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Life in Plastic: Are We Living in a Barbie World?

Plastic surgery has become an epidemic amongst influencers. Thankfully Instagram has made their filtered selfies readily available for us to compare ourselves to. From the Kardashian's to 'Love Island', consumers can't escape the unattainable beauty standards that stars have set for us. Whilst some of us can distinguish the filtered from the factual, young teens don't know any better than to absorb this content.

There's nothing wrong with plastic surgery, but portraying self-alteration as reality may be ruining our perception of beauty.

The Kardashian effect

Often referred to as 'America's Royal Family', the Kardashian family have created a multi-million pound empire through aesthetic perfectionism, and in the process produced a generation fuelled by insecurities. In fact, the Kardashian's have created a beauty standard so high that even they can't live up to.

The plastic surgery industry owes millions to the Kardashian's for the surge of bum and lip augmentations. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Kim Kardashian has caused a 256% increase in procedures such as bum lifts. Subsequently her younger sister, Kylie Jenner, has created a similar legacy. Google searches for "lip fillers" went up by 3,233% in 2015 after Kylie's admission to having lip enhancements.

Plastic or perfect?

The Kardashian family have had the biggest physical transformation of any icons to date. From Kim's 'slim thick' figure, to Khloé's drastic weight loss, the family is consistently accused of having aesthetic alterations.

At just age 20, Kylie Jenner was said to be the 'youngest self-made US billionaire.' Although it's not really 'self-made' if your family are already millionaires. However, in November 2015 Kylie released her own brand of liquid lipsticks and lip-liners, provoked by the rumours that she'd had lip fillers. Kylie denied all allegations, claiming the enlargement was merely makeup trickery, until May 2015 when she admitted to having augmentations at age 15. Being her mother's daughter, Kylie took this opportunity to make a profit. As the saying goes, "the devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder."

"What her half-sister Kim Kardashian West did for booty, Jenner has done for full lips." Forbes 2018

Kylie Jenner, having originally lied about her enhancements, easily leads us to wonder, who else is lying? The Kardashian sisters all deny having any plastic surgery, except for fillers and Botox (although Kourtney does admit to her breast enlargement). There's speculation around Kim's bum, Khloé's now-slim-figure, and Kendall's facial structure.

High-fashion model, Kendall Jenner is deemed the 'natural one' of the family. However, many argue that she has had work done and denies it all to save her reputation as a model. In a 2017 interview with E! News, she said "As a model, why would I have my face reconstructed? It doesn't even make sense." But with subtle changes over the years to her nose, lips, and jaw shape, her integrity could be questioned.

Filtered or faulty?

Khloé Kardashian recently caused havoc, after a bikini photo that she deemed 'unflattering' was leaked. What she really meant is unfiltered. Khloe drastically threatened legal action to have image removed. Despite the photo easily fitting Western beauty standards, it didn't mirror the standards created by her Instagram. But by no means is that a critique to Khloe. The majority of us are aware that social media highlights our best bits, but Khloe's complete outrage reveals a dangerous undertone.

Additionally, Khloé's resentment of the image outraged fans. In response she took to Twitter with a notes app apology. Khloé admits to these standards of perfection reigning in her life, but it can be argued that she is fighting against standards that her own family created, in which she did have a hand in. In fact, the Kardashian's have made a living from their slim curves and filter photos, but are upset when called out for filtering out anything they declare unattractive.

What does Khloé's response say for fans who see themselves in her 'unflattering' image? Representation is key to society today, especially for young women's body confidence. In a culture where most women on our screens are made from only flesh and bone, it's refreshing to see something almost attainable, to then be told it's so ugly her lawyer gets involved.

During her family's rise to fame, Khloé has continuously battled severe bullying over her weight. Her response is understandable alongside a decade of body-shaming. It's easy to forget that there's a real person behind the image, but it doesn't excuse the detrimental impact her and her family's attitude to Instagram has caused.

"This is an example of how I have been conditioned to feel, that I am not beautiful enough just being me." @KhloeKardashian via Twitter

Named and shamed

It's clear that celebrities are reluctant to reveal their procedures. But there must be a reason behind this?

Aesthetic surgery is portrayed as controversial, immoral even. Those who undergo procedures are deemed plastic, fake, and insecure. Comments such as, "They looked better before", are suddenly a requirement, as if people feel ownership over celebrities bodies, betrayed even.

Whilst I was writing this piece, Charlotte Crosby took to Twitter. A Channel 5 documentary aired today named Celebrities: What's Happened to Your Face?, which shamed the former Geordie Shore star for having surgery, slandering her appearance. Charlotte has been open about her surgeries, but still receives hate for having partaken.

Plastic surgery shaming is still a form of body shaming. The stigma of going under the knife needs to be broken. The idea that this makes a person less worthy of respect is an outdated one. But to break any stigma, the first steps are discussion.

Firstly, celebrities need to stop lying to their fans. Covering up alterations and augmentations leads to the public belief that their appearance was achieved through hard-work and dedication; making it seem attainable. This sets a standard, leading to young people trying to achieve the impossible.

An individual can love themselves whilst still wanting to change. Everyone should be allowed to feel at home in their own body. Self-expression takes multiple forms, and plastic surgery is another instrument of this. The quicker we accept this as a society, the better.


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