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 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn., Nov. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Esteem International, Inc. will launch its expanded line of Happy To Be Me(R) realistically proportioned dolls and new real-life storybooks Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Mall of America with a unique day-long, life-size doll sculpting event, in collaboration with Readwell's, a new bookstore featuring a selection of children's, travel, best seller and bargain books.
 Esteem International's new products include two doll characters, Ali Marie and Jessica Lyn. Each has a unique body shape and realistic features -- including rounded tummies and hips, normal sized waists, legs, chest, neck and feet. "My goal is to show kids that all body shapes are beautiful," Cathy Meredig, the firm's founder, said. "We want kids to appreciate themselves as distinct human beings, and celebrate who they are just as they are -- no alterations required!"
 Also new this year are real-life companion storybooks. Illustrated in color throughout, the books portray Ali and Jessica as creative, resourceful, self-confident and competent. Young readers learn by the characters' examples to take initiative and trust themselves. Both experiences nurture self-confidence and self-worth. The story lines, written to appeal to children from 3 to 12 years old, revolve around family activities that are entertaining but realistic for adolescents and teens. They are designed to reinforce the message that little girls have value in and of themselves, apart from their possessions.
 Retail bookstores, children's specialty stores and gift stores have been selected as the principle channel of distribution. Market research shows that involved, concerned parents and grandparents are frequent visitors to bookstores and children's specialty stores. The "hands-on" sales techniques by the sales staff in these stores uniquely fits the Happy To Be Me product. Independent retailers such as Red Balloon, Wild Rumpus and Baxter Books, and regional and national retailers such as the Musicland group, Walden's, Northwestern Bookstores and Barnes and Noble will carry Happy To Be Me products, which will be available for purchase in the near future. Esteem International has also developed a new line of doll clothing and accessories which will be sold through its existing mail order distribution channel, 800-477-9235.
 Happy To Be Me gift sets will be sold in retail stores at a special introductory price of $24.95. Dolls are dressed in undergarments versus outfits to focus attention on their realistic proportions. They are packaged with 32-page, illustrated storybooks, a costume which corresponds to their storybook adventure, a styling brush, two pairs of shoes and a 12-page color mail order catalog of outfits and accessories. Storybooks will be available for purchase separately for $5.95 at bookstores. Price points of the mail order products range from $1.95 to $7.95 for accessories, and $6.95 to $18.95 for complete outfits, to $150 for the entire clothing and accessory collection.
 To focus the attention of kids and parents on dolls as important role models in molding children's self-image and self-acceptance, Esteem International has contracted with local sculptor Michael Huyck to fashion life-size images of a typical fashion doll and the Happy To Be Me doll as a means of visually demonstrating the differences. Through the sculpting event, which runs continuously during mall hours on Saturday, the company hopes to send the message to parents that "molding a kid's self-image, like molding a figure from clay, can produce a real work of art."
 The event will take place in the Sears Court, level one, where, in addition to watching the life-size sculpting, kids will have the opportunity to mold their own images in miniature at ringside craft tables. Free Happy To Be Me catalogs, stickers and samples of Crayola Magic Modeling compound will be distributed to the first 3,000 children who visit the Readwell's store, which will have an advance limited quantity of Happy To Be Me products. Other retail stores will have the product for the holiday season. Meredig and Happy To Be Me author, Norma Linsenman-Schuh, will be on hand at Readwell's from 4 to 6 p.m. to talk with shoppers and sign books.
 According to research, little girls form their body image as early as age six. Young kids internalize what women must look like to be considered lovable, based on the images in their environment, including fashion dolls, which often have no basis in biological reality. Many women spend a lifetime striving to achieve this unrealistic body image, and ultimately develop low self esteem, as a result of their failure to accomplish an impossible goal. So, it is vital that dolls look like people, not the other way around, which is why Happy To Be Me was created. "My wish is that all children grow up loving the reflection they see in the mirror. With the encouragement of a concerned adult, I believe Happy To Be Me dolls and books can inspire kids to see themselves as special because of their individuality, not in spite of it," Meredig said.
 Happy To Be Me dolls have received overwhelming support from parents and grandparents across the United States and kids are attracted to the dolls' fun sparkley outfits and long easily manageable hair. "Long beautiful Italian doll hair and shimmering, tasteful outfits that are flashy but not trashy are our strategy for enhancing the dolls' play value, while opening the door for more kids to learn about healthy body proportions," Meredig said. "Our mission is to create positive image FUN products that instill confidence and self-esteem in young children. We take the fun part of our mission seriously!"
 The company's long-term plans call for a variety of body shapes beyond the two currently offered so kids have role models in many sizes and learn to enjoy others as well as themselves, whatever their proportions. A continuing series of books for each character, and new doll characters, including an African American and Asian American, are planned.
 The Happy To Be Me realistically proportioned doll concept was created by Meredig in 1989 and first marketed by High Self Esteem Toy Company. In 1993 Esteem International Inc. was formed to add growth financing and attract a seven member management team to lead the company through its next rapid growth phase.
 Additional Happy To Be Me promotional events are scheduled throughout the month at area bookstores, including Red Balloon in St. Paul (Nov. 13), Northwestern Bookstores (Nov. 19 and 20), and Hobbitat of Brooklyn Center (Nov. 18-21).
 -0- 11/4/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Free photos to accompany this story is available to any media with telephoto receiver or electronic darkroom (PC or Macintosh) that can accept overhead transmissions. To retrieve a photo, please call 214-416-3686. A complete press kit and photo are available upon request./
 /CONTACT: Norma Linsenman-Schuh of Esteem International, 612-828-6030/

CO: Esteem International, Inc.; Happy To Be Me ST: Minnesota IN: SU: PDT

DB-DS -- MN014 -- 1007 11/04/93 18:20 EST
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Date:Nov 4, 1993

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