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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why The Post-Surgery Images of Heidi Montag Really Upset Me

Look, I know I'm coming in to this really late in the game, but I've recently started watching the reality show The Hills (don’t judge me. It’s motivating me to iron!), and now that I 'know' one of its 'stars' Heidi Montag a little, I really have to say something about this.

For the uninitiated with the show, firstly let me give you a brief summary of what it’s all about. Basically, the show centers around a main ‘character’, Lauren – a women in her early 20s - who has moved from her privileged lifestyle in Laguna Beach, California to Los Angeles to chase her dream to work in the fashion industry. The show follows her life, and those of her friends, as they find their feet both personally and professionally. It's a reality show. Not sure just how much of it is reality, but that's the premise anyway.

As an almost 40-year-old, I can tell you that I’m much more comfortable with my body and with my looks than what I was in my early 20s. Sure – I’d rather have less wrinkles – not to mention a tummy that didn’t appear quite so tortured blessed by three pregnancies - but at the end of the day, I feel more comfortable with myself now, and at times, I even feel more attractive than I did back then. Don’t get me wrong: I want to look good, but really, I’m not that fussed what people think anymore. Not like I was when I was in my 20s anyway. I wish I'd have the gift of hindsight back then. I would have told myself not to worry. 

Heidi Montag, Lauren’s (on/off/on) friend on The Hills, is a 23-year-old woman. Here’s a picture of Heidi as she appeared when the show first aired back in 2006:

Heidi in 2006

Gorgeous, right?

Well, Heidi didn’t think so.

Over the coarse of the show, I noticed that Heidi’s chest size increased and her lips appeared fuller and her nose thinned out, but for the most part, she looked quite ‘normal’ (apart from the fact you never see her without makeup) and still had the fresh-faced look she had sported from day one.

However, this wasn't good enough for Heidi. She has admitted to always having concerns about the way she looked, which was further fuelled by reading what was written about her appearance on various blogs and websites. “I was made fun of when I was younger, and so I had insecurities, especially after I moved to LA. People said I had a "Jay Leno chin"; they'd circle it on blogs and say nasty things. It bothered me. And when I watched myself on The Hills, my ears would be sticking out like Dumbo! I just wanted to feel more confident and look in the mirror and be like, "Whoa! That's me!" I was an ugly duckling before.”

And so Heidi planned a number of procedures to correct what she saw wrong with her face and body. In fact, she planned 10 procedures in total, being:
  • Botox
  • nose job revision
  • mini brow lift
  • chin reduction
  • fat injections in her cheeks and lips
  • breast augmentation revision to a size DDD (although, she wanted a 'H' to go with 'Heidi')
  • liposuction on waist and thighs
  • ears pinned back
  • buttocks augmentation
  • neck liposuction

 Here’s the end result (before and after):

The 'before and after' shot in People Magazine, Jan 2010

Now, I’ve seen plastic surgery many times that I think has been taken too far (think: Joan Rivers for example), and obvious surgery/Botox that I feel just hasn’t added any value at all to a person’s face (eg Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman). I’m not completely anti plastic surgery or Botox though – hey, whatever floats your boat and free choice and all that - but it’s just not for me. I know people who have had a little, and really, you wouldn’t know. I have a friend, for example, who, after breastfeeding two children and being left with not much of a chest afterwards (and who - like me - didn't have much to begin with!), chose to have breast augmentation in order to feel a little less self conscious. She chose a 'B' cup - hence, it wasn't noticeable at all until she pointed it out to me (I just thought she was wearing a good, padded bra!). 

It’s when it gets taken to the extreme that I find it frustrating to see, and I really feel strongly that women shouldn’t be influenced by what they see, and by what others around them are doing, and by what they perceive to be 'perfect'.

Years ago, I sat down at a café at the local shopping centre with my 8yo (then 4). Two women approached and sat down at the adjacent table. One was a beautiful, very sophisticated woman in her 50s, I would say. She was perfectly groomed. I wish I looked half as presentable these days as what she did back then. Her friend, also in her 50s, was also well dressed – had beautiful hair, full make up…the whole bit. But she was quite different in her looks. She had had so much ‘work done’, she looked like a walking cautionary tale of what can go wrong when plastic surgery is taken too far. Seriously – I’m sorry to say that when I looked at her, my initial reaction was that of shock.

They began a conversation that clearly seemed to indicate that the first woman was considering having some surgery herself. The second woman (the Joan Rivers look-alike, if you will) was encouraging her.

I felt annoyed. The second woman was basically telling her friend that she 'needed' the surgery (without using those exact words). 

I listened to them a bit longer. The first woman seemed to have concerns about the surgery. The second woman continued to assure and encourage her.

I then did something that may not have been my place to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I pulled out a piece of paper and pen and I wrote a letter. I wrote a letter to the first woman and pleaded with her not to have surgery. I told her I thought she was everything I have described her as above: beautiful, sophisticated, and well groomed. I then assured her that her friend’s look was not a good one. I even suggested that perhaps her friend wanted to feel better about her own (misguided) choice to have so much surgery by convincing her to do the same.

I got up, paid my bill, and then handed my letter to the waitress. “When I leave, could you please give this letter to the woman sitting over there?” I pointed to the first woman.

I walked up one level and moved to where I could see the two women. The first woman was reading my letter, and her friend was asking what it was about. Eventually, the first woman handed it over to her friend.

