Celebrities getting plastic surgery is nothing new. For years, people have pointed out seemingly conspicuous physical changes in various famous personalities, and there’s always been a long ensuing conversation about the “drastic methods” they’ve taken to alter their appearance. There have been jokes, there has been ridicule, there has been outright degradation.
I understand where the (arguably justified) disapproval of plastic surgery stems from. The idea that many people – especially those in the spotlight – feel the pressure to conform to beauty standards is something unsettling. We don’t want to believe that some of the best-looking people (women, especially) feel the need to look even better, because where does that leave us? We don’t want them to send out the message that you have to change yourself to “improve” your looks, because that can be detrimental. These are all fair, valid points that are a part of a larger discussion on beauty standards. But what we also cannot ignore is that everyone should have a choice about what they want to do with their body, and if that independent, reasoned choice is plastic surgery, then so be it. Is it fair for us to pass such vehement judgement?
When Anushka Sharma got (what she said was) temporary lip injections, everyone with an internet connection decided they had to have a say in the matter. We called her out on it, we made memes – we publicly dragged her down for making a very personal decision about her body. The latest target of this is Vaani Kapoor, since the launch of the Befikre trailer. People have called her “ugly looking after surgery” and gleefully declared that her face “looks like a rectangle smashed on a table.” Again, is this fair? Having an opinion about plastic surgery is one thing, but is this witch hunt necessary?
Anushka made a valid point when she said that “ultimately, it’s my business, so let’s be fair” when talking about her lip fillers. It’s easy to believe that much of a celebrity’s personal life belongs to the public – heck, that’s probably why you’re on this website – but what we need to remember is that they don’t owe us role models. Yes, it’s easy to put them up on pedestals. But they are, at the end of the day, not supposed to be our role models, our activists, our champions. They’re actors with a job, and they’re doing that job – that we pick them as our role models says more about us than it does them. As Richa Chadha has said before, “Find better role models.” Celebrities should be free to make decisions about their own bodies, just as we should be, and I don’t think they deserve to be judged for their choices because we ascribe such great value on the examples they set. They do not give up the right to body autonomy just because they’re in the public eye.
In fact, the entire narrative surrounding plastic surgery is one of shame. Even a simple Google search of “Bollywood plastic surgery” will pull up dozens and dozens of websites gleefully advertising before-and-after photos of celebrities who have allegedly undergone procedures. Then there are those posts that champion the ones who haven’t had anything done, and even those talk at length about celebrities who have “God-given beauty” or are so “naturally perfect” that they don’t “need” work done. This itself is problematic – if we’re going to renounce plastic surgery because it sends the wrong message about beauty standards, then talking about how people are “blessed enough” that they don’t need to “improve” their looks is certainly counter-productive.
Are we talking about plastic surgery because of its potentially damaging effects, or are we just using someone’s very personal choice about their body as fodder for our tweets, memes, jokes?
Have the conversation about plastic surgery, sure – just make sure it’s more than just a public shaming.