A new real-women’s-body inspired doll has been launched in the US. Named after its creator Nickolay Lamm, the Lammily doll is a 11” tall brunette, with a fuller waste and smaller breasts than Barbie’s, thus reflecting the proportions of an average 19 year old woman. The doll can be accessorized with acne, scars, stretch marks and cellulite. Lammily is the latest of a number of dolls which have sought to challenge Barbie’s 50 year sovereignty on our mainstream’s ideal of beauty.

Playing with a normal looking doll may give young girls a truer sense of what normal is, improve their body image and self-esteem, their acceptance of regular occurrences such as acne and cellulite, and therefore help reduce the anxieties that the “perfection” of Barbie can engender.

Lammily is Barbie’s new contender (2)The growth in eating disorders within younger girls is linked, amongst other things, to an increasing dissatisfaction with their own body image and sense of worth. And a flourishing cosmetic surgery industry involving ever younger people–see some figures here for the UK–shows that the newly born Lammily has quite a lot on her plate already. So can a doll help reverse all this?

Barbie, and now Lammily, don’t exist in a vacuum and those images beaming daily from our TV screens, celebrity magazines and selfies, posters, film and music videos, through which an idealized, unrealistic version of beauty continues to be promoted as normal, will also need to be challenged.

The ubiquity of Barbie and all it represents is of course the result of a decades-long aggressive marketing and cross marketing strategy, and a whole “Barbie infrastructure” has developed–dollhouses and accessories, games, cartoons, books, Dreamhouse Experience events, and so on.

Any rival will need to shout quite loud to be heard above all this. However it seems that newborn Lammily, the creation of which was possible thanks to crowdfunding, may already be winning the hearts of many, with some 19,000 dolls having been preordered. Are those signs of ageing on Barbie’s face?

By Annalisa Dorigo