Nose jobs, lip enhancements, plastic surgeries: Why do we judge actresses who go under the knife?

The scrutiny over physical transformations of female celebrities needs to stop

By Yasser Usman

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Published: Thu 18 May 2023, 7:14 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 May 2023, 8:35 AM

The first season of Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ action series Citadel will be over next Friday. Whatever you may think about the action-thriller, we can unanimously agree that Priyanka is undeniably exuding a sleek and alluring vibe. Yet, since the last two weeks, more than Citadel and her performance, the discourse was about her botched surgery.

The 40-year-old actress came on a TV show and said that she had a botched nose surgery in the early 2000s after doctors recommended she have a polyp in her nasal cavity removed. “It was a dark phase… This thing happens, and my face looks completely different, and I went into a deep, deep depression,” she told the TV host Howard Stern.

Comparisons are really unfair: Priyanka Chopra
Comparisons are really unfair: Priyanka Chopra

She added that as a result of the surgery, she was even fired from three different movies. Now these ‘revelations’ are not new. Priyanka Chopra has talked about this before and has even written on it in detail in her memoir Unfinished (2021). But instead of believing her statement, it is often insinuated that she went for the surgery to enhance her looks.

If you type, “Priyanka Chopra + plastic surgery” in your search bar, numerous writeups/videos would come up, not just about Priyanka Chopra Jonas but many other Bollywood actresses. Yes, only actresses because only women’s face and bodies are supposed to be scrutinised. By adding the word ‘allegedly’ in such posts, claims are made about ‘secret’ lip job, nose job, botox.

Actress Priyanka Chopra.
Actress Priyanka Chopra.

Such claims are also followed by ‘before and after’ photos. A few years ago, actress Anushka Sharma also went through a similar turmoil. In 2014, she appeared on the chat show Koffee With Karan and was trolled on the social media as ‘joker lips’. Jokes were made saying if it was really a lip job or if she has been accidentally hit by the bat of boyfriend Virat Kohli.

Such was the media badgering that she had to finally ‘clarify’ in a long tweet accepting that she has been using a ‘temporary lip enhancing tool’. She had to ‘assure’ everyone by saying, “I have by no means gone ‘under the knife’ or done any kind of ‘plastic surgery’ or undergone any intrusive procedure.” Phew! Such scrutiny. What makes us believe that we are entitled to every detail of an actress’ surgical procedures?

Actress Shruti Haasan, when trolled for her alleged nose job, retaliated saying, “If I could make it prettier, it’s my face, why wouldn’t I?” Absolutely! what’s the big deal really? And yes, the most famous story is of Bollywood actress Koena Mitra. The dusky beauty became an overnight sensation with her special dance song Saaki Saaki with Sanjay Dutt in Musafir (2004).

She went for a nose job that went horribly wrong and her face looked distorted. She talked to media about her ordeal but soon after that, she was ridiculed all over with random people mocking her. “I was tortured for my surgery for three long years. Constantly, the media ran negative news items about me. Many people from the industry also distanced themselves from me,” Koena had said. She went through hell, became a recluse and lost her Bollywood career.

People are always nosey about the nose. Naak katana (slicing off the nose) is still used as a popular idiom for losing face or bringing disgrace. Historically too, 2,500 years ago in the Indian subcontinent, noses would be sliced off as punishment for theft or adultery: a very visible shame.

Now the trolls on the social media must have tweaked and applied fancy filters on their pictures to enhance looks but the double standard against the actresses persists in our consciousness every day as snark entertainment. Ridiculed for her ‘alleged eye surgery’, Hollywood actress Renée Zellweger had famously said, “It’s no secret a woman’s worth has historically been measured by her appearance.” No one is bothered about the impact of such public humiliation on mental health.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas recently admitted that after the media had started calling her “plastic Chopra” because of the botched surgery, her mental health struggled so badly that she had stopped leaving the house. Her dad, a doctor himself, finally convinced her to get a corrective surgery done. It took years and multiple corrective surgeries to fix the damage that was done during the first surgery.

But why are we so obsessed with the ‘transformations’ of female actors? Is it because the pressure to conform to society’s beauty standards is so overwhelming that we tend to both idolise and envy those who successfully achieve them. It clearly means we scrutinise the physical appearances of celebrities, not only to boost our own self-esteem, but also to bring them down from their pedestals. And when it’s revealed that an actress may have resorted to “unnatural” means to achieve the perfect appearance, it is perhaps a sense of relief to many.

We are so fixated on the concept of natural beauty. Every time the face of an actress looks different, there is backlash. Normal individuals have had braces, used hair colours, makeup products and deviated from their supposed ‘natural’ face. What’s the fuss if an actress uses a lip filler, jawline contouring, brow lift, cheek filler or a botox injection on the forehead? Their body, their decision. Isn’t it?

The pressure for celebrities, particularly female actors, to conform to beauty standards is immense. Constantly under the scrutiny of paparazzi and social media, they face ridicule and criticism for any perceived imperfections. Then, if they take measures to fix it, they are condemned and shamed, which leaves them in a Catch-22 situation.

After attaining worldwide fame, playing lead roles in major Hollywood projects and yet being talked about for her nose job, Priyanka Chopra Jonas has now made peace with it. “I might be flawed, but I am me,” she’s said. More power to her.


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