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Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Personal Profile Story of stephenswodadancer

I got a wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by a Missouri University student a few weeks ago. He wanted to write a story on me and what I do! So with his permission I am posting the final story here for you all to read! We would both love to hear your feedback after you read it if you would like to give it :) So with out further ado here is my personal profile by Brice Sander...

With a stud in her tongue and dark locks belonging on a Woodstock rock star, you would never guess Stephens College senior Sarah spends her free time playing with dolls.
That’s because Sarah, 20, lives in two worlds: the real world and the viral world. By day, she is your average college student with a flair for music and dance. By night, she’s “stephenswodadancer” (a combination of her college and the acronym for her hometown dance studio, White Oak Dance Academy), YouTube’s guru on all things American Girl, the Mattel owned doll line.
Sarah, a Blue Springs, Mo. native, has become one of the modern era’s instant celebrities. Her YouTube channel is a haven for girls of all ages yearning for anything and everything American Girl, with 4,061 subscribers checking her page daily for updates.
“I didn’t think it would ever amount to something that I could make a living doing … but, now, I don’t know where it will take me,” Sarah said. “I just started it for fun.”

Sarah, a dance major at Stephens, joined YouTube in June 2007 to watch friends’ dance competition videos and check out other peoples’ choreography for inspiration. The idea of making American Girl doll themed videos never crossed her mind until she stumbled upon one girl’s YouTube page.
“I wound up finding [user] unodosginger’s American Girl videos and watched them for hours and I thought ‘This is so cool.’ I wound up talking to some girls on YouTube and thought that I could make videos of my own,” Sarah said.
On September 20, 2008, Sarah posted “My American Girl Dolls,” her first American Girl video, a minute and half clip showcasing her doll catalog, which at the time included only 10 dolls. Today, she owns 25.
Sarah’s collection grew over time, starting with one doll at age 10 with consequent additions for nearly every gift-giving occasion since then. Starting as just playthings, the dolls soon became a passion.
“The historical dolls have a story and I enjoyed reading their books when I was younger … the characters were good role models for girls and they still are,” Sarah said, explaining her love for the dolls.
After her “My American Girl Dolls” video was posted, girls flooded Sarah’s inbox with comments asking about her dolls and begging her to post a second video.
As interest grew in Sarah’s collection and her creativity in doll styling, she made the decision to create how-to videos on different hairstyles, American Girl crafts and care and maintenance of the dolls.
“I think the how-to videos are the thing people most enjoy … people were asking me how I did the dolls’ hair [in the first video] so I made a couple just to see and girls just wanted more,” Sarah said.
“Stephenswodadancer” has now become a branding opportunity for Sarah. YouTube has put her in contention for partnership, an agreement between the site and its users to get paid for videos through advertising support, and various people have approached her about creating professional American Girl doll DVD tutorials, Gipson said. Aside from her YouTube account, Sarah has launched a blog where her fans can get updates on her life and a “doll hospital,” a business where girls can send in their dolls for repairs and interact in online doll discussions.

Unveiling Secrets and Expanding
Until college, Sarah kept her doll collection a secret, only telling close friends and family.
“People in high school weren’t mature enough to realize that it’s not just for little kids,” Sarah said.
Once she got to Stephens, Sarah decided her hobby was nothing to be ashamed of, sharing her collection with friends like Becca Nelson, a fellow dance major at Stephens.
“At first I was taken aback, but at least it’s not Barbie dolls, that would be creepier … now I’m pretty fascinated. I think I even want my own doll for Christmas,” Nelson said.
Sarah’s video library has since evolved from simple how-to videos to full-length stop-motion movies and music videos. A longtime artist, Sarah saw the opportunity to take her creativity to the next level. Teaching herself how to use Windows Movie Maker, Sarah created 18 stop-motion videos and 101 how-to videos over the past year.
“They’re fun but frustrating. You work for three hours taking hundreds of pictures and then you put it together and have 10 seconds of material,” Sarah said. “But, in the end, it’s worth it.”
Her favorite stop-motion, a music video to Sir Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” is the icebreaker Sarah uses to let new friends into the world of “stephenswodadancer.”
“She pulled out her laptop and showed us the ‘Baby Got Back’ video and it was pretty awesome. It’s impressive how long it takes her to make each of the stop-motion videos,” Nelson said.

