New York Magazine Explores Ethnic Plastic Surgery
In the latest issue of New York Magazine, Maureen O’Connor explores ethnic plastic surgery in an article titled “Is Race Plastic? My Trip Into the Ethnic Plastic Surgery Minefield.” She starts out in the office of a New York plastic surgeon who specializes in Asian eyelid surgery, and weaves us through a series of clinics promoting different ethnic plastic surgery procedures from Asian facial reshaping to African-American rhinoplasty. All through the article, she debates whether ethnic plastic surgery is designed to specifically “deracinate” or whether universal beauty ideals have simply been influenced by Caucasian features.
From a plastic surgeon’s perspective, I think the modern trend is to embrace ethnically and culturally diverse features. Minority patients who come to me for plastic surgery nearly universally express a desire to maintain their ethnic appearance. They usually want to refine a particular feature, but almost always insist that they don’t want to lose their racial identity. I think this is the result of a changing media landscape that now routinely includes mixed-race and ethnically diverse role models. When I was growing up, there were no Indian-Americans in mainstream media. Now, I can name a handful off the top of my head (Mindy Kaling of The Mindy Project, Kal Penn from the White Castle movies, Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef, Sanjay Gupta on CNN, and M. Night Shyamalan from The Sixth Sense). It’s not a large group, but it is a vast improvement from a television landscape that used to be completely whitewashed. Given the weighty influence of media on cultural standards of beauty, it stands to reason that people are more interested in embracing their uniquely ethnic features.