Bella Hadid has often been accused of getting all kinds of procedures done on her face. In her interview this month with American Vogue, as their cover star, she denies all rumors but one, her nose job. She makes a point to mention her ancestors when discussing her nose, how she believes she would have grown into her nose, and ultimately regrets her decision of getting the procedure.
It’s nothing new to hear stories like Hadid’s from women all over the world, especially women in fashion. South Sudanese supermodel and social activist Nykhor Paul has also expressed a lack of accommodation and diversity in her industry. “Dealing with all the makeup issues, skin issues, hair issues, it makes you feel inadequate.” she posted to Instagram explaining the need for the long-overdue appreciation and embracement of ethnic features in fashion.
Feeling inadequate is something young girls all around the world are experiencing. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the percentage of Latinas, Asian Americans, and Black Americans getting plastic surgery went up by 10% in 2012, with the majority of these patients requesting what’s considered “ethnic plastic surgery.” In 2017, AAFPRS also found that there has been a drastic rise in facial plastic surgery and injectables among millennials and young women, most likely due to social media and the pressure of looking perfect on Instagram.
Social media has long been a trigger for women and can target all age groups. But it starts sooner than seeing your first Instagram post. From a young age, girls are raised to believe that a majority of their worth comes from their physical appearance. They are also taught that the attention and approval of their peers is top tier. Who are these young girls’ peers? Firstly it’s their families.
Oftentimes, ethnic parents are raised with the same mentality that so many women of color struggle with these days, that eurocentric beauty is the standard. In an attempt to be helpful, parents might offer up ways to help their children blend in better with society around them. They might tell their young daughters that they need to have lengthy and exaggerated (often dangerous) skincare regimes in order to prevent their skin from darkening. They might also tell them that their nose is too hooked, their eyes too big or small, their lips are too big, hair too big, and so forth.
In addition to hearing this kind of feedback from their parents, young girls will turn to the media to find representation. However, they will be disappointed when they find that almost all media just maintains what their family has been telling them. Everyone on TV who is worth a second glance is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and overall their features are more eurocentric. Thus starts the cycle. The pressure to fit a certain standard and look a specific way starts to set in, and they start to make serious, permanent decisions, some as young as Hadid at 14.
This same cycle started with Hadid. From a young age, most likely because of the environment around her, she was led to believe that certain features are superior to others. In order to better fit in with the people around her, she made the permanent decision to change her nose, and ultimately regretted it. Although it can’t be said exactly why Bella got a nose job, as the article doesn’t go into much detail, it can be assumed that it was a choice. The article makes no mention of a medical condition that could be linked to the procedure. Hadid’s quote also reads “I wish I had kept the nose of my ancestors” implying that it was a choice. It’s safe to assume that she went through some version of this cycle.
However, there is hope for young girls. Bella expressing her feelings surrounding her nose job and, feeling comfortable sharing that on a platform as widespread as Vogue means something. It’s a step in the right direction. When someone like Hadid, who is widely admired by fans for being open, raw, and passionate, shares this experience it might help someone else in the world rethink their disdain for their ethnic features and move them in the direction of appreciating themselves more.
This begs the question of how can we encourage people to “grow into” their features and appreciate the history and ancestors behind them? Firstly we should share our cultural history and stories with one another more often. In Bella’s case, her nose comes from her Palestinian roots. Hadid has often shared stories on her social media of her family’s royal heritage (her grandmother is rumored to be a descendant of Daher Al Omar, the Prince of Nazareth and Sheik of Galilee), their flee from Palestine and their life as refugees. While we might not all have a story so grand, we’re all unique in our own way.
One girl’s hooked nose or nappy hair might represent a culture rich in tradition and history, worth more thought than just “how soon can I get this fixed?”. Your features tell a story and define an identity. Allow yourself the time and space to learn about your heritage, the struggles and success of your roots, to better appreciate where it is you came from. In this self-reflective experience, you might learn something new or exciting about your family and further connect with your community. Give yourself time to grow before you make an ultimately irreversible decision.