I was chatting with a circle of friends on the weekend when plastic surgery came up.
We’re all in our twenties, and, like most women in their twenties, are fascinated by needles and scalpels and the phenomenon of “selfie surgery”.
One of the girls seated around the table was completely transparent about the dollars and procedures that went into how she looks; lip filler, under-eye filler, botox and, perhaps in a few months’ time, a new jawline. The rest of the group gawked at her, positively stunned – the girl didn’t look like she had touched a thing on her face. She looked natural and glowy… if the words “I’ve had heaps of stuff done” had never left her mouth, we never would have guessed.
Such is the nature of cosmetic surgery these days. It’s incredibly tricky to spot.
I could name about a dozen friends who have ‘refined’ their faces in the last 12 months – all of them in their 20s. Mostly, it’s lip injections. If not, they’re all about botox.
And that’s just the face. It’s a whole other ballgame if we’re talking about bodies. Some of my friends have had liposuction on their armpits and breast augmentations.
Before The 20s Diary‘s relaunched, my sister Claire wrote a blog post about her boob job; how it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made for herself, and how she truly believes those dollars and that pain could not have been better spent. My moderately positive attitude towards cosmetic surgery boils down to seeing Claire BB and Claire AB (before boobs, after boobs). I can vouch that the latter is a happier woman.
I see myself dabbling in procedures (Botox, probably) here and there in the future. The allure of ‘Yourself, But Better!” is just too goddamn enticing to resist for the rest of my life.
LISTEN: Zara McDonald and I talk about celebrities and plastic surgery (and a whoooole bunch of stuff) on this week’s episode of our celebrity podcast Shameless below. Keep reading below…
And yet, plastic surgery is a tricky terrain. One that isn’t without wider implications. One that women trek across far more often than men.
Sure, guys might be boosting their muscle mass with steroids. They might be visiting covert solariums. But they’re not getting needles in their faces and implants sliced into their chests nearly as much as women are. This is a gendered topic. One that becomes rather murky when it’s veiled in secrecy.
Which brings me to celebrities – specifically, the ones we follow on Instagram – who are held up as ideals of what women should look like.
Enter: 21-year-old Victoria’s Secret supermodel Bella Hadid. She’s a woman with 17 million Instagram followers and a face that is heralded as one of the most attractive of our time.
A face that is stunning, but, if you ask me, has changed beyond the parameters of “ageing” and “drinking lots of water”.
Judge for yourself. Here’s Bella Hadid when she was a teenager, and Bella Hadid now:
Speculation as to whether or not the youngest Hadid sister has tweaked her face has been rife for some time. With a mother and elder sister of modelling royalty, it would be understandable that a young Bella wanted to give herself every chance to follow in their glittery footsteps. Late last year Sunday Express consulted a surgeon to ask, ‘Has she?’ to which he returned a rather unequivocal ‘yes’. According to Dr. Ejikeme, everything from Bella’s eyebrow arch, undereye bags, cheek bones, nose and lips have been “enhanced” with filler, perhaps a scalpel.
Bella has never publicly addressed the rumours. From what I can tell, journalists have never actually asked if her face is natural (this could be a coincidence, or that Bella’s team is particularly stringent on what questions she can and cannot be asked in interviews. In my opinion, it’s the latter).
We don’t know if Bella Hadid has or hasn’t. We can only guess.
What we do know is that silence is slightly problematic. Bella is a celebrity with millions of young women idolising her – who like and click and share and comment on every immaculate photo she shares. Who fawn over her body and face, believing both are just the product of blessed genetics. Who scroll past her face and body and say “I wish”.
If Bella is ever asked about her changing face, I hope she’s honest.
The weight of all women doesn’t rest on her perfectly pointy shoulders, of course. If Bella Hadid never discusses her relationship with plastic surgery, she won’t be the first celebrity to walk that line. There are question marks over hundreds of famous faces.
Thankfully, there are celebrities like Iggy Azalea, Chrissy Teigen and Anna Faris – who are open books about what they’ve had done.
In an ideal world, women would be honest with each other wherever possible. They would own it and not hide away.
Why? Because the other alternative is kinda like gaslighting.
The more secretive we are about what we’re doing to our faces, the more we gaslight other women into thinking they just look wrong. Into thinking that all lips are suddenly plump. Into thinking that all foreheads are suddenly smooth and wrinkle-free. Into thinking that having a right boob one cup size smaller than the left is rare and odd.
I mean… I can’t even remember what normal lips LOOK LIKE anymore. Are mine the average size? Are they teeny tiny? I seriously don’t know.
We’re smart, yes. And we can know that the women around us are probably dabbling in plastic surgery. We’re not stupid.
But it’s the tiny seed of doubt, of ‘perhaps she just naturally looks that way’ that leaves women feeling like shit.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your own face and body, honesty is helpful for other women. And the more honest we are, the more we can speak about something that is clearly a part of many of our lives.
We don’t owe it to each other, but being transparent is the more sisterly thing to do.
What do you guys think, do we just need to be more honest with each other?
AND. And and and and and. If you enjoy listening to the first episode of Shameless, please subscribe in iTunes – the podcast app on your iPhone – and leave us a five-star review! That helps other people find our show. (Shameless self-promotion in this instance is both ironic and appropriate.)