A+ for Average

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Posted: March 14, 2014, 2:30 p.m.
by Morgan Daniels.

Women often suffer from low self-esteem and negative body image thanks to the impossible standard of beauty seen in the media and mainstream culture. These issues become noticeable in teens and adults, but the seed of dissatisfaction is planted at a much younger age. According to the director of the Institute for Communication & Information Research and full-time journalism professor at The University of Alabama Dr. Kimberly Bissell, who specializes in the media’s effect on children, dissatisfaction with the body has been observed in girls as young as 4 years old.

“Body image distortion and negative body image are not things that start once women start college,” Bissell said. “This type of negative self-perception begins long before women hit double digits. Research indicates now that girls as young as 4 and 5 years old are indicating a desire to be thinner. This is not something that just occurs to a 4-year-old girl; this is something that is learned.”

Girls are growing up uncomfortable in their own skin because they want to be like the role models in their lives. But more often than not, a 4-year-old girl’s role model isn’t an actual person, it’s her doll. The worst offender of instilling unrealistic body images in small girls is none other than the famous Barbie doll herself.

“I definitely think for some girls, playing with dolls with unrealistic body shapes can contribute to negative body image,” Bissell said. “I have two daughters, and neither of my daughters played with Barbie dolls.”

Barbie has been criticized over and over again for her unrealistic body proportions but until recently, there wasn’t a realistic alternative. Now there is.

The alternative is a doll called “Lammily,” and she has been an Internet sensation twice already, before ever hitting the production line. Artist Nickolay Lamm created the doll using the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body according to the CDC website.  The doll’s first public appearance came in July 2013, when Lamm’s 3-D rendition of a Barbie doll with the proportions of an average woman swept across the Internet. At this point, Lammily only existed as an art project but the public demanded more.

“After my original project I got a lot of emails,” Lamm explained during a March 2014 phone interview. “I read all of them along with every comment online, and the overall consensus was ‘where can I get a doll like this?’ I decided to make it so they could get one.”

With the encouragement from his online audience, Lamm embarked on the mission of transforming Lammily from an art project into a real doll. Lammily is designed to look different in the face, hair, and overall appearance from the original project that looked more like Barbie. Lamm says he wanted to add his own personal touch to the doll that was about to become a reality. Instead of selling his idea to a toy company, Lamm turned to the people who inspired him to make Lammily a reality in the first place — the people who reached out in support of his original project.

On March 5, 2014, Lamm launched a 30-day crowdsourcing campaign through CrowdtiltOpen with a goal of raising $95,000, just enough to start production of Lammily. The campaign took all of an hour to take off, reaching the goal of $95,000 in less than 24 hours.

“The immediate success of the crowdsourcing campaign for Lammily was definitely a shock,” Lamm said. “I knew it was either going to bomb or go very well, and I was thrilled when it got the goal of $95,000 in less than a day. It was the best feeling in the world.”

As of March 13, 2014, the campaign is at 442 percent of the goal with 11,743 backers and $418,998 raised to go toward the production of the average-sized Lammily doll. With the monetary part of producing the doll achieved, Lamm is now taking other steps toward bringing Lammily to production. The doll gained the attention of the former vice president of manufacturing at Matell, who is helping Lamm find manufacturers, with the feasibility of the design and all the small details that go into making a toy doll.

Some of those details include smoothing out the doll for production purposes, incorporating joint technology so the doll has realistic movements and including different wardrobe choices. Lamm said that Lammily will advocate a healthy, fit and stylish lifestyle through her simple outfits, light makeup and sensible shoes.

Lamm explained that the doll’s name was formed from his last name and the fact that it started out as a family project, forming the name Lammily. He clarified that Lammily is the brand name of the doll and that the girls who get Lammily dolls can name them whatever they want. Although Lammily seems to be marketing and selling herself right now, Lamm still gave her a tagline, “Average is Beautiful,” to help further perpetuate the idea behind Lammily and spread her message.

