Change My Face: Surgery

"There are always patients who would like to become more Caucasian. Most of my patients want to look just like they look right now, except a little bit prettier," says Dr. Peter Newen, a plastic surgeon who says the majority of his Asian patients undergo eyelid surgery. "They would like to have an upper eyelid fold created for them so that it will create the impression that their eyes are much bigger, more awake and more alert. I believe that the presence of the fold " to a significant amount of Asian-Americans " is a sign of beauty."

Dr. Newen shows off a patient's before-and-after pictures. "This is the typical kind of upper eyelid surgery. There is absolutely no fold, a lot of empty space between her eyebrow and her eyelashes. I look at this face and my impression is that she's probably not that popular in the looks department," he observes. "You look at her eyes before, and her eyes look sexier after the surgery. They still look totally Asian."

He continues, "I think beauty absolutely matters. Everybody wants to see a pretty face. They've found that college students who are more attractive get better grades. People who are more attractive have higher salaries." Dr. Newen believes that unattractive people are perceived as "unfriendly," "hostile," and "mean."


"If you look at all the movie stars, all the singing stars, most of them are attractive. That's why we value beauty because it's pleasant. One of the most satisfying things to see is how happy patients are after their surgery," he says. "I'm very happy that I've chosen this career."

Dr. Newen joins the show with Stephanie, a patient who has undergone the procedure. Also participating in the debate are Deanna and Martin, who believe eyelid surgery is anti-Asian and erases ethnic markers.

Dr. Phil addresses Dr. Newen. "You think this is all just a question of beauty. It has nothing to do with ethnicity?" he asks.

"Deanna has eyelid folds. I believe, from her perspective, that she didn't have the surgery done," Dr. Newen replies. He turns to Stephanie. "She had the surgery. She still looks Asian. My patients come in and look Asian before the surgery, and they look totally Asian after the surgery."

Stephanie explains why she wanted cosmetic surgery. "I felt that, had I done the procedure, my eyes would look more like what I saw in the magazines," she says. "In the media, in the Cover Girl advertisements, they have more of a double fold."

"You said you wanted to have more of a ‘Western look,'" Dr. Phil points out. "In fact, you said you were ashamed of your eyes."

"Absolutely. That's why I went to the extreme to have surgery done."

Deanna shares her views. "What bugs me is who's defining what's better and who's beautiful," she says. "Too often, I think it is Western media, Western images, Western ideas of what's ideal. I just wish we could get to a place where there's a different idea of beauty."


Martin agrees. "I think the message you send by getting your eyes widened or getting the flap added is that you're changing to look [Westernized] because you think it looks better," he adds. "You're buying into " and maybe even voting by your actions " to promote this western notion of beauty instead of what you have inside."

Dr. Phil turns to Chastity, an Asian-American Dr. Phil staff member whose Aunt Cholet criticized her features. "Just recently, my aunt and other family members have suggested that I need a nose job because my nose is too flat, and they think that having some height to my nose would enhance my beauty," she says. "I'm Filipino, and a lot of Filipinos are born with flat noses."

"You said, ‘You're in Hollywood. You need to look better'?" Dr. Phil asks Cholet.

She replies, "Yes, she works here, and she's surrounded by a lot of beautiful women. I've seen your wife on the screen and [she has] beautiful features. Chastity, I think it won't hurt if she adds definition."

"All my life, I've been teased. I've had a flat nose. My aunt and my mom especially, they would pinch my nose when I was younger, and say, ‘Hopefully, it will grow a little as you get older,'" Chastity recalls.

"Are you going to get [cosmetic surgery]?" Dr. Phil asks her.

"I'm fine. I'm good with the way I am," she replies.