Arlington Heights third-grader with Down syndrome featured in American Girl catalog
Third-grader Annie Osterhues of Arlington Heights loves to sing and dance around the house, but not to traditional children's music. This girl loves the soundtrack from "Hamilton," and, more than anything, she wants to see the show.
That says it all about the expectations for this active 9-year-old girl, who loves sports and plays basketball, softball, soccer and gymnastics with her peers, and has performed on stage in Setting the Stage children's theater productions.
Is it any wonder that Annie, sporting her cool, pink glasses and contagious smile, caught the eye of talent coordinators with American Girl?
For the second time in three years, Annie, who has Down syndrome, is featured in the company's holiday catalog, which came out last month.
"We're just thrilled that kids with Down syndrome are being celebrated," says her mother, Liz Osterhues, "and that their beauty is shining through."
Susan Jevers, associate manager for public relations for American Girl in Middleton, Wisconsin, says the company has been including girls with Down syndrome in their catalogs and advertising since 2014. American Girl has been a subsidiary of Mattel since 1998.
"Our goal is to celebrate the unique qualities of all girls," Jevers said. "To that end, we always request a wide selection of models from our agencies for our American girl photo shoots."
Annie's first photo shoot for American Girl, which took place in a home in Glen Ellyn, was in 2017. Her older sister, Nellie, who was in second grade at the time, was featured in the same shoot.
"Annie loved it," her mother said. "They were told to pretend it was Christmas and open presents and pass them back and forth.
"The only thing that was hard for her was sitting through the hair and makeup," she added. "She really resisted that."
This year's shoot took place during the summer as well, and in another home in the North suburbs. While Annie's first appearance came after she attended an open casting call, this time the talent agency reached back out to her family.
"She's very sweet and wonderful to work with," added Jevers.
This latest catalog came out in early November, and it was Annie's classmates who saw it first. They brought it to school to show everyone, which made Annie felt like a celebrity, her mother says.
"We're so happy that this door has opened -- and it's such a big door," Liz Osterhues says. "So many families embrace American Girl, that it has the chance to make such a positive impact."
Jevers says that's just the point, and that the decision to include all girls was intentional.
"We're proud of our positive reputation for diversity and inclusiveness," she says, "and look forward to continuing our efforts in this all-important area."
The Osterhues family hopes these types of positive experiences continue for their daughter and that society continues to embrace children of all abilities.
"As she gets older and gets more involved in the community, we hope the focus can be more about how similar she is to her classmates than different," Liz Osterhues says. "We just hope people see her as Annie."