On pressure, plastic surgery, and giving in.

Yesterday I realized that I am a Susan Boyle in a world of Heidi Montags.

Singer Susan Boyles decidedly plain appearance has gotten just as much attention as her beautiful voice
Singer Susan Boyle's decidedly plain appearance has gotten just as much attention as her beautiful voice.

Let me explain. After having 2009’s best-selling album, Susan Boyle has been heralded as much for her glorious voice as she has been scrutinized for her plain, frumpy appearance. Media attention has been as focused on her outward makeup as on her inner gift.

Meanwhile, reality television star Heidi Montag just had 10 plastic surgery procedures in one day in order to compete in what she admits is a superficial industry. The procedures included a brow lift, pinning her ears back, breast augmentation, fat injections in the cheeks and lips, chin reduction, neck liposuction, liposuction of waist and thighs, and a buttocks augmentation. Heidi has stated that she wanted to uncover her “best self,” but has since appeared on the covers of magazines and been the subject of articles and blogs all wondering the same things: Is she obsessed? Is she addicted to plastic surgery? Even Heidi’s own mother is reportedly “horrified.”

When Susan Boyle was laughed at prior to the triumph of her voice, I wanted to hug her and reassure her that she was worthy and beautiful. Likewise, part of me just wants to hug Heidi and tell her to trust that she is a beautiful, worthy young woman regardless of the size of her thighs and the sales numbers of her own album, “Superficial,” which was a resounding flop.  I cannot imagine the pressure Heidi Montag must feel to look a certain way, but I wonder: isn’t she part of the problem by giving in?

I am very aware that Heidi is an adult who is allowed to make choices about her body. But I’m angry at her and her willingness to “sell out” so drastically because, quite honestly, it makes it harder for all of us. There are so many Susan Boyles that are talented in their own right, but who are never going to get their chance to shine because they don’t fit into our tiny mold of what is considered beautiful. Am I blaming the victim by being even a little bit pissed off by Heidi’s decision to so drastically change her appearance? If blame can be assigned, who is responsible?

Heidi Montag in high school, right, and today, barely recognizable after multiple plastic surgery procedures.

Ultimately, who gets to decide where a healthy line of reason gets drawn on the subject of plastic surgery and other beauty procedures? The first person to benefit from plastic surgery was a sailor in World War I who suffered from disfiguring facial injuries and underwent a successful skin graft. Jump forward to 2006 when nearly 11 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in the United States alone. Haven’t we all seen women who have that now familiar pulled look on their face that signals she got “something done”– and often that something is to ridiculous extremes. Just as Heidi had her ears pinned back, I get manicures and get my brows waxed. Most of us have been there to some extent and we can all relate, but what are our limits?

I think that our boundaries have all but disintegrated in a beauty-at-all-costs/media-obsessed world where everyone ends up being judged harshly and unfairly. Yesterday while in line at the grocery store, I picked up a copy of the Weight Watchers magazine. The man waiting behind me commented loudly and in my direction, “Well, THAT makes sense.” I am a 280-pound woman and apparently this gentleman felt it appropriate to comment on my choice of reading material. I’m not a celebrity, but as a fat woman in a thin-obsessed world, I am always on display as the example of what you are not supposed to be.

Let’s face it: in this world, we are all under scrutiny. I would challenge us all to take a more gentle and loving look at both ourselves and the women around us. Until we stop judging ourselves, how can we expect others to do the same?

I can’t lie. Part of me would love to look like Heidi Montag, but genetics did not hand me that card. However, I am talented, confident, kind, smart, compassionate, funny, cute, loyal and loving. I am a Susan Boyle in a world dominated by Heidi Montags… and I’m perfectly OK with that! I wish Heidi Montag the same peace of mind.

–Jodie

17 thoughts on “On pressure, plastic surgery, and giving in.

  1. Excellent post!

    I skimmed the Heidi Montag US Weekly (I think it was US) story while in line at the grocery store and was just completely saddened. As much as I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can recognize so much wrong in the media (helped along by my previous work with A-F as a media-literacy workshop leader), it kind of just sucks sometimes because the media just seems to get worse and disempowering.

    I’m sad for Heidi and I want to hug her, but at the same time I want to shake her and tell her to wake the F up and see how her getting these procedures and using them for publicity is terribly detrimental to ALL women (and men’s perceptions or expectations of them too).

    (And that supermarket guy sucks.)

  2. Fantastic post, Jodie. People who are in the public eye should be aware of and responsible for the messages that they send. It distresses me when people with that much social power don’t use their opportunity to change things. Judging by Heidi Montag’s excessive work, I would guess she is nowhere near as confident in herself as you are. I would rather be confident in who I am than miserable on an unattainable quest to be stereotypically beautiful. And it shouldn’t matter whether people are celebrities or not – everyone should be treated with respect. Keep it up!

  3. Thanks for the great comments everyone. And yes, the supermarket guy DOES suck..but it’s his loss isn’t it? Being confident is a daily choice I make..and some days are harder than others..but I know who I am and that’s pretty cool! Thanks everyone! Jodie

  4. I read something on Dr Drew’s twitter about 2 weeks back or so

    He said he knows plenty of Hollywood people who have plastic surgeries because of the medication

    Now, he didn’t mention names, but I was wondering if that was Heidi’s case too

  5. “and today, barely recognizable after multiple plastic surgery procedures”

    That’s not an uptodate pic

  6. I don’t think we should be placing all the blame on Heidi for giving in to her insecurities and changing her face and body through plastic surgery(instead of through eating right, exercising, and learning to accept and love what she has), we should be railing against the surgeons that gave in to her money/fame instead of sending her to counseling, and railing against the society/culture that made her think she needed them, and encouraged her to get them..

  7. The after photo is not AFTER her surgeries… you need a new, up to date photo. The after photo you have, the only difference is her hair color.

  8. Your article erroneously mentions that the first person who benefited from plastic surgery was a world war II solider. Plastic surgery techniques and procedures have been around for thousands of years. In fact the first documented case of anyone performing rhinoplasty was an Indian man named Sushruta Samhita who is called the “Father of Surgery” circa 600 B.C. It used to be very common to chop of the nose of criminals, enemies of war, adulterers etc. His “flap” technique is very similar to the one still used today for extreme reconstruction. He also documented how to correct cleft palates. Interesting stuff. In any case, plastic surgery is extraordinarily old.

  9. Heidi has stated that she wanted to uncover her “best self,” but has since appeared on the covers of magazines

  10. I think that in any countries have all but disintegrated in a beauty-at-all-costs/media-obsessed world where everyone ends up being judged harshly and unfairly.

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  12. I’m not against plastic surgery at all. Wanting to look good is not a crime. However, surgeons need to be doing a better job of screening patients to be sure they are stable enough to have these procedures done. Heidi is obviously not stable enough and thinks plastic surgery is the answer to all her problems.

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