KUALA LUMPUR With the rise of social media, millennials keen to gain instant fame have chosen to go under the knife to look like a collectible doll or a computer game character.
According to local aesthetic centres in the Klang Valley, the top 10 looks that patients ask for include Kylie Jenners bee-stung lips and the double eyelids (blepharoplasty) of K-pop starlets. This is believed to be the most popular proce-dure worldwide, and shows how extensively pop culture has redefined what it means to be beautiful now for both men and women. In South Korea, a blepharoplasty is a sought-after gift for 18-year-olds.
Recently, in Malaysia, Mr Amirul Rizwan Musa, 21, made headlines for his unusually porcelain look, which he said is inspired by the Final Fantasy video game character Squall Leonhart.
I was obsessed with anime characters and I felt ashamed that I looked the way I did back then. So, I decided to under-go plastic surgery to boost my confidence, said Mr Amirul, who also goes by the name Miyyo Rizone.
He joins the ranks of men who have changed their looks to look like a doll. An example is Mr Rodrigo Alves from Brazil, who has undergone 51 plastic surgeries and 103 cosmetic procedures to get the perfect sculptured look of a doll.
The 33-year-old, dubbed the human Ken doll, has had hair transplants, liposuctions in his jaw, a chin implant, a butt lift and abs replacement.
In the Philippines, Mr Herbert Chavez, 39, has had 23 surgeries over the last 20 years to make him look like his comic-book hero Superman. He has spent close to RM30,000 (S$9,540) to transform himself to look like the Man of Steel, undergoing nose jobs, skin-whitening treatments, liposuction, jaw realignment and filler implants.
Mr Amirul said he began developing a negative self-image after having chicken pox at 16, which affected his skin. He is reported to have spent nearly RM180,000 on cosmetic surgery.
Registered counsellor Azah Yasmin explained that people with constant irrational thoughts about their physical flaws may be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a psychological disorder where a person becomes obsessed with imaginary physical defects.
She said that such patients cannot control their negative thoughts and will not believe it when people tell them that they look fine. This may cause severe emotional distress, which may interfere with their daily function.
Because of their perceived inadequacies, they may miss work or school, avoid socialising and isolate themselves, said Ms Azah, who is the director of Bright Counselling.
She added that BDD affects all age groups, but usually starts when a person is in his or her teens, at a time when most people are sensitive about their appearance.
Its more common in people with a history of depression or social phobia. It often occurs alongside obsessive compul-sive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.
Ms Azah says psychosocial surroundings also play a role in shaping a persons general outlook in life.
The person may also be going through traumatic events like bullying, a bitter divorce or an underlying psychological condition, which he or she is not even aware of.
Since many people remain undiagnosed with BDD, she suggested patients should get a psychological evaluation be-fore going for plastic surgery as the procedures are irreversible.
However, changing ones appearance need not be motivated by mental health issues, said an image consultant.
Malaysian Association of Brand & Image Consultants president Wendy Lee called it pass to think that people un-dergo cosmetic procedures because of internal psychological issues.
Its about being daring or having a carefree life, doing whatever they like, said the brand image consultant and ad-junct professor. Ten or even five years ago, if this question were to arise, the sole reason would probably just be be-cause theres a body-image or self-esteem issue but times have changed.
Unlike baby boomers (born in late 1945 to late 1960s) and Gen X (born in the 1960s and 1970s), who tend to worry about putting food on the table, she said. Gen Ys have the extra cash to experiment and dabble in anything that ex-cites them. Gen Y and millennials are regarded as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, and have a strong habit of using digital technologies.
The mindset is captured in the release of the single Becoming Prettier earlier this year by the Korean all-girl band called Six Bomb. The chart-topping song is an unabashed celebration of plastic surgery, specifically the rumoured pro-cedures the band members received to the tune of a five-figure sum.
Agreeing, Sloane Clinic medical director Dr Kenneth Lee said Malaysians are now more receptive to cosmetic surgery.
Today, theres less social stigma associated with cosmetic procedures. Thats why people are not shy to admit that they had a little helping hand, mainly to turn back the clock.
He also observed that cosmetic procedures may be warranted in some cases. We must understand that cosmetic sur-gery also extends to reconstructive surgery, he said, pointing out that someone born with a cleft lip or a deformed ear should be allowed to make a positive change to their self-image.
On people changing their physical appearances to look like dolls and anime characters, Dr Lee said it is the duty of medical professionals to guide and counsel patients to ensure that they are in good health both physically and psy-chologically.
He said false expectations from popular media should not be mistaken as reasons for physical perfection.
Your idol may change with time, but your cosmetic changes may have long-term impact even when they are long gone. Furthermore, what looks good on your idol may not necessarily look good on you, he said.
Dr Alice Total Wellness Centre founder and medical director Dr Alice Prethima Michael said cosmetic surgery has a niche market in the country when she started her business 25 years ago.
Previously, my patients considered cosmetic and aesthetic treatments as an anti-ageing solution. Today, both genders see them as a lifestyle choice. I also noticed that my patients are getting younger.
Dr Alice warned that idolising to the point of obsession can bring about grave consequences.
What we regard as idol looks today may not be true tomorrow. Like fashion, it changes from generation to genera-tion.
She puts in an effort to educate her patients on the grave consequences of repeated procedures.
If you keep changing your looks again and again, the subsequent procedures may become harder until no reputable medical physician would risk performing any more surgery.
You are your own person and your own features are just as beautiful as any pop idol. Improvements can always be done and if done in a safe and healthy way, you, too, can shine.
Dr Alice said she is glad that more young people are taking an interest in improving themselves. But this should be tempered with moderation and sense. NEW STRAITS TIMES
Beautiful to the extreme – TODAYonline