Secrets of Hollywood’s plastic surgeons
All those buoyant breasts and chiselled cheekbones don’t shape – or heal – themselves. A look inside the rarefied world of the celebrity cosmetic surgeon.
millions of people will sit in front of their TV for the spectacle that is the Oscars. Among them: Hollywood’s star makers. The hairdressers who spent hours crafting updos, the designers who sketched and re-sketched gowns, the stylists who stacked the diamonds just so. With bated breath, they watch and wait, knowing that a red-carpet shout-out could be a career-making – and majorly revenue-boosting – moment.
But there is one member of the so-called‘glam squad’ who knows their name will be spoken exactly nowhere near the red carpet. “It’s fun to watch the Academy Awards and see your work up there,” says Dr Andrew Frankel, a facial plastic surgeon who specialises in rhinoplasty. But is it going to get Dr Frankel any new clients? No. Welcome to the world of the celebrity plastic surgeon. Treating Oscar winners, royalty, billionaires and heads of state. Meeting, greeting, injecting – and, of course, operating on– VVVIPS the world over. The things you must see. The egos you must nurture. The tantrums you must tolerate. And, yes, the bald-faced lies you must witness.
“You’re going to see a black van”
“We got a call from the assistant of one of our A-list patients,” recalls Dr Jason Diamond, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. “She said, ‘One of our friends wants to see Dr Diamond. I’m not going to tell you who she is, but if you’re willing to get in your car and start driving, I’ll tell you where to go.’” The woman on the phone gave specific directions until Dr Diamond arrived at a particular address.
“She said, ‘OK, now you’re going to come to this house. You’re going to see a black van.’ The tinted window of the van rolled down, and the man inside said, ‘Who are you?’ I said my name, and he asked, ‘What’s your business here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ The garage door opens, and a security guard asks, ‘What’s your business here?’ and I’m like, ‘I still don’t know!’
Then finally the door to the house opens. There is this A-lister at the kitchen table with her stylist working on her hair. She wanted to talk about some procedures, so we went to another room. Since that time, I’ll only go to people’s houses if I know who they are.”
They’ll deny it to the hilt”
“It’s interesting what people relay in the media when they’re interviewed,” says Dr Robert Singer, a former president for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “I’ve had situations where actresses have said that they’d never have plastic surgery but that they’d consider Botox or maybe fillers, and they had just had a facelift. They’ll deny it to the hilt,” says Dr Frankel.
Even to each other. “There was a very well-known TV show and one day I was operating on the two stars. Total coincidence,” he says. “But since they don’t want anyone to know, they don’t even tell each other. So after the surgeries, the nurses are trying to make sure they don’t see each other. But in the end they did, and it was the weirdest moment. They looked at each other, they looked at me, I looked at them. It was hilarious.”
“A 29-year-old actress came in for a facelift”
“As a general principle for all people, celebrity or not, there is an optimal window for a facelift. It is my opinion [that it’s best] to do these things when they’re less severe because if you wait until you look like a droopy dog, people can see that dramatic change.
If the change is subtle, you’ll get away with it. People will say things like ‘God, that woman never ages,’” says Dr Frankel. “But when I had a 29-year-old actress who didn’t like how she looked on a magazine cover come in here and say to me, ‘If I do it when I’m 29, I’ll always look 29,’ I had to explain that it doesn’t work that way. It’s as if they think the year that you have your surgery is when you stop aging. You have to just say no. I’m dealing with that right now with several clients. I can’t do enough to put them off.”
“There’s an empty beer and a cigarette in the ashtray”
“I have an A-list client who always wants surgery at night to avoid being seen,” says Dr Diamond. “After surgery – and this is past midnight – I go to his house to check on him. Normally people go to an aftercare facility, but he refuses. I’d given him specific instructions: You leave the pressure wrap on for 48 hours, no smoking, and so on.
He’d been home for an hour. I get there and his assistant says, ‘He’ll be ready in a minute.’ I’m thinking, ‘What do you mean? He should be ready right now.’ I go upstairs, and there are girls running around, an empty beer and a cigarette in the ashtray. He’s sitting in a lounge chair, and the pressure wrap was completely a mess. You could obviously tell he had taken it off and put it back on completely wrong. So I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on? You can’t do this!’ I probably gained 30 points on my blood pressure.”
“Possession of an assault rifle is a crime”
“I operated on the wife of a royal – she always had bodyguards,” says Dr Steven Teitelbaum, an associate professor of plastic surgery. “During her surgery, they wanted to stand at the door. When I walked from the scrub sink into the OR, I saw that one of them had a machine gun partially hidden under his jacket.
