Next to regular Barbie — that unrealistically proportioned nemesis of “normal” female bodies everywhere — the more compact stature and rounder curves of “Average Barbie,” created by Greenfield, Pa., artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, looked like a healthier version of the female form to many who saw it online.
The doll’s three-dimensional, computer-generated image existed only in the virtual world when it was created last year by Lamm, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. But now, a fashion doll named Lammily based on that image is about to make her debut in the real world, thanks to months of publicity and a wildly successful “crowdfunding” project that has raised enough cash for Lamm to begin manufacturing the dolls for delivery in November.
But in spite of media attention he has received from venues including CNN, Time.com, the Los Angeles Times, Good Morning America, the Huffington Post and Mom blogs galore for creating a more “normal-looking” doll, Lamm insists he’s not a crusading feminist.
“I’m just a normal dude, sitting on the couch with his laptop, thinking dolls could look better if they had more typical proportions, like what you’d see around you,” said Lamm, who pointed out that his dolls are meant to represent the healthy version of typical. “I wanted this to be a healthy alternative, and she looks like a healthy, beautiful girl.”
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Lammily has brunette hair and hazel eyes and is wearing jean shorts, a blue-and-white ombre blouse, and white sneakers in the first manufacturing run, Lamm said. She wears minimal makeup and comes with a blank passport, in which girls can write their own names, and espouses the motto, “average is beautiful.” Lammily also has bendable elbows, wrists, knees and feet so that she can be posed running, walking and engaging in an active lifestyle.
The dolls will begin to be shipped this fall, first to the more than 13,621 investors who have donated more than $500,000 to pay for initial manufacturing costs in exchange for the right to pre-order Lammily dolls, he said.
The young entrepreneur initially aimed to raise $95,000 through a “crowdfunding” initiative he launched on the first Tuesday in March at 9 a.m., with a minimum $25 mini-investment in exchange for the promise of a doll. With 28 days still to go on the initiative, his project was already 297 percent funded and counting, according to his crowdfunding website. Approaching mid-April, the funding is at $501,384
“In the first hour of the crowdfunding, I was a little sad because the only people who contributed was my mom, so I thought, ‘Maybe this is going to bomb,' but it picked up in about an hour and a half,” Lamm said in an early March interview.
After his “Average Barbie” went viral online, parents and children began asking where they could buy a doll like the one whose image he had created, using proportions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as what would be considered an average, healthy size and shape for a 19-year-old woman.
He began working with Roger Rambeau, a former vice president of manufacturing for Mattel – the maker of Barbie – and tracked down a manufacturing company who would produce a quality product. With his initial goal satisfied in the first day of fundraising, Lamm said he is hopeful that the doll will satisfy a need in the toy world for dolls that look like real women, with others to be created someday that have different body types and ethnicities.
And what about “average is beautiful” Lammily versions of Barbie’s giant pink plastic dream house, along with the pink campers and cars and horse trailers and pets that dominate so many little girls’ bedrooms? Are those in the works?
Only time will tell, Lamm said.
“I’m not trying to compete with other fashion doll makers in any way, I’m just trying to make an alternative,” said Lamm, who said his fast-growing business has a life of its own. “It’s a living, breathing organism and I don’t know what it will do.”