Nickolay Lamm is giving Barbie a much-needed reality check.
Last summer, Lamm used measurements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and designed a new doll – Lammily – that looks like an average 19-year old woman. Barbie, who has been under scrutiny for her unrealistic body for years, is finally looking healthy with more curves and less primed-for-stiletto feet.
Now Lamm is continuing his proactive approach to changing society’s standards of beauty with a crowdfunding campaign that has already earned far more than its requested funding. “Rather than waiting for toy companies to change their designs,” Lamm writes on the page, “let’s change them ourselves by creating a fashion doll that promotes realistic beauty standards.
Consulting with Robert Rambeau, former VP of Manufacturing at Mattel (yes, Barbie’s Mattel), Lamm is ready to start production on the Lammily line that promotes simple beauty and a healthy, fun lifestyle. Lammily can bend her wrists, knees, elbows, and feet – which means she isn’t always high heel ready but she can definitely run circles around Work Out Barbie.
“She is fit and strong,” Lamm writes – and he writes it as a selling point! That means that girls and boys who play with Lammily will be taught to emulate standards of fitness and body image goals that are actually attainable.
Why do dolls matter?
Lamm isn’t the first to attack unrealistic standards of beauty head on. Dove has been doing this since 2004 with its Campaign For Real Beauty, which features models of all shapes, sizes, and colors in an ad campaign that seeks to redefine the idea of beauty as more than just one singular identity and construct.
What we see around us informs our worldview – and the media plays a large role in that. Barbie has always been celebrated as beautiful, but she’s also always been an unrealistic, unreplicable icon. Her measurements in and of themselves ensure that. 36-16-38? Real life Barbie would fall over.
But this Barbie Conundrum is analogous with standards of beauty often put out into society: Ads on the subway, in magazines, on television all tell us that there’s a look, that we should want it but that we definitely don’t have it – at least not yet. The beauty we aspire to is always one diet out of reach, one bottle of shampoo away.
When girls grow up seeing a white, thin, blond or brunette woman they think this is who I need to grow up to be. And that’s fine, Barbie’s great – but Barbie is not the only option.
Breaking the mold
Lamm is literally doing just that – trying to break the mold, smash previously conceived notions of beauty. But these engrained identities of beauty are not easily broken. In the same way that Barbie conditions girls to minimal curves and flowing blonde hair, until 1969 it was also only celebrating beauty in one color palette.
Just a few weeks before winning her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “12 Years A Slave,” Lupita Nyong’o spoke at Essence magazine’s annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. She spoke about how growing up she used to pray to God that she would wake up with lighter skin because when she was growing up she would “turn on the TV and only see pale skin.” It wasn’t until she saw another woman of color, model Alek Wek, celebrated as a beauty icon that Lupita began to realize the beauty of her blackness.
“I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman that looked so much like me as beautiful,” Nyong’o said. “So I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey.That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside.”
Somewhere along the way the word “average” became tainted with this idea that average is bad, average is ugly. Lamm’s trying to take back that word and make is synonymous with beautiful. And Lammily is walking, bending proof that it is.