On "The Talk" yesterday, host Julie Chen admitted that she underwent plastic surgery to enlarge her "Asian eyes" after enduring racism in her workplace. When she was 25, she recounts her first job working at a TV station in Dayton, Ohio, where her boss told her that she would never sit at the anchor desk because she was Chinese.
"He said, 'Let's face it, Julie, how relatable are you to our community?" she recalled. "How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that, because of your Asian eyes, I've noticed that when you're on camera, you look disinterested and bored.'"
She said she wanted to cry right then and there. And we wanted to cry right now just watching.
The monolid is one of the more defining physical characteristics of some Asian ethnicities, and it's the butt of countless racist jokes and stereotypes. In a world where beauty is still seen through a western lens, the lack of a double eyelid, a nose bridge, and sunken cheeks result in the conclusion that you are, in fact, not pretty.
But when Chen was told, point blank, that her "Asian eyes" were not just making her "un-relatable," but obstructing her career, her insecurities deepened. "[My boss] said, 'I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger.'"
So, she did. After a polarizing conversation with her parents and extended family — some of whom said they'll disown her if she went through with it — Chen decided to go under the knife. And sure enough, her career in broadcast journalism took off.
True to any good "makeover" story, the "before" and "after" pictures are dramatic. Her eyes are bigger, her features more defined, and her hair and makeup are on point. She says that she made a choice, she doesn't regret it, and has moved on.
While we applaud Chen's bravery for opening up about her deep insecurities on national television, we can't help but feel heartbroken that this journalist had to physically alter her face in order to achieve success.
And, while it's easy to call her Dayton boss a racist and move on, Chen's story is unfortunately just one of a million cases that speak to a larger issue in this country that Asian-American women face. In the U.S., Asian Blepharoplasty surgery is the third most requested operation after rhinoplasty and breast augmentation. Giving in to social norms always seems to be the easier route, but here's to hoping that as a country, we'll open our eyes to see that having a double eyelid isn't the only way to be successful — or beautiful. (New York Daily News)