I will never know how everything turned out after that point. I walked away, all the time hoping that the first woman would reconsider her decision. 

Seeing women with a lot of plastic surgery has, at times, frustrated me. Why do they think they need so much of it? Do they have daughters? What message is it sending to a child when you are altering your appearance so dramatically? (And remember: I'm talking about those people who have a lot of it.) However, until I saw this picture of Heidi, it had never upset me as such:

Heidi flaunting her new look

It’s a mixture of sadness and frustration, actually. Here is a beautiful, young (23!), really gorgeous girl (yes, in the show, she can sometimes behave like a complete cow, but essentially, I think she comes across as a rather nice person). What on earth makes someone do this to herself? (And sadly, I hear she's happy with her appearance, although I've read recently she's considering reducing her breast size - after originally saying she wanted to make them even larger - because they "get in the way when I'm exercising." No kidding.)

Here’s a video I watched the other day of Heidi explaining what she had done and why she did it, and how she almost died after the surgery:

And that's something a lot of people don't consider, I don't think. Surgery is risky at any time, whether it be necessary or elective. Is having a new jaw line really worth your life? 

So, what’s the point of this post, you may be wondering? Is it anti-plastic surgery? Am I trying to rain on Heidi’s plastic surgery parade?

When I started Bloggers Without Makeup it was because I wanted to be 'real' and not have to worry about how I looked, and I wanted other women to not worry about how they looked. I know people judge one another – we can’t help but do that - it’s human nature (doesn’t make it right, but that’s just the way it is), but we can make a decision to not allow what other people think about how we look affect us.

It’s totally fine to want to doll yourself up, but I would hate to think that anybody – including celebrities – would feel as though they needed to fundamentally change their body and face so dramatically in order to feel good about themselves. I mean, removing a mole or two (which I have had done myself), or having a little Botox in your forehead (although, once again, not for me) is one thing, but changing your jaw line and increasing your breast size to a DDD? All at the ripe old age of 23?

I think the main problem with plastic surgery, is that once you start, the temptation to have more is always there. Even when I had my two moles removed (a large one from my ear, and one from the side of my nose), I started to look at the other moles on my body. Hmmm....should I have the one on my chest removed too?

The images of Heidi upsets me, because she doesn’t look like her beautiful self anymore. It upsets me that she felt she was not beautiful enough. It upsets me that her plastic surgeon allowed these procedures to go ahead. It upsets me that her (now estranged) husband didn’t do more (if anything at all) to talk her out of this. It upsets me that she feels she is more beautiful now because she looks almost nothing like she did before (and I hear her mother didn't have the best reaction on seeing her. I don't blame her).

I know that one of the issues is that the media feeds women and young girls images of ‘perfect’ looking women via airbrushed photos and magazine covers. No doubt, Heidi has bought in to this as well. I know it’s important to address that, but the reality is that magazines and especially online magazines aren't going anywhere anytime soon. I think the most important thing we need to do is to start educating girls (and boys!) at a very young age that beauty is on the inside. We have to convince these kids not to compare themselves so much to others. That we are all special and unique and the world is made up of people of all shapes and sizes and colours and religions. It’s ok to want to ‘look pretty’, but that the real beauty of someone is more than skin deep, and all looking the same via extreme plastic surgery isn't normal at all. Easier said than done I suspect, but I'm sure as hell going to give it my best shot. 

What do you think of plastic surgery? Should there be more counselling offered to those seeking so many procedures at once? Should there be a limit as to how much a person can get done in one hit?



Veronica said...

I am blown away by how different she looks in the before and after shots. Not better different either.

I think it's sad that we can't love ourselves more and therefore think that we need surgery.

MMBB said...

Heidi is stupid, she looked wayy better before. Now she looks like a dirty porn starr wanna be. What a terrible message she is sending, if someone who looked as hot as she did before needs to get surgery, what hope do the rest of us have.

suburp said...

never heard about the chick, but good post. i have changed my mind about plastic surgery a few times over the last, say, 20 years. first i was against it. then i met people who were suffering, or no more suffering, immensely under their real or imagined abnormities (not to mention victims of accidents of course who profit from the development of ps with improved techniques etc).
i have an aquiline nose, and no, i don't LIKE it, it's not 'what makes me ME' but i would never have it corrected (i have seen how they do it, no thanks). i am happy to be a natural DD and it makes me laugh to see how those starlets blow theimselves up to huge melon size, only to figure out that, yes, it also has a few disadvantages.
she looks completely out of proportion on that photo with her huge boobs. so obvious!
I don't understand how people (men too now!) will take the risk of multiple surgery to run after an ideal which they will never reach. while it is individually everybody's choice, i believe the doctors should behave more reasonable and counter act the trend to protect young, influencable people. girls today see so many barbies & ken on the media, operated and photoshopped, no wonder they're all starving or get operations before they have completed their growth! This Heidi has gone from naturally attractive to synthetic bimbo at 23.Well, bravo.
Oh, the story about the two older ladies in the cafe is great! it reminds me of the movie "Brazil".

Glowless said...

She is barely recognizable! I don't mind the subtle surgeries like your friend had, the ones where you can't tell they've had work done, you just think they're looking good. So much can be done with good makeup, a good hairstyle and clothes that suit your body shape but unfortunately the surgeon's scalpel is easier for some people... having said that I'd love a boob lift after breastfeeding :)