During a discussion of plastic surgery trends on The Talk, longtime news journalist Julie Chen showed before and after pictures from the eyelid surgery she got early in her career to give her a Caucasian-style double eyelid. She says she did it at the behest of media honchos who advised that she could not succeed with Asian eyes:
This big-time agent had the biggest names. Like if you opened up his closet, it was all stars, he knew what he was doing. On his own, he basically told me the same thing. He said, ‘I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger.’ I did it … I will say, after I had that done, the ball did roll for me. Which I struggle with. You know, wow. Did I give in to ‘the man’ and do this?
“The eyes are bigger. I look more alert,” Chen says. “Fabulous!” Sharon Osbourne interjects. “More expressive,” Sheryl Underwood marvels. (“More expressive” than what? Some inherently Asian inability to emote?) Everyone agrees Chen did not give into “the man,” because “it’s really whatever makes you happy.” Their reaction amounts, basically, to “You go, girl.”
But “the man” seems like a pretty apt description of a talent-agency honcho with the power to make or break careers. What I think the women of The Talk are getting at (to give this an extremely charitable read) is that nobody blames Chen for “giving in.” That’s fair enough; if anyone deserves blame, it’s obviously “the man.” Still, do we really need to point out that “Necklift makes you feel young again? You go, girl!” is not the same as “To save your career, you permanently erased your ethnicity with a surgeon’s scalpel, and struggle with that decision to this day”? Julie Chen is proud to be Asian, and many Asians are proud of her. That doesn’t make this story any less depressing.