn from Joss Kendrick:

Try new things.

Joss has always had a love of surfing, which is partly due to having grown up in Huntington Beach, California {aka “Surf City U.S.A.”}. Joss loves to catch the waves any chance she can get, and she excels out on the water. But, when she accepts her brother’s dare to try out for the competitive cheer team, she finds a new love of the gym.Joss Cheerleading

Even when cheer is much harder that she thought it would be, Joss doesn’t give up. She learns the daring formations, the flips and jumps, and goes all in. Joss eventually discovers a whole new side of herself – all by trying something new.Joss Kendrick AG Redwood

A disability doesn’t define you.

So many of the kids I love have overcome the title of “disability”, and Joss is a great example of that. Even though Joss has had hearing loss since birth, she has never let it keep her back. She demonstrates a positive way to focus on living your best life, and even celebrating their uniqueness.

Wearing a hearing aid is just part of who Joss is, and she comes into new situations ready to conquer potential obstacles. She also shows that communication is incredibly important to make new situations less scary, and helps by teaching her new teammates and coaches how to support her on the team.Joss Hendrick hearing aid

Commit to your goals.

Many people said Joss couldn’t do certain things because of her hearing loss, but she continually proved them wrong. Her dedication is what allowed her to excel in all that she does, including surfing and then cheer. When Joss commits to a goal, she goes all in.

I hope my kids take Joss’ story and pick up on how she doesn’t give up. I can’t wait to talk with them about all the times Joss proved to be so dedicated to her goals that she will stop at nothing to achieve them. It’s a great lesson for all kids to confidently pursue their dreams, and it’s especially important for many girls.Joss Hendrick up close

Don’t make snap judgements.

Joss initially thinks cheer is all about pom-poms and chants to cheer on the boys, but she soon learns that cheerleaders are athletes, too. Joss’s jaw drops as she sees girls being thrown sky-high and doing daring flips and jumps.

She realizes that she might have prejudged the sport and regrets dismissing cheer as jumping and cheering. When she sees a teammate react to the sand in her pocket she also makes the realization that she did the same when she was making fun of cheer’s big bows. Joss sees the hypocrisy in that, especially as she has been overcoming the prejudice of her disability from when she was young. I love this about Joss’ story as it shows kids that it’s best to keep an open mind.Joss Hendrick up close 2


Joss already has a sport, and isn’t going looking for a new pastime. But, when she finds that she loves gymnastics as much as surfing, she shows girls that you don’t have to commit to just one activity. Part of growing up with open minds means allowing the space for new loves to blossom.

American Girl points out that the best part is that more than 40 professional sports organizations agree that diversity is good. The theory is that playing multiple sports actually leads to better performance, helps avoid burnout, and ends up with even more committed athletes. Can’t beat that, right?Joss Kendrick sitting with friend

Joss’ story comes to life

To create Joss’ story, American Girl worked with an amazing team of experts to bring her character to life. Author Erin Falligant created two books to start Joss’ collection that includes the inspiration brought from American Girl and their team they assembled.

Inspiration for Joss’ love of surf came from many places, including 17-year-old surfing prodigy Caroline Marks, as she prepares to make history next summer as a member of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team. Also consulted was Bianca Valenti, a professional big wave surfer and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. They also worked with Crystal DaSilva, Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion and winner of national and world titles, and whose childhood and career have many parallels to Joss’ story.Joss Kendrick AG key

To bring competitive cheerleading alive, American Girl worked with Sara Jo Moen and Julie Peterson, owners of Fury Athletics in Madison, WI, a training gym for competitive cheer teams.Caroline Marks with Joss Doll

To make sure they accurately portrayed Joss’ hearing loss, they worked with Dr. Sharon Pajka, Ph.D., a professor of English at Gallaudet University and a specialist in portrayals of deaf characters in adolescent literature. They also worked with Jennifer Richardson, Au.D., an Educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation. Crystal DaSilva also gave insight to Joss’ story in regard to surfing and hearing loss.Joss Kendrick makeup

Joss 18-inch doll

I know I say that every American Girl doll is gorgeous, and I’m not incorrect in that assertion. But, even keeping that in mind, Joss is still pretty special. Her long brown hair and brown eyes are unique in the doll world, and I love it. She arrives wearing a swimsuit, hoodie, sandals, and shorts and even includes two removable hearing aids with tiny cleaning brush in its very own case that store everything in. Joss Kendrick AG in armsOther Joss products include a surfboard and swim gear, cheer outfits and equipment—including a cheer backpack, slides, and competition shoes in partnership with Nfinity®. Her line also includes her English bulldog, Murph the Surf Dog.Joss Kendrick Unboxing

And coming this spring, American Girl, in partnership with Volkswagen Accessories, will debut Joss’s Volkswagen Surf Bus, which comes fully stocked with more than 50 components, including a storage bench that folds into a bed, a pop-up stove, and a fold-out table. The surf bus also features working headlights, turn signals, windshield wipers, and a radio, plus sounds for the horn and ignition.Joss Kendrick Volkswagen Van

While we are diehard VW fans and obviously cannot wait for the Joss release of the Volkswagen bus, in the meantime we’re sitting here swooning over this adorable seal. We have a favorite seal in our area that hangs out at the marina and we go visit him every few weeks to say hello, so of course the kids were crazy about Joss’ seal that comes in her collection. Joss American Girl Seal

Want more Joss?

  • Girls can tune into a weekly online series, “Meet Joss,” plus view Joss-inspired music videos, DIY crafts, doll hair features, and other videos throughout the year on the brand’s popular YouTube Kids Channel
  • A dedicated Joss play site offers girls free book excerpts, games and quizzes, wallpaper, and much more.

Joss Kendrick sittingGiving back through HLAA with Joss Kendrick: 2020 Girl of the Year from American Girl

In honor of Joss, American Girl is partnering with Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the nation’s leading nonprofit representing people with hearing loss. American Girl is giving a $25,000 donation to support the organization’s education and awareness programs. American Girl is also supporting HLAA’s 2020 Walk4Hearing. Celebrating its 15th year, the Walk4Hearing brings families together across the US to encourage hearing health and living well with hearing loss. And, from January 1, 2020 through the end of the year, the company will collect donations for HLAA at and at American Girl stores nationwide.Joss Kendrick with dog

There are many ways to support HLAA and learn about prevention of hearing loss, the diagnosis, and the treatments, including the following: Subscribe to the free online Hearing Life e-News published twice a month. Become a member of HLAA and receive the bimonthly magazine, Hearing Life, full of reliable information as well as personal stories of individuals living well with hearing loss. Get involved in the HLAA’s Walk4Hearing events that are held in 20 cities across the U.S. Find out about a local HLAA Chapter or the annual HLAA Convention with workshops, educational programs, and fun events. Become a supporter by donating to HLAA. Your donation supports programs and advocacy efforts at the national level that impact 48 million people in the U.S. with hearing loss.

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