Possession of an assault rifle is a crime, but what was I going to do as I was walking into the OR with the patient already asleep? Call the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] and risk a shoot-out in my office? I put it out of my head, focused on the case, and then did all the follow-up visits at her home so I didn’t have to worry about guns in my office again.”
“No! That’s why I have nurses”
“I guess I’m known for doing revision surgery – doctors will send me patients who have had unsatisfactory results,” says Dr Simeon Wall Jr, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery. “I treated a royal, and unfortunately she had previously had some pretty bad plastic surgery. I pretty much did an overhaul of everything on her. It was a huge case.”
Dr Wall’s office has guest suites so patients can bruise for days in privacy. “The day after surgery, I said, ‘You can shower – we’ll change you out of your surgical dressings,’” says Dr Wall. “My nurses were there, but she wouldn’t let them touch her.” So the royal asked Dr Wall to shower her. “I’m like, ‘No! That’s why I have nurses.’ She refused.” So Dr Wall relented. “I’m standing half in, half out of the shower in my scrubs, trying unsuccessfully not to get soaked while washing a grown woman.”
“It’s an underground, invite-only kind of thing”
“I go to Dubai every three months and Moscow once a year,” says Dr Diamond. “In the Middle East, I have a license. In New York, I have a license. But in Russia, I go without a license because most of it is underground.
That’s why when I go to Moscow we have to be very discreet. It’s an underground, invite-only kind of thing. We’ll do injectables and consultations in very wealthy people’s basements. So when you ask how Russian celebrities avoid paparazzi? It’s literally done underground. It’s not a clinic; it’s not an office.”
They have to be the same age for 35 years”
“There are different considerations [with different types of celebrities]. For the average rock star or movie star, the more their life demands that they are in public getting photographed and making appearances, the harder it is to find a window to perform a procedure,” says Dr Frankel. “So while doing subtle changes in stages is a nice idea, you really have to get it all done in one procedure. Now, soap opera stars are the exception. They have to kind of be the same age for 35 years. Yet they’re not supposed to look any different from day to day to the viewer. Those changes need to be done subtly and regularly to keep them going.”
There are anatomical limitations”
“Celebrities tend to have expectations that are out of line with reality because they’re used to just being able to have everything,” says Dr Wall. “They don’t understand that this is a surgical procedure; there are anatomical limitations. For example, someone with a boxy waist or narrow buttocks won’t understand that you can’t give them the shape they want. I’ll say, ‘I can reduce your waist by 15 or 20cm.’ And I have to tell them, ‘No, this is not reality. We can’t do this.’ They just don’t like hearing any of that.”
“Let’s just say money was no object”
Celebrity patients expect their surgeons to make them comfortable. There are the pain meds, sure. And sometimes, there’s also furniture shopping. That royal? She had very specific ideas about where she should sit.
“She moved out of our guest suites and into a hotel,” Dr Wall recalls. “She had liked a recliner from our suite, so they called us and said, ‘We want that recliner.’ I said, ‘You can’t have the recliner because we have another patient using it now.’ They said, ‘Just get one.’ I called the manager of her hotel, who is used to requests like this. He said, ‘Send me a picture of it. I’ll have one there in an hour.’”
“A lot of what you read in the tabloids is really true”
“We have five exits from our building – and we use them cleverly to divert and decoy the paparazzi,” says Dr Frankel. But sometimes the problems start on the inside. “Years ago, we were sued by a very famous couple because there was information about them having had surgery here.
A violation like that is a criminal offense, so we called the police to investigate who might be our leak. The agents loved it because they were out here in Hollywood interviewing all these celebrities who had had surgery. A lot of what you read in the tabloids is really true. I can tell you firsthand.”
“But occasionally they get it wrong”
“I once had a female celebrity in for facial surgery, and we knew there was going to be a problem with the paparazzi,” says Dr Frankel. “She was my second case that day. The first was a regular woman who was not famous. So we delayed discharging the first patient.
When we did discharge her, we wrapped her up with a beekeeper’s hat, a veil, a scarf and really big sunglasses. The nurse walked her out as if she were someone very famous. Sure enough, later that week, that regular lady’s picture was on the cover of a magazine. She later called up laughing that she was on the cover of this magazine as so-and-so.”
“She is to breasts what Mozart is to music”
“Celebrities do not say who they don’t want to look like,” says Dr Teitelbaum. “Instead, they’ll say they like Kate Hudson’s boobs for their size and perkiness. But the name most mentioned as having perfect breasts – though bigger than some patients want – is Emily Ratajkowski. I tell patients, ‘I get it. But I’d be misleading you if I suggested that you’d look like her. She’s a genetic rarity; she is to breasts what Mozart was to music and Usain Bolt is to sprinting.’”