“Has there ever been a non-beautiful, average sunset?” Lamm asked. “It’s who you are naturally that is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with having an average body, and everyone should know that average IS beautiful.”

As of now, Lammily is only available as a 19-year-old Caucasian female with brown hair. Lamm does have future plans to branch out in terms of Lammily’s ethnicity, race and hair color, but he wants to get this first batch of dolls out to everyone who is backing his campaign.

It’s not too late to support the campaign and get a Lammily doll of your own by visiting the official website. Those who back the crowdsourcing campaign are expected to receive the first Lammily dolls in November 2014.

“I’m just very happy it’s working out and that Lammily is going happen,” Lamm said. “I have spent many months and many hours on this project, and it’s very cool that people share my vision that average is beautiful.”

Photo provided by Nickolay Lamm
Lammily
Photo provided by Nickolay Lamm
Lamm’s original project
Photo provided by Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm

10 Comments

  1. Siarra S.

    Great post, Morgan. As a one of seven children, and having three sisters of my own, I think that Lammily is a genius idea. For years, we have heard about how unrealistic Barbie’s body proportions are, but little has been done to serve the public with a comparable alternative. I am excited to see how this product will evolve in the coming years. I do, however, have one thought on Lamm’s tagline, “Average is Beautiful.” Everyone is beautiful and unique in his or her own way, and therefore I feel as though, maybe, average is not the correct word to use. Although I understand his meaning and good intention behind it, I feel that sometimes the word “average” can carry a negative connotation. If Lammily was my product, I would possibly use the words “normal” or “healthy.” In recent studies I have read, it has been proven that if Barbie were a human being she would not be able to stand or uphold her body properly due to her impossible proportions. By explaining to young girls that “Normal is Beautiful,” or “Healthy is Beautiful,” there would be a better understanding that regardless of weight, height or even ethnicity, everyone has qualities that make them beautiful and unique.

    Reply

  2. Courtney Milner

    While I think that the efforts to improve the self esteem in young girls is a wonderful gesture and is surely something that parents should be taking seriously, this particular gesture is nothing more than that, a gesture, and in fact misses the point entirely.

    The problem with a young girl placing her self-worth in a comparison to that of a doll is not the fault of the proportions of the doll, which we all know, are completely unrealistic. The problem is that these poor children apparently were never told that Barbie is “just a doll.”

    Young boys rarely develop complexes due to their inability to fly like Superman or shoot webs out of their hands like Spiderman. This is because they learn at a very young age that Batman, G.I. Joe and Wolverine are FICTIONAL.

    This allows young boys to separate their imagination from their perception of themselves. This is the missing ingredient in the relationship that little “Lucy” has with her Barbie. The toy is not to blame.

    Before you assume that my recommendation is to print a disclaimer on the Barbie Doll packaging explaining to misguided toddlers of the inexactitude of her proportions relative to a real person, I’m making the statement that parents ACTUALLY take a role in their child’s development and teach them that Barbie, just like Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo and Winnie-the-Poo, is in fact make-believe.

    And nothing more.

    Reply

  3. Ellie B.

    Great piece, Morgan. I completely agree with both you and Dr. Kimberly Bissell. In our culture, skinny is perceived as beautiful and fad diets are all the rage. The media especially glorifies skinniness as beautiful when in reality, extreme skinniness is unhealthy and unrealistic. Because of the way skinniness is illustrated through the media, young girls are growing up with negative body images. Skinny models and celebrities are idolized and put on a pedestal, driving girls to feel they will never be as beautiful. I like Lamm’s campaign slogan of “Average is Beautiful” because it illustrates an important and positive message to society. While I agree with Siarra S. that “average” can carry a negative association, I believe Lamm is linking “average” with a positive connotation and presenting a new view of the word to society. Overall, very interesting piece; I cannot wait to see where the media and our society take Lamm’s Project.

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  4. Bryon A.

