Want to look like Barbie?
Plastic Perfection is a dream for some, but is that a good thing?
Barbie has always stood as a symbol for plastic perfection, a beauty ideal that many have strived to copy. But, given the opportunity, would you want to look like a living doll? There are some who have tried and the results are often surprising. But, what are the consequences of altering yourself so drastically and is it a good idea to promote surgery as a means to perfection?
Meet the “Living Dolls”…
They call women who aspire to look like porcelain or plastic dollies ‘living dolls’. For some, it’s a hobby. For others, it’s a lifestyle and a major commitment of time and money. Many have spent thousands on cosmetic surgeries, just to look like Barbie or Ken. Take, for instance, Valeria Lukyanova, the woman who has been dubbed the ‘living Barbie”.
Valeria originally came from Tiraspol, a city in Europe's poorest country, Moldova. In her teen years, she began to experiment with different looks, as a means to defy her overly strict parents. Funny enough, she started out as a Goth, the polar end of Barbie. She wore all-black clothes, bracelets with two-inch spikes and even artificial fangs. As the years passed, she began modeling and learned different and dramatic ways to apply makeup and hair colour.
At age 16, Valeria moved to Odessa, a famous port in the south of Ukraine. Her style continued to evolve and once she dyed her hair platinum, she caught the eye of Dmitry, a wealthy son of one of her father’s friends, who gladly paid for her breast implants, which she claims was her one and only surgery.
Valeria first drew public attention when she began posting videos of herself on Youtube. Her impossibly tiny waist, her giant anime eyes and her slender limbs captivated thousands of viewers and soon she was known around the world as the human embodiment of the Barbie ideal.
She even took a new name: Amatue, a name she claims appeared to her in a dream. Originally, her online videos were intended to be a sort of transcendental self-help lecture series, but followers were more intrigued by her otherworldly looks than what she had to say.
How did she achieve her plastic perfection?
She claims to have trimmed her waist to impossible proportions using diet and exercise, though her diet is hardly normal, it’s mainly all liquid. She admits to no surgery, other than her breasts. When asked why she devoted her life to finding doll-like perfection? She simply answered, “Everyone wants a slim figure. Everyone gets breasts done. Everyone fixes up their face if it's not ideal, you know? Everyone strives for the golden mean. It's global now."
That would seem true. Take a look at our second example, Emily Smith, an American girl profiled on E!’s investigative series: Society X: Living Dolls, which premiered in August, 2014 and was hosted by the well-known investigative journalist Laura Ling.
Emily explained that she’s part of a growing group she calls 'dolly culture'. Basically, this is a group of beauty enthusiasts who aspire to look like dolls in real life. They use elaborate make-up, stylized wigs, specialized contacts, specific wardrobes and, for some, endless surgical procedures, even risky ones, to achieve their perfect dolly look: “[And while] these people are a bit more unique,” explain Lisa Ling, “we're seeing more and more people wanting to emulate dolls over time."
Blondie Bennett is another woman who has made it her goal to look like Barbie. This Californian woman has had five breast augmentations and multiple surgeries, some invasive and even risky. But now she says she's undergoing hypnotherapy sessions two-to-three times a week in order to dumb down her thoughts and become mentally vacant, just like a doll. "I just want to be the ultimate Barbie,” she explains. “[Actually] I want to be brainless," she told Barcroft TV when asked why she decided on hypno-therapy. "I don't like being human, if that makes sense... Natural is boring... I would love to be like, completely plastic."
Is this obsession with surgery a good thing?
Thankfully, most people do not walk into the surgeon’s office requesting risky surgical procedures, explains David Reath, MD, a plastic surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn. He doesn’t see a lot of people wanting extreme amounts of cosmetic surgery, but it does happen.
“It's not uncommon for people to have two or three surgeries done at once”, says Dr. Phil Haeck, MD, past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Some surgeons even ‘up sell’ and offer credit plans and price reductions for multiple procedures. But, is it ethical? That question is not so easy to answer. "Not all surgeons do that, and some turn people away," Wilson explains. "But that is how they make their money -- by doing surgery."
She has seen a change, though, in recent years. People seem to be more and more obsessed about their outward appearance, which, she explains, could be fueled by the frequency of “airbrushed media images” in our commercials and advertising.
How do such procedures affect patients psychologically?
Some people get hooked on compliments that come from their surgical results. "It makes us feel better and [we] want that high again," says Wilson.
But extreme plastic surgery or any changes that drastically alter a person's appearance can have detrimental effects on someone’s sense of identity. According to U.S. psychologists, people tend to overlook the attachment they have to their facial features. When those unique characteristics are gone, a person's self-image and self-indentification can suffer. Patients can feel disconnected from their new faces - faces that they feel are no longer their own.
Then, there are patients who, rather than looking like a better version of themselves, want to look like a certain actor or model. This indicates an inherent desire to become somebody else, who, in the patient's mind, lives a problem-free or ‘perfect life’. “They have this glorified picture of this perfect identity,' explains Dr. Z. Paul Lorenc, author of A Little Work: Behind the Doors of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon, “which can have deep psychological effects when the patient discards their sense of self by changing their face, only to realise the identity they were seeking isn't perfect after all.”
