Those of us who aspire to become working actors tend to think a lot about celebrities because these are people that "made it" in a big way. We often think about what we can do to emulate their choices in ways that can increase our own success. But we are not the only ones who think about celebrities. Many details of the lives, habits and actions of celebrities are seen throughout the media, especially TV and the printed press in the way of tabloids that stare at us at grocery store checkout counters.
And there are some things about a lot of celebrities that always really, really bug me. Many if not most celebrities embarked upon their careers without much thought given to how they might affect others - as role models. People tend to emulate celebrities, all the way down to little children.
One of the saddest things, to me, was Michael Jackson's plastic surgery that obliterated the features typical of to many black people, such as having his nose carved to being so thin. I remember when I first heard about it all I could think about was all the little black children who idolized him who would now feel that their hero was showing them that having a wide nose was "not all right." I remember how the changes Michael made to his face seemed to scream out self-hatred and/or insecurities about his facial features that are common to blacks. His skin also turned from a brown to white. I understand he claims this is a skin disease and not done on purpose, but with the other changes he made it feels like he wanted to be white, and it is very sad.
One of the things I like about movie stars and other celebrities is their ability to help others accept themselves with perceived flaws. Our parents' generation loved Jimmy Durante's huge nose. Lauren Hutton, a supermodel in the '70s and a well-received actress in a number of films, was often pressured to do something about the prominent gap between her two front teeth to look more "picture perfect" as a model. She resisted, and it served it well. It became her trademark and made her stand out and be more recognizable among the lot of beautiful models. Barbra Streisand endeared many by keeping her prominent nose.
What really gets me is when models, singers, actors and other celebrities who have ALREADY made it - already become high-profile celebrities - go on to obliterate perceived flaws with cosmetic surgery. Obviously they didn't need to do it in order to become more successful. Their success was already great. Some rising stars I have seen have actually hurt their chances at greater stardom by obliterating some of their unique features with cosmetic surgery. One example is ANTHONY GEARY, the guy who plays LUKE on General Hospital. Man, that guy had such great charisma - and he had a greatly balding hairline. And it looked so CUTE on him. The balding Luke and his screen romance with GENIE FRANCIS as LAURA was the biggest thing ever on soaps back in the early '80s. Their (soap) wedding was huge. I was a big fan of his at the time, but since he got his hair transplant I forgot his real name - actually had to do some Google searches to find his name. I'm trying to get back into watching soaps a bit now (though known as being addictive, they can be hard to get into at first) since I got cast recently in the local ACAC/ACTV soap opera SHADES OF LIFE. Geary is back on General Hospital and I cannot for one viewing watch him without noticing his new hairline and feeling disappointed and somehow betrayed.
It reminds me of Jack, one of the loves of my life. He was a good looking guy and had the unique feature of a huge nose of proportions that could compete with Jimmy Durante. For those of you too young to remember Durante - he had a nose so big that it made his eyes look cross-eyed. Jack's big nose was very endearing and I loved it. But Jack had a great insecurity about his nose. Without warning, one day he showed up at my door with bandages covering much of his face. My first thought was that he had been mugged. But no. He had secretly gone out of town to get his nose "fixed." That was really the beginning of the end between me and Jack. I felt he had betrayed himself, but also - strangely - as if he had betrayed me as well. Oh yeah, he's a good-looking guy still. Clean-shaven he even bears a remarkable resemblance to John Travolta. Some people think that's really cool, but with his original nose he was cooler, I'm tellin' ya! But I could never remember his old nose without regret I could never see it again. There was not even a photo that survived. Oh well. At least he wasn't famous and therefore didn't have to be a bad influence on kids, making those born with big schnozes just wasn't good enough.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for plastic surgery when it is really needed. Corrective surgery for car accident victims and gross physical deformities are what, in my opinion, plastic surgery should really be for.
And how about all these actors and actresses that are getting plastic surgery to look younger? Gag me with a spoon! They don't look younger to me - they look FAKER. I mean, I don't want to be mean to people who have already made the regrettable decision to get plastic surgery. I am sad for them that they felt so insecure that they went to such drastic measures. But those who are celebrated stars, those who people look up to and even emulate, those are the ones that bug me the most.
Conversely, I feel a greater respect for those who have NOT opted for cosmetic surgery and facelifts. As a woman, I want to see famous female faces and how they look as they age. I have already come to appreciate the uniqueness of their faces in their youths, and I want to also enjoy them as mature faces and then all the way through to older faces, all natural wrinkles intact. We have given a lot to our major celebrities. We have given them fame and riches. Can't they give us something back? Can't they let us see them age? Some do, and I thank them. Those who don't, guess what? I don't wanna see your movies. It bugs me, and the whole time I'm watching you in the film all I'm thinking about is how you used to look and now how you look so artificial and then trying to imagine what you would look like if you had not faked up your face. Unless you take it too an extreme, like MICHAEL JACKSON. Then I'm just horrified and greatly saddened that your insecurities were so great that you had this done to yourself. How many little black kids decided their nose was too wide after Jackson had his made about one-fourth to one-third its natural width? We'll never know, but my guess is that there were quite a few.
I saw a documentary last week called, I think, ASIAN EYES. It was about one young Asian woman who had plastic surgery to create a fold in her eyelids to make them look more Western. She said that the surgeon she went to specialized in adding eyelid-folds to Asian eyes, and that most of that surgeon's clients were actors. This documentary showed conversations with this young Asian woman before and after her surgery. Before the surgery she was obsessed with the perceived need to get these folds in her eyelids, convinced she was some kind of a freak without the folds. Immediately after the surgery she was elated, saying that she felt more self-confident, outgoing and free. But by the time she made her comments for the end of the documentary she had different feelings, realizing that she had somehow betrayed herself. She realized, finally, that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her previous, natural, Asian eyes. And for her, it is the beginning of some real soul-searching, realizing now that it was not her eyelids that needed surgery but her own psychology and feelings about herself.
Will Hollywood ever get more real? I don't know. But if the really BIG stars refuse to be anything but real - not only in their acting but in their refusal to get cosmetic surgery - there will be something only the Stars can give us - because only the biggest Hollywood stars can overcome the Hollywood "artificiality barrier" and actually get damned good roles - even with their big noses, wrinkles and whatever.
Now don't get me wrong. I understand that aspiring actors and even some who have made it in the past (such as Sharon Stone - who plans no cosmetic surgery by the way) find it harder to get good roles once past a certain age, especially women. And I know that there is a gross over-attention to looks in Hollywood that sends thousands, if not tens of thousands, under the surgeon's blade in order to "become more attractive." And I know it is hard to deal with such demons of insecurities. All that. But you Big Stars who refuse the plastic knife and Botox, my hat is off to you. YOU are the ones I want to see!! And please - if you already got some cosmetic surgery, unless you have a true deformity please don't get anymore. Leave well enough alone and let us love you the way you are.
Michele Deradune is a local Austin film actress represented by Liz Atherton at Ciao! Talents. Currently she is a new cast member of the ACAC/ACTV soap opera SHADES OF LIFE (as Nadine Goodrich, a triple platinum country singer with a thick country accent) which airs on Time Warner cable Channel 10 at 6:30 p.m. every Saturday. You can watch and listen to Michele's video and voice demos online by following links at the top of the page at www.Deradune.com.