Elizabeth Lewis is a 28-year-old biomedical engineer living in Queens, New York. She’s always felt self-conscious about her nose, and decided to undergo rhinoplasty this past January to change it. The following story was told to Rachel Lubitz and edited for length and clarity.
My heritage is half-Lebanese and half-English. I got a lot of beautiful features from my dad and the Arabic side that I now embrace, like the color of my skin and my eyes. Many of my features relate back to my heritage, but looking around, nobody in my family had my nose.
Growing up, I used to contour my nose like crazy. I never wanted to take side profile pictures and would hate to not be on my good side in photos. I'd look at the photo and focus on how different I looked compared with the rest of my family. I always had this sense of wanting to fit in with my people. I couldn’t care less about fitting in with everyone else, but with my family, I wanted to look like I was a part of them.
Something that sealed the deal for me came when I was home for a holiday five or six years ago. My cousins were over at a big family gathering and I was across the kitchen from my mom and she said, 'Your nose, I don’t even know where it came from. It doesn’t look like ours.' I was mortified.
It took me a while to decide to get this surgery, though, because when I was younger, my family told me, No. You were born this way. Nothing will ever be as good as what you’re born with. I think a lot of that was ingrained in me, and maybe even the stigma of, Oh, plastic surgery, you’re so plastic. But it’s become more socially acceptable, and ultimately it wasn’t for anyone else but me.
I had a lot of concerns. First and foremost, you’re going under anesthesia. It's like, Am I going to wake up? Did I pick the right surgeon? Am I really doing the right thing? Before I met my doctor, the idea of erasing my heritage was absolutely a concern. One of the surgeons I met with deterred me a bit because he wanted to completely change my look to where I felt like I’d look in the mirror and not recognize myself. They’d show me pictures and it'd be like, Yeah, that's a pretty nose, but that's not my nose. That's not me.
Then I met [plastic surgeon] David Cangello. Not only is he from my hometown, but he’s also Lebanese. He listened to all my concerns, and I knew he was going to help me realize who I always envisioned myself to be.
He went in and he corrected my deviated septum, and then he also took away that little bump on my nose and the hook that makes my nose point down. Now, when I smile, my nose is straight and actually points up a little bit. He did a really good job in that he didn’t make me lose my Arabic or Middle Eastern look.
I had surgery on Tuesday, and I went to work on Thursday. My nose is going to be swollen for a year, but I'm fine with it. I know I could technically have lived with my nose for another 10 years, but if I made myself unhappily live in this shell for 10 more years, would it really be worth it? It never is.
We’re about to go on a huge family vacation in April, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to take pictures with them. I sent a picture of myself to my sister just recently, and I was like, 'I'm so happy I have your nose now. Now I look like you!' Emotionally and mentally I was always one of them, and now I look the part.
No Filter is a week-long series of frank, honest stories about cosmetic procedures — without judgment, sugar-coating, or stigma.