This week, The Talk host Julie Chen revealed that when she was 25 years old—working for a local network in Dayton, Ohio and trying to make it as a newscaster—her boss told her that she would never get to be an anchor. “He said ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community?’” she recalls. “‘How big of an Asian community do we really have in Dayton? ... On top of that because of your heritage, because of your Asian eyes, I've noticed that when you're on camera, when you're interviewing someone you look disinterested and bored because your eyes are so heavy, they are so small.’”
When she got similar feedback from an agent she was hoping would help her achieve her dream of eventually becoming a network news anchor, Chen decided to go for it: she got eyelid surgery. But even now—years later, and with all her subsequent success—she questions whether undergoing surgery was the right choice: “I will say, after I had that done, the ball did roll for me. Which I struggle with. You know, wow. Did I give in to ‘the man’ and do this?”
Chen’s question is one that, as a plastic surgeon, I hope never to hear from my own patients. The decision to get plastic surgery—to surgically alter your body or face—is one that, ideally, should be made because you genuinely want the change, not because someone else is pressuring you to do it. Chen’s situation, of course, is somewhat unique: she was trying to make it in an industry built largely around what you look like on camera, and you go into it knowing that you will be judged by your appearances. But that doesn’t excuse her boss’s behavior toward her; and it doesn’t make it any less unsettling that she was essentially strong-armed into the surgery.
Plastic surgery can be a life-changing and wholly positive experience. But if you’re considering it, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Don’t do it for someone else; do it for you.