In our society, we are told that if we work hard enough for something, we can achieve it. Who knew that the rich and famous would come to understand this illustrious set of desirables to include rhinoplasty, breast enhancement, liposuction and a laundry list of other cosmetic surgeries only a sliver of America’s upper crust can obtain and actually afford?
This week, Heidi Montag, the 23-year-old reality star made famous from MTV’s The Hills, sent shock waves to the public and to her fans when she revealed her new look on the cover of People Magazine. The headline read “Addicted to Plastic Surgery,” and rightfully so.
Last November, Montag went under the knife to have more than just a couple cosmetic operations performed, including a nose job revision, Botox injections to her forehead, a mini brow lift, breast and buttocks augmentation, chin reduction and liposuction on her neck, waist and thighs. The self-conscious starlet also had her lips enhanced with collagen and her ears pinned back, bringing the outrageous total to 10 whopping procedures, which all took place over 10 hours in a single day.
ABC news has suggested Montag is using her nips and tucks as another publicity stunt and calculated promotion for her new album. Could this be true? After all, she is one half of the notorious fame-seeking duo, Speidi. Along with her husband Spencer Pratt, Montag trots shamelessly around the streets of Tinseltown self-promoting her career to no end and soaking up the luxuries of being a polarizing entertainment personality. But surgery for fame?
At least she’s creative.
At the sight of Montag in all her plastic glory, a number of questions arise: What is that? What the hell did she do to her face? Perhaps most importantly, what message is she setting for the millions of young fans following her every scripted, televised move? Whichever way you look at it, her message is diluted and irresponsible.
It is definitely no surprise that young people in their teens and twenties, many who idolize the star, most commonly deal with self-image problems; Montag paints herself as a victim no different. A study from the National Institute on Media and the Family reports that by the time girls reach college, nearly 80 percent are unhappy with their body image. As displayed by Montag, there are dangerous alternatives that can be taken to drown out the pressures from the media, the industry and an ever so judgmental public audience.
One route some take is eating disorders. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, about 10 percent of female college students suffer from some kind of eating disorder, most prominently bulimia. The other route is going under the knife. Montag’s promotion of plastic surgery and consequential “obsession with being perfect” offers another drastic coping strategy for young men and women to achieve their ideal state of beauty.
But is Montag just the poster child for a pre-existing trend? Recent studies from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery suggest that young people ages between the ages of 18 and 24 are now more than ever accepting of cosmetic alteration. Last year, hundreds of thousands of these pricey procedures were performed on young people, stunting car sales and making the nose job and breast enhancement the new graduation gifts of choice. Undoubtedly, plastic surgery is no longer centered in Hollywood but is just as popular among the masses.
Whether Montag chooses to accept her position as a role model or not, her actions are amplified with resounding clarity, as she is a figure in the public spotlight. For its decision to put Montag on the cover, People Magazine — a credible, respected entertainment publication known for its ability to distance itself from the trashy tabloid circuit — is now under fire from readers and Hollywood stars alike. Actress and singer Emmy Rossum slammed the magazine saying that Montag on the cover legitimizes “the dangerous lengths to which some will go for fame and beauty.”
Rossum’s concerns are valid, though the public doesn’t help either. The public demands that its stars be beautiful, and Montag defends her surgery as merely a job requirement. However, what the magazine and apparently Montag’s doctors fail to acknowledge are the medical dangers and huge social repercussions that can occur following Montag’s example. At 23, if her addiction is true — though she claims she’s not addicted — the situation could be far more tragic than we know.
With Montag’s philosophy in mind, if we work hard enough, we can achieve whatever we want, as long as we’re flaunting good bone structure, stick-thin waists and an F cup.
Christopher Agutos is a junior majoring in public relations and political science. His column “Pop Life” usually runs Tuesdays.