Beyond Dolls: A Family Affair
Sarah’s father, Ted, is one of her biggest supporters, appearing in a sampling of her videos on how-to build recreations of American Girl’s line of doll furniture for a fraction of the average $120 price tag.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to recreate American Girl furnishings in the interest of saving money and helping out other girls and their fathers,” Ted said.
But, don’t think all Sarah does is play with dolls. Dancing has long captivated her life, Ted said. Sarah currently spends 20 hours a week dancing. As part of her degree plan, she’s in charge of her own musical numbers for an end of the year dance recital at Stephens College.
Sarah’s other passion is music. Professing herself a “hippie lover” in a number of her videos, Sarah has become an avid collector of classic rock, Broadway musical and Beatles’ albums. Sarah and her father frequent antique shops, where she has picked up a couple of her dolls and a variety of classic albums.
“We find treasures we would never have even thought of, like an original recording of ‘West Side Story’ … it’s a great bonding experience,” Ted said.

Embracing Stardom
The one thing still surprising Sarah about being “stephenswodadancer” is the title of role model – a title her father, Ted, dubs “cool” - that comes along with it.
“It’s really cool to see the response girls have to the videos … one girl made me a video where she wrote a paragraph long video description about how inspiring I was. I never thought I’d be a role model for anyone,” Sarah said.
Sarah’s YouTube inbox is flooded with hundreds of comments every day. Comments like “We all love you…you make the most amazing videos ever!” by user “DumbTwinsXOXO” and “You are my idol!” from “cinguhowa” are commonplace on her YouTube site. A set of sisters even created a fan page for her, an honor Sarah calls “flattering.”
Sarah will stop making videos one day, but she doesn’t see that day being in the near future. Sarah is constantly looking out for inspiration and motivation.
“The stories that I get everyday from a mom who will message me about how her daughter and her love watching my videos keeps me going,” Sarah said.
One such post, from user “cordieblythe,” reads as follows:
“Dear Sarah,
I am over 30 and have been collecting dolls all my life. My 8-year-old daughter and I love to watch your YouTube videos together. Abi especially likes the stop motion and role-playing videos. I enjoy the how-to’s and have learned a lot from you. We only wish you lived a little closer so you babysit her. Abi hopes to make a movie of her own using pictures like you do … Happy Halloween! Cathy & Abi in Kansas.”

What’s Next
While she’ll graduate with a degree in dance from Stephens, her original goal of becoming a dance teacher has been replaced by another aspiration.
“Working at the American Girl store at the Mall of America would be amazing … I’m really good with little girls so working there is right up my alley. That would be awesome,” Sarah said.

Sarah’s personal shopper dream job at the Mall of America’s American Girl store would finally unite her two worlds – her real life and her YouTube life – and bring her American Girl experience full circle.

-Brice Sander


  1. Oh my goodness...I can't believe that...I really can't! You are SO amazing, Sarah! :D I wouldn't be surprised if I was watching the news one night and saw YOU on there! :D

  2. Oh my goodness! Long but amazingly worth the dialogue! Everyone loves you Sarah, never forget that! You are a true American Girl, after reading this I wouldn't be surprised if you were on the news! Congratulations Sarah, for being yourself :)

  3. Wow what a great interview i enjoyed every word of it. Everyone does love you: don't forget that! I never liked my 2 AG dolls that much until I saw your videos. They inspired me. Congratulations!!!!
    ~Madison~ (Dollmationstudios)

  4. OMGOSH this is so true you inspire me so much you are the reason i started making videos over the summer and now have over 200 subscribers! you are like a big sister to me =] Congratulations on the article! that is so cool


  5. Sarah,
    I cant beleive i read the WHOLE Thing! Its very interesting. Here is a little poem i made for u,

    Sarah, a beautiful girl who is living 2 worlds as a doll collecter and dancer. When ever i talk to this beautiful girl she always has a nice answer. Her gorgeous dark hair and beautiful smile make me smile too. I can never live without you. As she grows older and older her doll collection should never be complete. One day in my life i wish that we could meet.

    Thankyou Sarah for being in my life! U r a TRUE friend. Love ALWAYS, Mia (agdollswebkinz on youtube) :) P.S If u would like to message me back, please do so on my YOUTUBE, agdollswebkinz.

  6. Sarah! what a great interview... I didnt know you want to work at AG Place, that would be sooo great! and meeting you there would be even better. I hope I'll meet you one day.

  7. Congratulations! Sarah you must have a really big fan out there! If he wants to interview you! I hope you had a great time doing the interview and this was a great story so great job to you who wrote it!

