Elaine de Valle, Miami Herald, January 25, 2009
Girls across the country are playing with a new doll that may look like one of the American Girl doll figures–but she’s not.
Maru is similar to the New York-based icon–with trendy outfits, pets and a book about her life. But her story is closer to home for many South Florida girls: Maru is Hispanic.
She came to the United States alone to learn a new language, make new friends and live with her aunt and uncle until she is reunited with her parents, who are in another country.
In that vein, the Maru and Friends line already has two other dolls–girls Maru meets at school. “They become BFFs,” Gutierrez [Maritza Gutierrez, creator of Maru] said. Jamie is blonde with blue eyes and freckles. Tanya is browner-skinned and has long curly brown hair.
All three were designed by award-winning artist Dianna Effner, better known for her one-of-a-kind collectible porcelain dolls. Each face has a different mold, Gutierrez said. And they have several outfits to choose from, including a jeans and espadrilles set, a coat and hat and pajamas. More outfits are in the works, as is a dog that Maru’s aunt and uncle give her “to help ease her pain,” Gutierrez said.
Next on the agenda is an Asian-American doll and babies, a line called Happy Twins developed by a different award-winning designer. Quality is very important to Gutierrez, who has about 200 dolls in her own personal collection.
“Americans have American Girl. Now Latinas have Maru,” said Gutierrez, adding that there are some differences.
Maru and friends are less “bulky” than the AG line and they have one item of clothing their more famous predecessor doesn’t have: underwear. It was something girls noticed at a recent toy fair where children were allowed to play with new toys as part of a market test.
Gutierrez launched Maru and Friends on the Internet in October. In November, Maru was one of the gifts given to celebrities arriving for the 9th Annual Latin Grammy Awards. The dolls have already won the 2008 Greatest Products Award by iParenting Media.
And the website has already sold thousands of dolls at $110 a pop.