Julie Chen recently spoke about being pressured to get plastic surgery on her eyes (and probably a few other places) in order to advance her journalism career. They didn’t go into the issues deeply on the show, but it heartened me to see these racial issues brought to light on national TV.
I remember watching her host the first season of Big Brother as a child. I would watch it just for her sometimes. My mother never watched American TV, but when Julie Chen was on, I’d call her over, knowing it’d pique her interest for a couple minutes to see an Asian in the media. As she would say, “American people like her beauty. Chinese like a different look.” I guess I fell into the former category. (Anyway, Asian cultures have increasingly adopted American standards of beauty over the past 20 years. People want longer faces, bigger mouths and pointier noses–all of which were unappealing back in my mother’s youth.)
Now I’m kind of relieved that her face isn’t “real” because back then, I was amazed at how a seemingly Asian person was so…not at the same time. I knew I would never look like her, and grudgingly chalked it up to genetics. “The people on TV are one in a million. You’ve gotta start by being blessed with beauty and work to get the brains,” I thought.
But having her admit it and talk about how hard it was to achieve it makes more sense. It makes life seem more fair. And in some ways, it’s comforting to know that there’s a slim (we’re talkin’ razor-thin) chance in hell that a Chinese person would look like that naturally. It’s like we can all relax now and be reassured, again, that media is all smoke and mirrors and the only thing standing in our way of looking like that is a few thousands dollars and a year’s(!) worth of recovery time.
I’m not against getting plastic surgery or any physical change to fit into a career that’s largely based on looks. I like to watch pretty people, and am not immune to the enthralling antics in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I just like knowing. When I’m watching all the tiny-nosed, doe-eyed Chinese celebrities perform, it’d just be nice to know which ones are “fake” instead of schizophrenically staring at their noses and comparing them to the audience sitting offstage. Because there’s no point comparing oneself to players in a whole other ball game.