When one mom’s son requested an “American Boy” doll for his sixth birthday, she tried to talk him out of it, since that brand of toy doesn’t even exist. But when the little boy kept asking, Mom took matters into her own hands, creating an American Boy that is her son’s spitting image.
Gina DeMillo Wagner, a writer and mom of two, explains in a blog post that her daughter got an American Girl “Truly Me” doll, which is customized to look like its owner, when she turned 7. “My son, naturally, wanted a doll that looks like him too. Trouble is, there are no 18-inch American Boy dolls available,” Wagner wrote. “I wasn’t surprised to see a doll on his list. [Miles and his older sister] play together every day. She loves playing superheroes and various sports with him, and he loves playing My Little Pony and American Girl with her.
“At first I tried to explain to him that they just don’t make American Boy dolls,” Wagner (who wasn’t available to speak to Yahoo Parenting) told Redbook. “I thought he’d eventually lose interest and move on, but he kept asking … and asking. Then, a good friend of mine jokingly said, ‘Couldn’t you just give a girl doll a haircut?’”
So that’s exactly what Wagner did. First, she ordered a Madame Alexander doll on eBay for $25. “If I looked past the hot pink lipstick and hair bow, I saw the spitting image of my son,” Wagner writes of the doll, which originally came with long hair, a cheerleader outfit, and a face full of makeup. After giving the doll a short haircut, a Spider-Man T-shirt, and a bare face — thanks to some acetone that doubled as doll makeup remover — the little girl cheerleader turned into a cargo-shorts-wearing little boy.
Gina DeMillo Wagner turned this Madame Alexander cheerleader doll into a little boy doll that looks just like her son. (Photo: Gina DeMillo Wagner)
When Wagner presented Miles with the doll — which he named Fred Jones — he was ecstatic. In a video of the big reveal, which Wagner posted to Instagram, Miles can’t believe it when he sees his new toy. “An American Boy!” he exclaims through giggles, before wrapping his new doll in a bear hug.
“I’m always telling my kids that you can waste a lot of energy complaining about the way things are or you can put that energy toward solving problems and making things better,” Wagner told Redbook. “This was one small, simple thing I could do for my son to solve a problem and fulfill his birthday wish. It was fun, relatively easy, and inexpensive.” Now, just like real-life Miles and his sister, Wagner’s kids’ American Boy and American Girl dolls spend plenty of time side by side.
Fred Jones, the American Boy doll that Gina DeMillo Wagner created for her son, with her daughter’s “Truly Me” American Girl. (Photo: Gina DeMillo Wagner)
Wagner is hoping that Pleasant Company, the parent company of American Girl, will take note. “[Stores] like Target may be moving toward gender neutrality in their toy aisles, but the trend has yet to trickle down into specific toy brands, especially dolls,” she wrote on her blog.
“There are doll options for boys, just not very many. And very few are marketed to older boys in the same way that American Girl appeals to older girls,” Wagner told the Huffington Post. “I think it’s a simple business equation for many companies, and they may not realize that there’s a big enough market for boy dolls.”
Wagner is hoping her DIY doll makeover — and her son’s elated reaction — will inspire change in the toy aisle. “If my story helps toy companies rethink the market and consider breaking down gender barriers, then I’m thrilled,” she told the Huffington Post. “I’d love to see that happen.”
(Top photo: Gina DeMillo Wagner)