Mirror, who’s the fairest of them all?
Women of Hollywood take desperate measures to appear more youthful
Michael Jackson once said that if everyone in Hollywood who had undergone plastic surgery went on vacation, there would be no one left in town. As it is, even some of the most famous cinematic faces are becoming harder to recognize.
First Renee Zellweger stunned fans globally at an awards ceremony in California when she turned up on the red carpet looking so radically different that the assumption was that she must have had surgery (chin implants and lid lifts were variously suggested). She was beautiful, still, but disturbingly unfamiliar. And now Uma Thurman has been photographed premièring a face that has also launched a thousand speculative comments.
Whether they have been under the knife or not, both women still look amazing. And they are, of course, entitled to do anything they may want to their faces. Yet they’re not alone in looking, well, not like themselves. There’s Courteney Cox, who seems to have acquired a more exaggerated and wider cheek bone. Catherine Zeta Jones, looks — side on — as though someone has popped a spare breast implant under each cheek. Scarlett Johansson, at a youthful 30, has even laid down a marker, saying: “I definitely believe in plastic surgery. I don’t want to be an old hag. There’s no fun in that.”
So what’s driving the women on? One Hollywood insider tells me that women are on a desperate trajectory: “Two things are forever on the rise out here: cosmetic science and female insecurity. Merge the two and you get the perfect storm we’re now witnessing, where stars seem to want to look like anyone but themselves — and are succeeding. The casting couch long ago went the way of multi-million dollar lawsuits, but in its place is a far more insidious thing: female actresses are being urged — either directly or covertly — to compete with younger women in the looks stakes, or they will be replaced,” she says. “Cue the desperate measures we are bearing witness to. Out here your looks, after all, are your fortune.”
She’s echoing the words of fiftysomething Kim Cattrall, who has said: “You have to be desirable. And that’s why so many women of my age or even younger are pushed to Botox and plastic surgery, all the things that make people ask, ‘Why do women do this?’ But where do you go in your fifties in your career?”
Certainly, Tinseltown is no stranger to visage-shifting stars. One of the first was Carole Lombard who, in 1926, had surgery to reduce the appearance of a facial scar. In 1958, medical records show that Marilyn Monroe consulted a doctor about her “chin deformity,” work that was apparently confirmed by the release this week of one of Monroe’s first shoots, from 1946, which show a cheery adolescent, with a well-rounded jawline instead of the more familiar heartshaped face of legend.
Margarita Carmen Cansino turned into Rita Hayworth by using electrolysis to raise her hairline an inch. Both Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor are reported to have shaved their faces to produce a downy growth that gave them more of a glow under the cameras. Marlene Dietrich twisted back strands of hair using clips to lift her face and is also said to have had her back molars removed to improve the line of her cheekbones.
Once full facelifts were considered safe, actors popularized what is sometimes called the American widow or wind tunnel look — skin stretched back over skeletal cheekbones, as sported by Nancy Reagan and Joan Rivers in later life. A temptation for repeat lifts resulted in the “melted candle” faces epitomized by Mickey Rourke, whose appearance in The Wrestler, in 2008, bore no resemblance at all to that of his sexy John Gray in 9 1/2 Weeks from 1986.
More sophisticated half-lifts, brow lifts and chin implants were followed by chemical peels, Botox and fillers, and a fashion for smoother, plumper “pillow” faces. Twenty years on, and the results of surgery are ever more reliable, according to Kevin Hancock, consultant plastic surgeon and council member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. And as a result it’s not just people in the public eye but the public who are becoming more knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
“Ordinary people want things done that don’t look glaringly obvious; that make them look fresher and well, but not ‘done.’ They’ve been influenced by the explosion in the non-surgical market in the
Ordinary people want things done that don’t look glaringly obvious; that make them look fresher and well, but not ‘done.’
past 10 years — the Botox and fillers and peels, which, done well and done regularly, produce very nice results,” he says.
What is definitely changing in terms of shape and style — and possibly accounts for this new batch of sculpted Hollywood face shapes — is that clinicians have become much better at “volumetric face lifting,” says Hancock. “In the old days we pulled skin tight, and that was that, but now we look at restoring volume as well. This can be done using artificial fillers, but is more likely to be created via fat injections, using the client’s own tissue from somewhere like the tummy.”