Julie Chen Admits to Having Plastic Surgery to Look Less Asian

Julie Chen, American television personality, news anchor, producer for CBS, and co-host of the daytime show The Talk, recently turned the spotlight on herself.

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, the veteran journalist revealed a deep, dark secret: Nearly 20 years ago, Chen had undergone plastic surgery in order to look less Asian.

Now, it may be easy to jump to conclusions and bash Chen for disrespecting her Chinese heritage, but it’s important to hear her side of the story. According to US Weekly, Chen said:

“My secret dates back to — my heart is racing — it dates back to when I was 25 years old and I was working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio,” the 43-year-old Chinese American television personality began. “I asked my news director over the holidays, ‘If anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in?’ And he said, ‘You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese.”

 

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“He said, ‘Let’s face it, Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton?'” she recalled. “‘On top of that, because of your heritage, because of your Asian eyes, sometimes I’ve noticed when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested, you look bored.'”

 

Not long after, Chen started looking for another job. But she ran into the same problem when she tried to find an agent to represent her. “This one big-time agent basically told me the same thing,” she revealed. “He said, ‘I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger.'”

Chen explains that with her career on the line, she couldn’t see another solution. The decision became so weighty that she opened up to her parents about whether or not this surgery would be a denial of their culture. This led to a family divide where some members believed that Chen should be disowned.

Coming to the conclusion that she did not want to lose her career, Chen followed through with the surgery and her career progressed as a result.

Although the secret has haunted her and caused her to question a lot of things, she ultimately has no regrets. “No one’s more proud of being Chinese than I am,” she told her co-hosts at The Talk. “And I have to live with the decisions I’ve made. Every decision I’ve made … it got [me] to where we are today, and I’m not going to look back.”

Cosmetic Surgery & Asian Career Women

It’s no question that in today’s society there is a constant desire for women to look beautiful, and Asian countries are definitely not immune to these pressures for perpetual good looks.  Media images perpetuate and affirm a certain, supposed “standard” of acceptable and desired beauty — light skin, straight hair, large eyes, small face, and tall.  To achieve this ideal, many Asian women resort to means like skin lightening creams in the Philippines, double-eyelid tape in South Korea, and of course, cosmetic surgery, the beauty industry in Asia is serious business.

But, what if these procedures and beauty products had a purpose beyond just vanity?  Would you do it?  In countries like China and South Korea, it seems that more and more women are going under the knife for more than just their looks.

According to Joanna Chiu for The Daily Beast, in China, the potentially dangerous procedures are seen as investments that are seen as a way for women to gain an upper hand in the job market.  Wen Hua, author of Buying Beauty: Cosmetic Surgery in China tells the Daily Beast that “the idea that beauty is capital “epitomizes the idea that good looks are the key to increased opportunities for social and career success.”  And this isn’t just hearsay.  As seen in the piece, 10 years ago, 90% of job ads targeted towards women were exclusively for under-30s.  For many government jobs, women must meet a certain height requirement.

The article later describes the story of Liu, a woman pleased with her cosmetic surgery, but also discussing her procedures as a necessary investment in her future, saying she got her job partly due to the fact that she was beautiful.

In South Korea, where cosmetic surgery rates are already well-known to be the highest per capita, things are quite similar. As Sharon Heijin Lee says in an article for CNN,

In Korea, for a woman to be capable, it’s not enough just to have a certain skill set ” she said. “You have to be beautiful as well. After the Korean economic crisis in 1997, competition for jobs led to the surgery boom; people trying to get a leg up in the job market any way they can.

Of course, this is definitely not to say that this is a phenomenon is one that is exclusive to Asia, but such quotes and statistics are reflective of the problematic and global pervasiveness of beauty being seen as just as important factor in the job hunt as someone’s abilities and qualifications.  It places an unnecessary importance on physical attractiveness where it shouldn’t be.  Women are put on a high pedestal, left with the difficult pressure to be seemingly flawless, by virtually any means possible.

Though we’re all about feeling confident and proud of yourself, feeling beautiful is something that you should define, on your own means and on your own terms, not dictated by those around you.

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