The Celebrity Effect

Reality or illusion? We spoke with plastic surgeon Dr Malcolm Linsell, who earlier this year presented at COSMEDICON 2020 on celebrities and their influence on public perception.

In the new era of selfies, social media and celebrity ubiquity, many aesthetic practitioners are finding themselves at the nexus of medicine and consumerism. But who defines the terms ‘too little’, ‘just enough’ and ‘too much’? Is there a new definition of ‘normal’?

Dr Malcolm Linsell says, ‘The celebrity effect is real. The question is: is it a source of inspiration, or perspiration?’

It’s not necessarily a case of patients coming to their plastic surgeon and asking to look like J.Lo, he says. Instead, the celebrity effect is more an underlying pervasion, through ubiquitous image editing and curation on social media, subconsciously influencing the patient’s perception on what is deemed beautiful and normal.

Kim Kardashian

The celebrity effect – and constant bombardment of highly edited photos – has changed public perception of ‘ideal’ beauty standards and normalised a look that is unachievable for many.

J Lo

The celebrity effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kim Kardashian West, for example, has brought a new element of beauty into the mainstream, one that is curvier with a darker, Middle Eastern complexion that resonates with more women across the word than a blonde catwalk model. The negative is a preoccupation with self-examination and a distorted reality of what is ‘normal’. It can also foster unrealistic expectations of what cosmetic enhancement can achieve, as well as triggering low-esteem and even BDD in susceptible individuals.

In the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) 2019 annual survey, 72 percent of AAFPRS members reported that patients said looking better in a selfie on social media was their reason for getting plastic surgery – up 15 percent from 2018. In addition, 84 percent of members said that celebrities influenced the decision of patients to have cosmetic surgery. This number is up six percent from 2018, with a 21 percent increase versus 2016. The most sought-after celebrity looks for 2019 were Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West.

In the American Academy of Facial Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) 2019 annual survey, 72 percent of aafprs members reported that patients said looking better in a selfie on social media was their reason for getting plastic surgery – up 15% from 2018.

A New Distorted Reality

Today’s celebrities can appear ageless – and nobody emulates this more than Jennifer Lopez aka J.Lo, the new ‘face’ and ‘body’ of a 50-year-old with two children (and twins, no less). But do highly edited images make them appear more ‘perfect’ than they really are?

‘Most people would know about the images taken of J.Lo in the now-famous green Versace dress at Milan Fashion Week last year, the same dress she wore to the Grammy’s 20 years ago when she was 30,’ says Dr Linsell. ‘She looks fantastic, and arguably better at 50 years old than 30. But if you look closely, the dress is similar but not exactly the same. The dress she wore last year comes up above her belly button. My suspicion is that the dress is covering abdominoplasty scars.’

‘The media was abuzz with articles on how inspiring JLo is to look as fantastic as she does at
50, however the perception is not reality. These images aren’t real life and the pressure to look like JLo is unrealistic. The norm is for women who have had children to remain with a slight bulge due to abdominal separation, some excess skin and droopier breasts.’

The more open and honest celebrities are about what it takes to look as good as they do, he says, the more we can have realistic expectations about how we can look—and the cosmetic surgery it may require.

The celebrity effect – and constant bombardment of highly edited photos – has changed public perception of ‘ideal’ beauty standards and ‘normalised’ a look that is unachievable for many. So what happens when a patient asks for something a doctor may not agree with? What happens when a patient requests to look ‘fake?’

‘Listen to your patients,’ advises Dr Linsell. ‘What do they want? What is their ideal outcome? Can you give them what they want? And are you comfortable to give them what they want? If the answer is no to any of these questions, don’t operate!’

‘In general, I tell my patients not to trust any photo or image they see in mainstream or social media. Just because you see an image, it doesn’t mean it’s real!’ AMP