‘Normal Barbie’ arrives – with stretch marks

Discussion
Dec 04, 2014

While Dove has been lauded (and sometimes mocked) for its "Real Beauty" campaign that promotes a healthy body image, one fashion doll has similarly received a ton of attention this holiday season for being the first "Normal Barbie".

With the tag line, "Average is beautiful," Lammily is described as "the first fashion doll made according to typical human body proportions to promote realistic beauty standards" — at least typical for a 19 year old, according to the company’s website. Nickolay Lamm, a 26-year-old graphic designer, also gave the doll brown hair, less makeup, feet that allow her to stand, and comfortable canvas sneakers instead of stilettos.

[Image: Lammily]

Lammily (buyers are encouraged to name their doll themselves) started as an art project in July 2013 in which Mr. Lamm created an image of what Barbie would look like with average body proportions. Many requests from parents and girls arrived for such dolls. That inspired to a crowdfunding effort, which raised $501,000, exceeding a $95,000 goal.

The dolls cost $24.99. The company website, lammily.com, crashed for seven hours last Wednesday, Nov. 26, when they first went on sale.

"I want to show that reality is beautiful," Mr. Lamm told the Chicago Tribune. "I just think she’s really relatable."

Mattel, Barbie’s owner over the years, has addressed complaints around the lack of the doll’s diversity across ethnicities as well as the "girly" occupations Barbie has embraced that many claim discourage girls from pursuing science and math fields. But Mattel apparently hasn’t addressed the doll’s exaggerated body proportions.

Attention is also being given to Lammily’s optional sticker pack ($5.99) of freckles, acne, cellulite, moles, stitches, scars, bruises and scrapes. Other stickers include glasses, bandages and temporary tattoos.

In a blog post, Lammily said the stickers allow girls to customize their dolls but they also speak to the doll’s mission around realism. Many children, for instance, have scars that come from injuries and surgeries and become overly self-conscious about them. Other stickers point to other "deemed ‘imperfections’" in a society "fixated upon ideals of beauty and flawlessness."

Lammily states in its blog, "Ultimately, Lammily seeks to be true to you, and that’s why it’s so critical to embrace all of the elements that make us who we are."

How do you think girls and parents would respond to a realistically proportioned fashion doll? What do you think of the “imperfections” sticker marks set?

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8 Comments on "‘Normal Barbie’ arrives – with stretch marks"

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Roger Saunders
Guest
3 years 14 days ago

Hmmm … While none of them are “perfect” in the minds of the masses, female singers like Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato or Disney favorites like Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, etc., usually attempt to appear flawless when on stage.

Children and the Millennial parents who raise them have the common-sense instincts to differentiate reality and a bit of fantasy. And if the added funds are there for these families, little girls will have a slice of each.

My near three-year-old granddaughter likes her fashion characters, and she loves her dog-eared version of Curious George. Both are fantasy/play-acting occasions.

Imperfections have market. That market remains slimmer (no pun intended) than the flawless and idealized world.

Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 14 days ago

If being realistic is important to parents they will buy the realistically proportioned doll, even if it is much more expensive than Barbie. If Lammily gains traction with consumers expect Mattel to respond accordingly.

I like the choice this offers consumers and wish the company success.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
3 years 14 days ago

If the reason for playing with dolls is the fun of exploring what-ifs in a psychologically safe way, then any doll will do—why not a realistically proportioned one? That said, girls will pick the doll to play with that represents themselves (as they’d like to be) or their friends (as they’d like them to be) and best enables the fantasy. The dolls don’t create the roles to be played, although the accessories may do so.

And come on—the imperfections stickers are just creepy. Nobody chooses to have acne or cellulite.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
3 years 14 days ago

I think the dolls themselves will be well-received, but then I think those children in the video would probably have said nice things about Barbie if that’s what they had been presented with.

As to the imperfections, I would have thought it might be better to work on an African-American, Latina and other ethnic versions before I jumped right to cellulite.

In my mind the move to more realistic figuration is positive and I actually see a role for the scars for children who have been in accidents or have had surgeries. But I think it may be a tad too easy to get carried away with the imperfection aftermarket. After all a certain number of women get addicted to crack and heroin too—that’s reality—but I don’t think parents would run out to buy the optional pipe, set of works or hooker stroll pack for their children.

David Livingston
Guest
3 years 13 days ago

Sounds like this is more about making some imperfect adults feel good and not children. There are no beauty pageants or any contests for being average or normal. I recently took a four-year-old girl to the Barbie Dream House Experience at Mall of America. She loved it. If I had taken her to the Average House in the Burbs Experience, she would probably not have cared for it much. Kids love fantasy and so do adults.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
3 years 13 days ago

Parents are going to buy what their children want. If this is the product of the year then so be it. Sometimes I think we make too much over too little.

Tom Redd
Guest
3 years 13 days ago

Well, it would have helped my daughter. The stickers vs. permanent markers on her Barbies. But the reality is the reality—not many kids grow up to look like the real Barbie. Now I do look like Ken—so guys are different.

At the formative years getting kids away from the perfect Barbie look would help, but the other forms or mediums, like TV, iPhones, etc., play a major role in early mental development.

Parents have to take on this job and get kids back to the basics, be it Barbie, or Lammily (what a weird name—why not Sue?) and make sure that their kids know the reality vs. play. Top on the list should be reading books. This helps the kids learn early about what is real and what is play. And do kids really understand what cellulite is? Maybe that was meant for parent education on getting fit.

Hey, put Lammily’s stickers on Barbie?

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
3 years 13 days ago

I don’t buy this nonsense that it’s okay to idealize beauty and fantasize about it—and that dolls serve this purpose.

Barbie is oh too perfect, and materialistic, and hedonistic, and what kind of message did that send to little girls, including my 8-year old granddaughter?

Reality is reality, with all its bumps and bruises, and size and shape, so I applaud a realistic doll. (Although stretch marks would be stretching the imagery too far.)

I can see how “imperfections” might make a child feel better, by identifying with reality. What is a little creepy to me is that a guy designed it. How can he know how a girl feels?

I just happen to be visiting with family in Minneapolis, and plan to ask my granddaughter how she feels about all this when she comes home from school today.

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