Story by James S. Kim
After CBS talk show host Julie Chen’s admission to having plastic surgery on The Talk last week sparked a series of headlines and debates, the TV personality said the most hurtful thing about the reaction was judgmental comments from members of the Asian American community.
In 1995, When Chen was a reporter at WDTN-TV in Ohio, the news director told Chen that she couldn’t become an anchor because she wouldn’t be “relatable” to the community as an Asian, and that her eyes made her look “disinterested” and “tired.” Chen’s agent told her the same thing, and she went ahead with the procedure.
Yesterday, the hosts of The Talk offered their opinions on the reactions to their secrets. Chen admitted that she did find some of the comments hurtful to read.
“I wasn’t that there were haters judging me for what I did,” said Chen. “What was hurtful was that the hateful comments that I read were from people within my own community. It was like, ‘Way to give in to the Western standards of beauty. You’re denying your heritage.” Well guess what? I don’t look any less Chinese. I’m not fooling anyone.”
She continued, “I want people to understand that there are Asians born with the crease I had surgically done to my eyes, so the goal was never to look less Asian.”
Sifting through the debate shows that there are many multiple layers to issue. From racism to the merits of plastic surgery, the conversation has been incredibly diverse, and sometimes divisive, just as it was with Chen’s own family when she first told them about her decision.
The comments left on the KoreAm Facebook page was a prime example. One person said, “This shouldn’t have to do with looking ‘less Asian’ as much as it has to do with just looking less unattractive.”
Still, most comments disagreed on whether Chen underwent surgery for the right reasons. Some agreed that plastic surgery is fine as long as “it doesn’t falsely feed an obsessive, deep rooted insecurity and/or becomes an addiction.” One such example might be Korean culture, which, one comment said, has a standard of “idealized looks” where plastic surgery becomes the norm.
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) applauded Chen’s confession, saying that it put Asian American issues in the public dialogue. Grace Hwang Lynch wrote on BlogHer.com that the discussion as it happened on The Talk was “oversimplified,” but that she was glad that Chen decided to talk about her surgery and her experiences with racial discrimination.
This story was originally published by KoreAm Journal.