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Sewickley area parents welcome Pittsburgh artists' design of more normally proportioned Barbie

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Mattel's Barbie, left, is pictured next to Pittsburgh-based researcher and artist Nickolay Lamm's version of what Barbie would look like using measurements of a 19-year-old woman, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mattel's Barbie, left, is pictured next to Pittsburgh-based researcher and artist Nickolay Lamm's version of what Barbie would look like using measurements of a 19-year-old woman, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While at a Sewickley Public Library event celebrating Barbie with her daughters, Nicole Peña said “it's about time” someone created a version of the popular doll with “normal” proportions.

The Moon Township woman was referring to Pittsburgh-based researcher and artist Nickolay Lamm, who built a version of the popular doll featuring the body of a 19-year-old using measurements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though Peña said she has purchased very few Barbies for her daughters — Naomi, 4, and Keira, 7 — because the dolls are so “unrealistic,” she thought the Celebrate Barbie event sounded fun for them.

She said she thinks they now are old enough to be past the point where Barbie's body type will influence them.

Barbie has subconsciously shaped women's perception of what “normal” is, Peña said.

She said if the “normal”-proportioned Barbie becomes available, she would be “more likely to buy that kind of Barbie than the traditional one.”

Since Lamm posted the images last month on, people have sounded off on various websites over the debate of whether Barbie negatively influences children.

“I created normal Barbie to show that average is beautiful,” Lamm said.

Mattel, the toy company which owns Barbie, has not contacted Lamm, he said. The company also did not reply to a request seeking comment for this story.

At the Sewickley library Celebrate Barbie event, Elizabeth Whiteman said she would buy an “average, normal” Barbie if it becomes available.

“That's the kind of Barbie I want my daughter to have,” said Whiteman, of Franklin Park. “Someone should make it. I don't know why they wouldn't. A lot of people would be interested.”

She attended with her daughter Sarah, 6, even though Barbie rarely is played with in the Whiteman home.

“I put them in a drawer and I don't get them out unless she asks for them,” Whiteman said. “And I tell her that Barbie is not like a real person.”

Whiteman, who also played with Barbie dolls when she was a child, said Barbie's body did influence how she felt about herself. But she said bodies of women in magazines and on billboards also factored into her image of the “ideal” body.

Sewickley children's librarian Ingrid Kalchthaler said getting little girls to read was the focus of the event, which featured music, stories of Barbie and making Barbie-themed crafts.

“Barbie is something they are interested in, so they will read about her,” she said. “It's not what you read, it's that you read,” she said.

And Barbie isn't all about just being pretty, Kalchthaler said.

“Barbie has had many different professions — an African-American president, an astrophysicist (and) an archeologist,” she said.

The plastic fashion and life icon also is about “girls realizing their dreams,” she said.

Staff writer Bobby Cherry contributed to this report. Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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