  8. Congratz! At the end where it metions that you might work at the AGP in the MOA I was like "hey!" because I was thinking of working there and writing my books about history and American Girls when I'm off work!
    Any ways I loved the article! You are so lucky to become so famous! You inspire me and other girls a whole bunch! Keep up the great work!-------Katie A.K.A. webkinzamericangirl

  9. OMG, Sarah! I knew you were well-known on Youtube, but this famous? I had no idea! I remember when you posted your first video, and I was even one of your first commenters!

    What a great article!! I really, really hope you apply for a job at the MOA Boutique. I mean, so often the workers there don't have a clue about the dolls, their history, and whatnot. Someone who actually collects the dolls would be quite useful in the store.

    -Laura (starryeyeschick on youtube)

  10. Keep on moving Sarah! You rock!!!!

  11. Hi Sarah,
    I am a PhD student at MU and hadn't seen this interview, but was glad to stumble across your blog and read that there are other AG lovers in this town! I have a friend that goes to Stephens, as well, and is in the theatre department. Small world!
    Good luck in your last year!

  12. Sarah you r soo awesome and amazing!!! Everyone visit and comment!!! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  13. wow Sarah this is almost like beautiful! I really want to send American Girl place a paragraph about you and maybe you could be the next GOTY !! that would be cool and you would become famouse!!

  14. Sarah you are my hero!!! You have brought me closer to my ag dolls then ever!!

  15. hi sarah you are the best i am 10 years old and i watch your video and i have 4 american girl dolls and i love you so much and my mom like your video also and my name is michelle ciccone and i dance also i do tap and if you have face book just tell me if you have one ps write back

  16. and youare sweet girl <333

  17. hey me again, don't take this the wrong way but I would like it if u did a new post because it's been 2 months sense u did a post, and don't take it the wrong way!!! I will always think u r awesome!!! and my hero!!!!

  18. sarah rocks she is an inspiration even though im 13 i have 4 dolls and they are auctully coolmy cuz is 18 and she has 7 and i fallow sarahs tips on how to make stuff all the time i go on youtube and i take all of her tips and go and make things out of it sarah rocks !!!!!!!!!

  19. I too am a mom of a young AG doll lover, and came across your YouTube video while I was looking for ways to make AG clothes, but soon found myself watching more and more of your videos. I just wanted to say that I think it's wonderful how you are taking the love of dolls and crossing age and other social borders. Congratulations for your online success, and good luck to you with all of your future AG endeavors! My daughter and I will keep watching for more music videos and how-tos!

  20. Um...Sarah this is a great post but it says your last name in it.I noticed it.I PROMISE i won't release it onto youtube.

  21. OMG Sarah! Awesome Interview! I hear you have kidney stones! I hope you'll be OK! Please post the 4th part of American Girls Take The Stage! I'm your biggest fan! I am Canadian, and I have a doll that is called a Maplelea Doll. It's an American Girl Doll, except Canadian. Her name is Leonie, and she's from the city of Quebec. I was not very interested in her until I watched your videos! You are my idol! I hope someday I will meet you!
    Your Number One fan,

  22. Hi, Sarah, We just wanted to let you know that my daughter has Katie, a Gotz doll we bought secondhand. Her hair was very dry and fizzy and her complexion was pretty soiled. We dressed her up in a spa cape and little turbie twist before we did a Downy dunk, based on your video for 6 hours. We also trimmed her fuzzy ends and gave her an exfoliating facial using a baking soda / water paste. She looks incredible now. Thank you for giving us the confidence for our spa session! It takes some of the fear out of purchasing older used dolls.

  23. I am so getting sick of you all treating her LIKE a celeb she is NOT a celeb I know more then her about dolls my neighbor Lilttle girls were shocked what amazing things I can do with their hair I am upset because it's NOT FAIR I deserve views on my videos and likes on my webpage I got barely any compared to her and she has the same name as me SARAH my dad makes way better furniture just like her dad come on people she's not that great

  24. By the way I have a disability too not kidding it's called TS

  25. She's not a hero either. She made have good tips but I am MAD at her right now and were like a year apart in age

  26. Argggggg why do you all keep treating like She famous she's not how do you think I feel I am doing online college soon I had my disability so bad I couldnt do school I graduate high I am a gifted and just as smart at dolls like Sarah I am an interior design like person She NOT famous, a hero , or rocks

  27. Hey sarah babysitting and liking little children is my thing so I love little kids I watch autistic kids . Ha

  28. @sarah2021
    no offense but, leave her alone O.o? your sound like a jealous creep when you have your own talent to let out into the world and be loved with so dont go arund hatin' cause your awesome in your own way. :)