There’s also a mental health condition called Body Dysmorphic disorder. It affects about 2% of the population and the condition involves being extremely critical about your own body. People with BDD often obsess on a flaw that is minor or even imagined. Katharine Phillips, MD, director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Program at Rhode Island Hospital, says that people with the disorder look normal, and are often considered beautiful. But they don’t see themselves that way. “People who have BDD sometimes have the same body part operated on multiple times,” explains Phillips, “[but that surgery] is rarely effective since mental health is the root of the problem.”
Unfortunately, few surgeons screen patients to make sure they're not seeking surgery for the wrong reasons. They often don’t turn candidates away, even if a surgeon has misgivings. Daniela Schreier, a therapist who has treated patients with plastic-surgery related issues, has seen this happen time and time again. Plastic surgeons are unwilling to make psychological screening an industry requirement, because “some of them are worried [it] would hurt their business.”
Of course, not everyone who seeks surgery has an underlying mental disorder. The reasons vary from person to person. Sometimes it’s for reconstructive purposes, such as replacing a breast after a mastectomy, or to correct physical flaws that are emotionally damaging or that prevent someone from leading a normal life. Determining what procedures can and can’t be done safely is the surgeon's call, but you should also do your research before undertaking any operation.
Can plastic surgery make you happier?
Studies vary. But most have shown that people report increased satisfaction with the body part they had surgery on. The results are mixed though, on whether plastic surgery boosts their self-esteem, quality of life, self-confidence or their relationships in the long term.
What do I need to consider before going under the knife?
Dr. Phil has some great advice for those considering plastic surgery and he certainly knows what he’s talking about. As a clinical psychologist, he often evaluated patients to see whether they would be good candidates.
First, he says, you need to ask yourself the hard questions:
- Consider why you want the operation in the first place? If you're healthy and have good genes, do you really have a problem that needs to be fixed with a surgical solution?
- If you've had multiple procedures, ask yourself if you have an addiction problem. Are you trying to fix some psychological problem with a physical solution?
- What messages are you giving yourself that make you think you need surgery? Are you negating your positive qualities (honesty, loyalty, intelligence, humor, etc.) and hoping that plastic surgery can give you what you feel you lack?
- How do you expect to feel about yourself if you go ahead and get the procedure? Are you looking for a different body, or are you really hoping to gain self-esteem?
- Do the positive possible medical advantages exceed the possible complications? All medical procedures have serious complications, and you should obtain more than one opinion — preferably three — about the advantages.
- Are your expectations realistic? Will anything really be different in your life after you've had surgery? Be honest. Will this really make a positive difference in your life?
Dr.Phil advises to proceed carefully and really think it through. “You should make sure your expectations are in line with the likely results, and that you understand the risks.”
He also asks that if you really want to make a change in your physical appearance, consider alternative approaches first.
- Have you tried all of the behavioral and alternative approaches available to you (exercise, diet, injections, etc.)? There are many cosmetic alternatives to surgery:
- Before going for a full-on face lift, why not try Botox first to tighten up the areas that bother you most?
- To trim your waist, why not try diet and exercise before you go in for liposuction? After all, you can easily pack on the pounds again if you don’t alter your approach to food and fitness. You could supplement lifestyle changes with a body shaping or inch loss body wrap to whittle away those last stubborn inches.
- Also, don’t forget about make-up. It’s still a great, non-invasive way to hide minor imperfections and to boost the features you would like to show off. If you want something you don’t have to re-apply every morning, there’s always permanent make-up treatments. Cosmeticians can create a lasting beautiful brow or a subtle lip colour that never smudges and you won’t even have to take out your makeup kit!
- Lash extensions can also brighten the eyes and make them appear larger and more dramatic. It’s a wonderful, easy way to boost and rejuvenate the eye area without going under the knife.
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What to do in the end…
If you decide to go ahead with a surgical procedure, just make sure you do it for the right reasons, and be prepared to live with the consequences. And remember, if your self-esteem is low, all the surgery in the world isn't going to make a difference- confidence comes from within.
Sources: (Images: From Top to Bottom: Top: lil'_wiz's photostream via Flickr; Middle: makeupdramatics.com via Google Images; Bottom: Aimee Heart via Flickr)
$1- Society X: Living Dolls; E! Online; url:http://ca.eonline.com/news/569440/society-x-living-dolls-investigates-the-human-ken-doll-and-others-who-go-on-a-quest-for-the-perfect-body
$1- This Is Not a Barbie Doll. This Is an Actual Human Being by Michael Idov; GQ Online; url:http://www.gq.com/women/photos/201404/valeria-lukyanova-human-barbie-doll
$1- Meet the Woman Who Wants to Be 'Brainless Like Barbie' By Laura Beck; Cosmopolitan Magazine Online; url:http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/news/a20970/barbie-woman/
$1- Extreme Plastic Surgery: How Much Is Too Much? By Tammy Worth; WebMd; url: http://www.webmd.com/beauty/treatments/extreme-plastic-surgery-how-much-is-too-much
$1- Can too much plastic surgery change your personality? Excessive cosmetic procedures could lead to identity crisis, warn psychologists
$1- By Olivia Fleming; UK Daily Mail article; url:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2127322/Can-plastic-surgery-change-personality-Excessive-cosmetic-procedures-lead-identity-crisis-warn-psychologists.html
$1- American Psychology Association- Plastic surgery: Beauty or beast? By Melissa Dittmann; url:http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep05/surgery.aspx
$1- Should You Have Cosmetic Surgery? Dr.Phil online; url:http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/121
$1- Questions to Ask Yourself Before Plastic Surgery; Dr.Phil online; url:http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/197