Summary: In a celebrity-obsessed culture like ours, it’s not uncommon for average people to have celebrity “crushes” – platonic or otherwise. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, vivid imagery like glossy photo spreads and beauty ads on billboards can help motivate people to get back into shape or invest more time into self-care, two examples of very positive reactions to celebrity worship.
But what happens when star-quality standards of beauty become more mainstream? What is the effect on young people, especially young women, who often don’t realize that the celebrities they assume are au naturel are actually cosmetically enhanced? When celebrity cosmetic surgery sets a benchmark for average American beauty, unrealistic expectations can multiply exponentially.
America seems to have a celebrity cosmetic surgery fixation. It just takes a single mention of the “real life Barbie,” Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, to be reminded of how dangerous unrealistic standards of beauty can be. In fact, Lukyanova regularly gives interviews about how she does not require food or water and exists on a diet of air. To impressionable young women, messages like this can be equal parts alluring and unhealthy.
While extreme examples like the one above are the most widely referenced, there is perhaps a more insidious culprit in the realm of unrealistic standards of beauty: the unacknowledged cosmetic enhancement. Many times, average moviegoers and readers of entertainment magazines don’t realize that the faces and bodies they believe to be naturally beautiful are actually surgically enhanced. Secret breast augmentations, hush-hush BOTOX® injections and other unspoken procedures place celebrities’ already unattainable standards of beauty even further beyond the reach of average Americans.
While no one is required to divulge their beauty secrets, surgical or otherwise, celebrities and other public figures may consider how their self-imposed silence on the subject may actually help further distort the idea of what beauty is and at what price it can be attained. Responsible cosmetic surgeons appreciate honesty from celebrities who acknowledge their procedures for two reasons: first, they help advertise how beautiful natural cosmetic surgery can look when performed by a skilled cosmetic surgeon. And second, these admissions remind impressionable young people that sometimes even celebrities aren’t born with the magical “it” factor.
Enhancement, Not Perfection
Ultimately, cosmetic surgery exists to help enhance the feature you already possess, not to help you achieve perfection – a goal that is always unrealistic. The relentless pursuit of a flawless appearance can be the root cause of many psychological problems, including eating disorders and a general lack of self-esteem. When Americans – especially the more impressionable younger generation – are constantly bombarded with images of celebrity beauty that are portrayed as natural but actually reflect professional cosmetic enhancement (sometimes to extensive amounts), the whole of society suffers. Current generations pass on these unrealistic appearance expectations to their children, and the cycle only continues.
What’s most important is for young people to learn to accept the qualities that make them both unique and uniquely beautiful. There is a growing trend in the media toward more woman-positive and body-positive imagery, led by movements like Seventeen magazine’s “no Photoshop pledge” and “natural beauty” messaging like Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Hopefully, these trends will continue into the future, restoring cosmetic surgery to its rightful place as a field that’s dedicated to bringing out the best in your innate features, not a means to an ultimately unattainable “perfect” end.