This article is published in number 41 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 12 October 2021
In the movie Time by Kim Ki-duk, 2006, a woman undergoes a series of cosmetic surgery operations to completely change her face, seduce her boyfriend and thus prove to herself that he could also fall in love with another. She succeeds and this throws her into a spiral of self-destruction. Those were the years when Lacey Wildd, an American TV personality, operated on every part of her body to become “an extreme Barbie”, with her daughter complaining on TV that her life “revolved around mom’s boobs.”
Much has changed since then: if in 2006 the reflection on cosmetic surgery could still be philosophical (we wondered where we ended up, our authentic face, and where the “other” began, the search for otherness), in 2021 we are forced to outline a more pragmatic discourse, which takes into consideration the massive amount of annual cosmetic surgery operations (1,088,704 only in Italy, which is the fourth country in the world for aesthetic interventions, according to the estimates of the International Society for Aestethic Plastic Surgery) and tries to establish an ethical limit between the lucid intervention on one’s own physicality and that moved by pathological reasons. The urgency of this new approach stems from the latest, crazy trend among the very young (ie Gen Z, but also a little bit millennials): the “rich girl face“, remaking one’s face in the image and likeness of the most desired and wealthy Internet idols. Treatments range from preventative botulinum to procedures with science fiction names such as Unison And Ultra Femme 360 and aim to create caricatured, hypertrophic copies of stars of the moment like Kim Kardashian and Ivanka Trump. The model most sought after by patients is – according to David Hartman, American plastic surgeon – Kylie Jenner. But let’s go to the details, since the “rich girl face»Is a patchwork of features stolen from different stars: the most requested noses have long been those of Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Nicole Kidman, and for men that of Jude Law. For the eyes, Anne Hathaway and Mila Kunis. For the lips we have in mind again Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie. The rear – because the «rich girl face» does not neglect to look for a rich side B – is naturally inspired by J.Lo.
In general, the request is opposite to that classically associated with plastic surgery, which aimed at naturalness: it is to modify the face in a showy, hypervisible way, so that the exaggeration, the 4D imitation of a celebrity – from the lip to the cheekbones, nose – witness a social status, on a par with an expensive pair of shoes.