Coming up on Insight: BEAUTY RACE

Kema Rajendran

There’s a growing trend for people to alter their ethnic features ”“ from double eye-lid surgery, to chin implants, to skin lightening or darkening. In some cases, patients undergoing such ethnic cosmetic surgery say they are doing so to achieve a more ”˜western look’. Others say it has nothing to do with trying to look more Caucasian ”“ it’s just about being more beautiful.

Insight looks at the growing number of people who are willing to change their racial features in the quest for beauty, what is spurring them to go to such lengths, and what is considered ”˜beautiful’ today.

Guests include Kema Rajandran, who was the runner-up in the Miss India Australia contest in 2008. She spent two years modelling in the UK from 2009 but she says her career in Australia came to a standstill after a Perth-based casting agency told her that her non-Caucasian features would limit her career prospects. As a child, Kema was encouraged to use skin whitening products by her parents but has since taken a stand against them. Many Indians associate dark skin with a lower class status.

This episode will air Tuesday 16 August, 7.30pm on SBS ONE.

Other guests include:

Heidi Liow. When Heidi turned 20, she decided it was time to make her childhood dream come true. She was determined to acquire a more defined Caucasian look. She googled “Asian eyelid surgery” and got in touch with a leading Asian cosmetic clinic in Sydney. Within a few months, Heidi had changed the shape of her eyes,

the size of her nose and the tip of her chin.

Dr Andrew Kim, a Korean born cosmetic surgeon specialising in Asian cosmetic surgery. Andrew runs clinics in Sydney and Melbourne. He migrated to Australia in his teens. He says he was teased in school over his Asian eyes. He asked his father to let him ”˜westernise’ his features through surgery but his father said no.

He has since undergone several cosmetic procedures. Andrew is the surgeon who operated on Heidi Liow.

Meredith Jones, a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Author of ”˜Skin Tight: an Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery’, Meredith believes there are far more complex factors behind ethnic cosmetic surgery than simply non-Caucasians wanting to conform to westernized standards of beauty.

Dr Angelo Tsirbas, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, specialising in facial cosmetic surgery. Angelo has recently returned to Australia after five years in the US ”“ “the country where people share their botox stories at the photocopier”, he says. Angelo deals with patients from various ethnic backgrounds. Associate Professor Rhian Parker, a health sociologist at the Australian National University. Rhian says she’s concerned that women might choose to undergo cosmetic surgery without being fully informed of the possible impact on both their mental and physical health. She’s the author of “Women, Doctors and Cosmetic Surgery: Negotiating the Normal Body”.

Insight is hosted by Jenny Brockie and airs on SBS ONE every Tuesday at 7.30pm.

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