The Battle of the Barbies: Iconic vs. “Normal” vs. Plus-Size

When I was growing up my three sisters and I spent countless hours playing with our Barbie dolls. Between the three of us we had so many of them with a never-ending wardrobe supply. When you consider the fact that a Barbie doll is sold every three seconds somewhere in the world, it’s clear that we weren’t the only ones.

As an adult I wonder what all those hours playing with Barbie might have done to my body image. By now we all know how unrealistic and unproportional Barbie actually is. Her neck is twice as long and six inches thinner than the average American woman; her 16 inch waist would leave room only for half a liver and a few inches of intestine; her 3.5 inch wrists and 6 inch ankles would make it impossible for her to lift any heavy objects. All of these factors combined mean Barbie wouldn’t be able to actually walk upright, but instead would have to walk on all fours.

Why would a doll company create a doll for little girls with a body that is impossible for them to emulate? Why not create a doll that is modeled after the average American woman?

Artist Nickolay Lamm wondered the same thing and decided to do something about it. Using the proportions of an average 19-year-old girl, Lamm created a 3-D model of a “normal” Barbie. Of the project he says:

I created normal Barbie because I wanted to show that average is beautiful. If average-looking Barbie looks this good and if there’s even a chance of Barbie negatively influencing young girls, why not make one?…If normal Barbie can be made, I feel she’ll have a more positive influence on girls than Barbie in its current form. Normal Barbie shows that you are beautiful, just the way you are.

Taking Lamm’s idea one step further, Plus Size Modeling posted the following picture on their Facebook page:

The post received a firestorm of attention with over 40,000 likes and 5,000 comments. Opinions have been mixed on whether a plus-size Barbie is a good idea or not. In the comments many criticized the Barbie pictured for being obese or having too many chins:

No Jesus Christ no!!!!…No one is naturally fat for gods sake, that’s sending the message to girls that it’s ok to look like this and be unhealthy

Imo this is horrible. Maybe make her a little fuller, but in no way promote obesity. Triple chins?? Really?? Im a curvy girl, but come on this is ridiculous.

Good Lord, wtf? I am in agreement with the majority!!! I saw this photo and I was appalled!!!… You should be ashamed at posting the photo, not the idea…..that Barbie is OBESE, not FULL FIGURED!!! You sicken me.

On the flip side there were many who were excited to see a curvier Barbie:

Normal people! Normal dolls, Normal eating habits!

Yes to curves! Wish there was an “average” Barbie. Not skinny, not obese. Normal proportions.

How about just a more realistic size. The average American woman is a 14/16 not a size 2

How about normally proportioned dolls with a healthy body weight. Promote health, not any ideal.

Ninety percent of girls 3- to 10-years-old own at least one Barbie doll, with girls 3- to 6-years-old averaging 12 dolls each. That’s a lot of Barbie dolls in the hands of impressionable young girls.

So what do you think? Would you rather have your daughter play with iconic Barbie, “normal” Barbie or plus-size Barbie?

Personally I’d like to see Barbie in all different shapes and sizes to match the varying shapes and sizes of all women.

Related from Care2:

Has “Fat” Become the Newest F-Word?

How Two moms Dealt Very Differently with Post-Baby Body Drama

7 Reasons Lululemon Should Make Yoga Pants for People Whose Thighs Touch

Photo credits: TracheotomyBob, Plus Size Modeling


Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

I'd love to see a whole line of dolls that were all different colors; all different ethnicities, all different sizes. Oh wait -- isn't that what the American Girl series is? And it doesn't even begin to sell as well as Barbies. So WHAT does that say about what little girls want? Dolls are fantasies - not reality.

Mark McKendrick
Mark McKendrick3 years ago

No: because then some kids will begin to think it's OK to gorge on McDonalds and other obesity food.

Why can't they do something medically ideal instead of sexually ideal or it's exact opposite? What is it everything has got to have an extreme?

Maybe they should just do a glut of all sorts of different sizes, as that's a world reality, instead of making a one-size or two-size objection target?

How about loads of different sizes NOT WEARING PINK?

Amy Ingalls
Amy Ingalls3 years ago

More diversity in general would be good. Sex, race, ethnicity, disability, body-size, ring it all!

Alice J.
Alice J.3 years ago

Re fat Barbie: Already, girls of elementary school age are bombarded by every facet of their lives telling them that being fat is wrong. They KNOW that and already hate themselves for it, and for the most part, they don't know how to fix it. Those girls ARE concerned and they don't know how to fix it.
In one comment above about not allowing girls to see natural sized dolls, the Commenter said she didn't think the girls should be getting the message that it's okay to be whatever size you are. And oh my god, yes they should!!! The advert messages are incredibly hateful and denigrating. Being Barbie is the foundation of "Mean girls" and popular cliques and bullying. We have a chance
To stop a little of that or to direct it elsewhere is the best thing doll makers can do!!

Lee Ja Yei
Lee Ja Yei4 years ago

Actually, I wanna see a Barbie in a wheelchair. Or white hair, brown skin, braces, freckles...

Donna Ferguson
Donna F4 years ago


Nimue Pendragon

I had a Barbie doll but I preferred my Pee Wees, they were so cute :)

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin4 years ago

i probably owned like 30 barbies as a kid