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Liana Richardson

Her name is Courtney Moore. She rocks “totally rad” ’80s gear—from acid-washed denim and splatter-print dresses to Care Bears pajamas and a cool watch—and she loves heading to the arcade to play games like Pac-Man.

Lest you think a time machine has taken us all back to 1986, it bears mention that Courtney is an 18-inch-tall doll. Specifically, she’s the newest American Girl character—the creation of a team led by Liana Richardson, ’17

An interest in comics and costuming brought Richardson to Jefferson. She specifically cites professors Carly Kusy and Katie Casano for helping her translate her fashion design skills into the field she aspired to join.

“They were open to helping me, even in portfolio class, to make this happen,” says Richardson, who created all of Courtney’s outfits and fashion accessories. “The facilities and the Design, Engineering & Commerce Core (DEC) program really served me well. It laid a great foundation that you can’t get at other schools.”

Richardson says a seed of inspiration for the Courtney doll came from seeing the popularity of nostalgic shows like “Stranger Things” and the resurgence of Mattel’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

“We saw this as a huge opportunity to not only resonate with girls today but also with their parents and grandparents, who are the purchasers. It was a perfect combination,” Richardson says. “The History of Costumes and Textiles course that I took at Jefferson was a major help.”

When the doll went public—in a partnership with the Girls Who Code nonprofit, which will sponsor four $5,000 scholarships for girls interested in computer science or a related field—the debut included a Today Show introduction headlined by the Go-Go’s.

Beyond the doll itself, Richardson mentions lessons learned along the way about the world of toys and how they interact with youth development. She notes that watching the toy-testing room during the creation process offered insights into those exchanges. 

“Mattel has done an incredible amount of research into how doll play helps young children develop. Dolls are really teaching nurturing, compassion, empathy and emotional-intelligence skills. I’d recommend that more boys should be playing with dolls too and hope Courtney is really well-received.”