    I feel like the Lammily doll is a great step in the right direction for changing the social norms that define beauty. However, issues with body image affect men as well. Action figures that boys typically play with appear to be on massive amounts of steroids. Our culture really needs a different approach on how to address body image. The issue really boils down to being healthy and being happy with the skin you’re in. Things like Photoshopped magazine covers do nothing but create false realities of what beauty is supposed to look like.

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  5. Rachel U.

    Great job, Morgan. Your article really pinpoints some scary statistics about girls and their constant struggle with body image. I strongly agree that society is giving young girls the wrong message about what is culturally defined and accepted as beautiful. I think the Lammily doll is a great start to help improve the way young girls see beauty. Hearing the statistics that girls as young as four years old are starting to think negatively about their body image is frightening. Although I do agree that the Lammily doll will help girls understand that it’s okay to look different than Barbie, there are major critics that say Lammily isn’t as normal as she’s portraying. According to the article “Barbie isn’t ‘normal,’ but neither is Lammily, the so-called Normal Barbie,” by The Kansas City Star, people are arguing that, yes, Lammily isn’t disproportionate and unrealistic like Barbie, but she shouldn’t be called normal because she still has “an athletic figure, with a flat stomach.” The article targets the tagline for Lammily,“Average is Beautiful” and says that instead of average or normal it should be “everyone is beautiful.” Despite the criticism of Lammily, I think this new doll is helping society go in the right direction to help young girls understand that everyone is different and everyone is beautiful in their own unique way.

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  6. Julia J.

    Morgan, this article is great! This article first caught my eye because of personal interest but you did an excellent job making your reader want to read further and further! Growing up I can remember playing with my dolls and being in awe of their beauty. Honestly, I had never really given much thought to how a simple doll could be the source of any young woman’s low self-esteem. However, it all makes perfect sense how it could have this effect on a young woman. The invention of the Lammily is perfect! I could not imagine a more needed product for the shelves than this doll. Morgan, you did an amazing job providing background information and details. However, I would love to know more about exactly how this idea came to Nickolay Lamm. I would also like to respond to the post written by Sierra S. I fully agree with her statement supporting a change in the tagline. There is no definite way to define “average beauty.” The word average varies from person to person. I believe that it would be a successful marketing tool for Lamm to follow the suggestions given by Sierra S. I am very curious to see if in 10 years the children that played with the Lammily doll have higher self-esteem than those that did not.

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  7. Tia Stutson

    This is a great topic to write about, Morgan, especially with this issue being a widespread problem in today’s society. I took great interest in this article, not only because it addresses the problem of adolescent girls who have issues accepting their natural body image due to false examples in the media, but it also describes what could possibly be a step toward changing these issues. We hear every day the effects that the media has on our generation whether body image or behavior. I appreciate Lamm taking the chance to contribute a figure with the goal to target the issue of body image in young girls before it begins.

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  8. Nicole Murphy

    This post tackled a real issue and handled it well. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and had no idea girls as young as 4-years-old were upset about their body image. I think television definitely adds to the image young girls have in their minds about what they should look like. Since this is such a huge issue now, I feel more celebrities should campaign about how you do not have to look like anyone else. I am happy Lamm’s product has taken off, and I hope it helps young girls. This doll is a step in the right direction; hopefully more people will follow.

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  9. Emma Cathey

    Morgan, I am obsessed with this article! It is well written and approaches this issue with great facts to back up the argument at hand. I wish I could send it to my 15-year-old self. The quote from Lamm asking “has there ever been a non-beautiful, average sunset?” made so much sense. I wish girls in high schools across America could delve into the true meaning of that statement and apply it to themselves. It applies to every girl and myself. Average is beautiful, for sure!

    Reply

  10. Amber Patterson

    What I find interesting about this article is that a man created the concept for this doll. As women we are too focused on how to attract the opposite sex by striving to be thinner and prettier, when they were the ones to come up with the idea that throws that concept right out of the window. We as women put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, and at the end of the day we are only impressing other women. I love the idea of this doll and the message that it sends to young girls.

    Reply

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