As society increasingly forces celebrities into confirming or denying surgical procedures, we question whether we’re any richer when granted the truth
How many times have you scrolled through your Instagram and felt insecure about your own appearance? Or found yourself wondering why you don’t look like the perfectly retouched, photoshopped or FaceTuned vision of ‘perfection’ beneath your thumb? Do you find yourself questioning whether the aforementioned thumb-stopper has had ‘work’ done? A botox injection to the forehead? Or perhaps fillers in their cheeks, and their lips? And have they? Last year it was reported that there had been a 300% increase in cosmetic procedures in the UK since 2002 – so maybe, yes. But so what if they have? Does plastic make you ‘perfect’? No. But when that’s a matter of personal preference, who has the right to say that plastic is not okay?
Aside from the obvious fact, that as a society we’re all too quick to judge, we’ve also taken it upon ourselves to demand that celebrities come clean about any surgical procedures they might have had. In fact, there’s a whole culture around it. With a bio that reads, “Welcome to reality, If you don't want to see the truth ➡ leave this page” – @CelebFace is the all-too-popular Instagram account chronicling the face changes of celebrities worldwide. While some “before and after” style posts allow followers to partake in a digital game of spot the difference by calling out the fine art of photoshopping – think Rex or Getty originals compared to the modified version of the image posted on a given celebrity's account – others are spaced years apart, for example a series of posts between 2011 and 2018 chronicling Bella Hadid’s facial journey. Meanwhile, @cosmetic.derm posts photos of celebrities annotated in detail with speculated surgical procedures.
Cast your mind back to 2015. Kylie Jenner had had her lips done, and we demanded she come clean. The internet had been obsessed with her lips for years, and whilst we all knew that there was no way that they had inflated due to puberty, we backed her into a corner (desperate to hear it straight from her mouth) until she had no choice but to confess. Having been urged to do so by her sister Khloé – who alluded to the fact that her sister had undergone the procedure in a clip of Keeping Up With the Kardashians – Kylie finally confirmed it. "I have temporary lip fillers, it's just an insecurity of mine and it's what I wanted to do,” said Kylie in an episode of KUWTK that aired in May that year. "I want to admit to the lips, but people are so quick to judge me on everything, so I might have tiptoed around the truth. But I didn't lie." Unsurprisingly, Kylie was a lot quicker to admit that she had got rid of her fillers this July. Having posted a photo on Instagram that lacked her former cartoon-esque exaggerated pout, she received an onslaught of comments questioning her change of face to which she commented "...got rid of all my filler”, accompanied by a wide-eyed emoji.
Meanwhile, Bella Hadid was forced to deny surgery accusations in May this year following much speculation and countless “before and after” pictures suggesting she had had work done. In an interview with InStyle in May the 21-year-old said, “People think I got all this surgery or did this or that. And you know what? We can do a scan of my face, darling. I’m scared of putting fillers into my lips. I wouldn’t want to mess up my face.” , her comments in May, Hadid came under further media scrutiny in October having posted an image of herself sat on a bed with considerably plumper lips. The truth? Your guess is as good as mine… And if she hasn’t gone under the knife, let’s take a moment to remember the awe-inducing capabilities of FaceTune.
That said, it’s 2018 and we’re all singing from the same hymn book: trying to make the beauty industry a more inclusive space. Am I right? So in that case, shouldn’t we be willing people to be proud of their appearance? Comfortable with the way they look? Instead, we’re shaming them for wanting to indulge in surgical procedures, airing our speculations online for the world to see, before further shaming them for doing it and then denying it… If someone has endured rhinoplasty, the chances are they were deeply insecure of their nose in the first place. And now that they might be feeling more secure in themselves – why should they be shamed into coming clean?
As Iggy Azalea explained to Seventeen, "Plastic surgery is an emotional journey. It's no easy feat to live with your flaws and accept yourself – and it's no easy feat to change yourself. Either way, you look at it, it's a tough journey. There are things that I didn't like about myself that I changed through surgery. There are other things I dislike but I've learned to accept."
Essentially, we’re guilty of accusing people – that we have no personal connection to – of lying to us. Can you imagine walking up to a cashier in a supermarket, or at the bank, or sitting next to a friend of a friend you’ve just met at dinner and demanding that they confirm whether or not they’ve gone under the knife? Let’s hope not. Whether it’s in the name of vanity or self-confidence, people undergo procedures for all manner of reasons – so why do we have such perceived entitlement when it comes to demanding that celebrities admit their truths?
When retouching is second nature – inescapable in magazines, on billboards, and on social media every day – it’s easy to think that these people genuinely look like their flawless retouched selves at all times. But are we any richer for knowing that they don’t? Most arrows point to no. Of course, on the flip side, when people in the public pass off their surgically enhanced faces as natural, there are serious implications when it comes to body image, particularly for those who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. When there’s a danger that people are comparing themselves to people who have undergone surgery, believing it’s entirely natural and real – transparency can only be considered healthy when an individual’s perception of beauty is at risk of being warped.
That said, it’s up to the individual what they do to their body and – despite societal pressures – it’s up to that individual, and only that individual, to decide what they disclose about their body, too. I for one certainly wouldn’t frown upon someone who’s undergone a procedure that gives them the confidence to be the person they want to be, but when scrolling Instagram, I always try to keep the capabilities of Photoshop, the rise of plastic surgery, and omnipresent facial modification apps in mind.