Average is beautiful/Camp Entrepreneur

Nickolay Lamm’s cousins play with a prototype of the Lammily doll  

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN

Average is beautiful

As a teenager growing up in Pittsburgh, Nickolay Lamm dreamed of having a set of six-pack abs. “In order to get them, I had to have a low-enough body-fat percentage,” he said when we spoke recently, explaining that he “starved himself” and worked out obsessively to attain his goal.

“When I reached my desired BMI (Body Mass Index), I looked and felt pretty terrible,” said Lamm, 25, who is Jewish. “My cheeks were sunken. I looked drawn. That experience taught me each of our bodies is different. You cannot apply one idealized standard to everybody.”

Also contributing to this notion was a younger, female cousin, who hated wearing a swimsuit. 

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“She thought she was fat, though she was perfectly normal,” Lamm recalled. “She just wasn’t perfect. No one is. But when you look at current fashion and fashion models, it makes it hard. I can’t help but think it’s impossible.”

Fast forward to about a year ago, when Lamm, a digital artist who majored in marketing at the University of Pittsburgh, got to thinking about fashion dolls and the unrealistic beauty standards they often represent. He thought back on his own teen experience and that of his cousins, and how girls, especially, may feel pressure to achieve “fantasized standards of beauty that are pretty much unattainable.”

So as an alternative, Lamm designed a virtual doll based on the proportions of an average-size 19-year-old American woman, as defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then he posted images of “What Barbie Would Look Like As An Average Woman” on the Web, where it quickly went viral. Interviews with “Good Morning America,” CNN and other media outlets followed, and the next thing Lamm knew, the public was clamoring for the actual doll.

“I really didn’t have a bone to pick with Mattel (makers of Barbie),” Lamm said. “I just wanted to design a doll that looked like a real person rather than an alien.” 

So Lamm created prototypes for his “Lammily” doll. The working name combines “Lamm” with “family,” because the latter have provided so much support, though the doll can be named whatever anyone wants. Lamm also hired “some very talented 3-D modelers and animators” to build the doll, and a manufacturer in China where the dolls are being produced. (“I would have liked to make them in America, but there is no place here that does that anymore,” he said.)

Lamm also went about raising money to begin production through a crowdfunding campaign. He exceeded his goal in 24 hours. As of two weeks ago, more than 17,000 dolls have been presold and will be ready to ship in November. In all, he has raised more than $501,384 from 13,621 backers. Numbers, he says, that have astonished him.

“That’s really been the biggest surprise, how big this went,” said Lamm, who moved to Pittsburgh from Russia at the age of 6 with his parents and twin brother. “Now my biggest challenges are making sure the dolls are shipped on time and that Lammily exists for many years to come.” 

Lamm hopes future iterations will include various ethnicities, inspirational role models and even male dolls.

“The idea, really, is to encourage each of us to embrace our own beauty from within,” he said. “With Lammily, I’m trying to promote the beauty of reality.”

For more information about the Lammily doll, or to order one for $25, go to lammily.com.

Camp Entrepreneur

On the subject of entrepreneurs, a new Colorado camp is giving budding, young, Jewish business owners the opportunity to trade their bright ideas for free tuition this summer. Camp Inc., for Jewish seventh- to 12th-graders, is offering a free session to the three best product or service ideas submitted by potential campers. Applications for the contest must be submitted by May 1.

Located in the mountains above Boulder, Camp Inc. hopes campers will develop confidence, leadership and Jewish identity through hands-on business and entrepreneurial experiences. Campers will work together to launch a product or service using the skills and tools learned through daily team challenges, interactions with guest entrepreneurs, tours of local businesses and weekly “Shark Tank”-style competitions. 

But the camp, thank goodness, isn’t all work and no play. Hiking, climbing, swimming and other sports are offered on a 135-acre site located 35 minutes from the entrepreneurial hub of Boulder. The camp runs several two- and three-week sessions from June 22 through Aug. 6.

Students interested in joining the Bright Idea competition need to provide a detailed description of the product or service they want to launch, how it will work, why it’s needed and who would buy it. Applicants not selected for a free session will receive a $250 discount. Camp prices range from $2,200 to $3,900 depending on the age of the participant. Scholarships are also available for families in need.

For more information, visit CampInc.com or call 303-998-1900, ext. 117. To enter the contest, go to CampInc.com/BrightIdea.