Cosmetic surgery seems to have become more extreme. Today, it is not just about fixing the nose and tucking the tummy. As the popularity of social media soars, it is easy to gain instant fame by looking like a collectible doll or a computer game character
THE definition of beauty is often associated with celebrities and popular culture.
According to local aesthetic centres in the Klang Valley, the top 10 looks that patients ask for include Kylie Jenner’s bee-stung lips and the double eyelids (blepharoplasty) of K-pop starlets, believed to be the most popular procedure worldwide.
However, fixing the nose and tucking the tummy are no longer the reasons why people are willing to go under the knife.
Reports of people pursuing unrealistic looks like collectible dolls, superheroes and computer game characters are creepy, yet fascinating.
While reports of women undergoing surgeries to obtain eye-popping curves like Barbie and Jessica Rabbit (from the popular animation Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) have been making juicy headlines worldwide, men, too, are not spared from the desire to share the limelight.
Rodrigo Alves from Brazil has undergone 51 plastic surgeries and 103 cosmetic procedures to get the “perfect” sculptured look of a doll.
The 33-year-old man, dubbed “the human Ken doll”, has had hair transplants, liposuctions in his jaw, a chin implant, a butt lift and abs replacement.
In the Philippines, Herbert Chavez, 39, has had 23 surgeries over the last 20 years to make him look like his comic-book hero Superman.
He has spent close to RM30,000 to transform himself to look like the Man of Steel, undergoing nose jobs, skin-whitening treatments, liposuction, jaw realignment and filler implants.
Recently, in Malaysia, Amirul Rizwan Musa, 21, made headlines for his unusually porcelain look, which he said is inspired by the Final Fantasy video game character Squall Leonhart.
“I was obsessed with anime characters and I felt ashamed that I looked the way I did back then. So, I decided to undergo plastic surgery to boost my confidence,” says Amirul, who goes by the name Miyyo Rizone.
Amirul says he began developing a negative self-image after having chicken pox at 16, which affected his skin. He is reported to have spent nearly RM180,000 on cosmetic surgery.
Registered counsellor Azah Yasmin says people with constant irrational thoughts about their physical flaws may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a psychological disorder where a person becomes obsessed with imaginary physical defects.
“They can’t control their negative thoughts and won’t believe it when people tell them that they look fine. This may cause severe emotional distress, which may interfere with their daily function.
“Because of their insecurities, they may miss work or school, avoid socialising and isolate themselves,” says the director of Bright Counselling.
Azah says BDD affects all age groups, but usually starts as a teenager or young adult, the time when most people are sensitive about their appearance.
“It’s more common in people with a history of depression or social phobia. It often occurs alongside obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalised anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.”
Since many people remain undiagnosed with BDD, she says patients should get a psychological evaluation before going for plastic surgery.
Azah says psychosocial surroundings also play a role in shaping a person’s general outlook in life.
“The person may also be going through traumatic events like bullying, a bitter divorce or an underlying psychological condition, which he or she is not even aware of.”
Malaysian Association of Brand & Image Consultants (Mabic) president Wendy Lee says changing one’s appearance is no longer an identity issue.
“It’s about being daring or having a carefree life, doing whatever they like.
“Ten or even five years ago, if this question were to arise, the sole reason would probably just be because there’s a body-image or self-esteem issue.
“But times have changed,” says Lee, a professional brand image consultant and adjunct professor.
“Unlike baby boomers (born in late 1945 to late 1960s) and Gen X (born in the 1960s and 1970s), where most of us worry about putting food on the table, Gen Ys have the extra cash to experiment and dabble in anything that excites them.
“So, I think the ‘idea’ that people go through cosmetic procedures because of an internal psychological issue is a passé. However, it starts to become a danger when it becomes an obsession.”
Meanwhile, Sloane Clinic medical director Dr Kenneth Lee says Malaysians are now more receptive to cosmetic surgery.
“Today, there’s less social stigma associated with cosmetic procedures. That’s why people are not shy to admit that they had a little helping hand, mainly to turn back the clock.”
On the subject of people changing their physical appearances to look like dolls and anime characters, Dr Lee says as medical practitioners, it is their duty to guide and counsel patients to ensure that they are in good health both physically and psychologically.
“It’s valid to improve your self-image or groom yourself to improve confidence, but if you’re doing it to be like someone else, or for someone else, then you must re-examine your motives and reconsider your decision wisely.”
He says in certain cases, cosmetic procedures may be warranted.
“We must understand that cosmetic surgery also extends to reconstructive surgery, which deals with cases where there is severe disfigurement that can impact a person’s confidence.
“For example, someone born with a cleft lip or a deformed ear should certainly be empowered to make a positive change to their self-image.”
He said false expectations from popular media should not be mistaken as factors for physical perfection.
“Being unduly influenced by someone else or the media is not a good reason to seek cosmetic enhancement. Your idol may change with time, but your cosmetic changes may have long-term impact even when they are long gone.
“Furthermore, what looks good on your idol may not necessarily look good on you,” he said.
Dr Alice Total Wellness Centre founder and medical director Dr Alice Prethima Michael said cosmetic surgery has a niche market in the country when she started her business 25 years ago.
“When I first started 25 years ago, I was among the few who operated a cosmetic medicine centre because there was a very small niche market compared with the demand today,” she said.
“Previously, my patients considered cosmetic and aesthetic treatments as an anti-aging solution. Today, both genders see them as a lifestyle choice. I also noticed that my patients are getting younger.”
Dr Alice warned that idolising to the point of obsession can bring about grave consequences.
“What we regard as ‘idol looks’ today may not be true tomorrow. Like fashion, it changes from generation to generation.
“I’ve always placed a huge emphasis on patient consultation, in which I stress on the long-term consequences of these ‘idol looks’.
“If you keep changing your looks again and again, the subsequent procedures may become harder until no reputable medical physician would risk performing any more surgery.
“You are your own person and your own features are just as beautiful as any pop idol. Improvements can always be done and if done in a safe and healthy way, you, too, can shine.”
Dr Alice advised that unless one is of the legal age to make life-altering decisions, they should not be allowed to make drastic changes on themselves.
“I’m glad that more and more young people have taken an interest in improving themselves, but this should be tempered with moderation and sense,” she said.