When you type “Jennifer Hawkins” into Google, the suggested term that follows is “plastic surgery”.
Hawkins, the 30-year-old former Miss Universe who went on to find a self-tanning empire and work as the host of Australia’s Next Top Model, is accused of getting work done by so many people, so regularly, that late last week the Australian Women’s Weekly took it upon themselves to flat-out ask her about it.
She responded like this:
“When someone says ‘under the knife’ I don’t have a reaction. Everyone in the industry gets that. That’s fine. I’m cool with that. I’m cool with people having an opinion, but as I said, I am happy with who I am as a person and really just want to live my life. I can’t live my life around what other people say. They just don’t get me, that’s how I take it.”
The media reaction was instant. The Daily Telegraph ran with the headline “Jennifer Hawkins denies having plastic surgery”, tweeting “You be the judge” from their Sydney Confidential account with the following image:
— Sydney Confidential (@SydConfidential) May 2, 2014
As Hawkins herself points out, for several years now, people have had a lot to say about her face both publicly and privately and it would be disingenuous to put it all down to jealousy. We’re not going to republish a bunch of vicious and anonymous social media snark but this one from Sydney fashion designer Tali Jatali posted on Facebook some months ago accurately sums up the mood: “If u put more stuff in ur lips Jen Daffy is going to want to date you.”
So why is there so much nastiness aimed at celebrities like Jennifer Hawkins and Nicole Kidman (who provoked a similar reaction eight years ago when she too denied having any work on her face and insisted her flawless skin was due to “sunscreen”)?
Is it the fact their faces appear so different or is it simply the denial that riles people up?
I was born with my father’s lips – thin, shapeless, lizardish — and so a few years ago I bought my mother’s. Several years of braces didn’t give me a mouth I liked, but a few rounds of Restylane (an injectable filler used to plump up lips) certainly did. I can wear lipstick now. I can crack a smile in photographs. Sure, it’s a little bit of financial indulgence but it’s worth it because I love my lips.
When I tell people this, the immediate reaction is shock. Followed by something along the lines of “You don’t look like you’ve had work done”. Because I don’t. Most people who get work done don’t look like they do.
Of course, no one’s putting an old picture of my face up against a new one and writing in all caps “HAS SHE HAD SURGERY?” If you did that to me, as is often done to Jen, you might think I look like I’ve had work done. Because I have. And I’m fine with admitting it.
There’s an argument to be made that it doesn’t matter what anyone does or doesn’t get injected into her face. It’s her choice and people should mind their own business. However, that argument doesn’t fly when you consider that as a woman in the public eye, whose job is to literally look good, Jennifer Hawkins’ appearance is of huge interest to a lot of people.
Hillary Clinton once said: “’If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.” For better or worse (definitely worse), that is the level of interest in well-known women’s appearances. And unlike Jennifer Hawkins, Hillary Clinton is not a model. Jennifer Hawkins routinely answers questions about her hair, her diet and of course, her tan. So why should her face be off-limits?
If you look closely at the semantics of Jennifer Hawkins’ response to The Weekly, you’ll notice that she doesn’t flat-out deny having work done. She just denies caring that people keep asking her.
People keep asking Jennifer Hawkins if she’s had work done because when you look at photographs of her 10 years ago, she looks very different from the Jennifer Hawkins of today. Part of this has to do with hair, make-up and styling, not to mention the change in her skin colour – a glowing testament to the power of J Bronze. But there’s a lot more than a tan going on here.
When the changes to someone’s face are as clear as day, you can appreciate people’s frustration when they deny that anything’s different. If you complimented me on my red top, and I told you it was blue, you’d probably be perplexed. Then when I kept insisting, you might get annoyed.
Here’s the thing though. It’s understandable why Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Hawkins don’t want to talk about what they may or may not inject in their faces. The celebrity gossip industry simultaneously valorises women for beauty – above all else – and punishes them for vanity. We’re told our only value is how we look, but that this value is diminished unless we look that way ‘naturally’.
It’s bullshit. It’s hypocritical and if Jennifer Hawkins did admit to getting fillers in her face, she’d probably be crucified for it. How can she win here?
We’ve developed a bizarre double-standard when it comes to cosmetic procedures. It’s fine to put a kid through two-and-a-half years of braces (involving headaches, torn inner lips and several thousand dollars of generalised oral suffering) for the sake of a more aesthetically pleasing smile. But a few seconds of stinging and a few hundred bucks for the same outcome? Immoral. Unacceptable. Vain.
Using lasers to fry off your pubic hair? Fine. But using facial lasers to flood your face full of collagen? Shame on you and your narcissism.
Yes, celebrities like Jennifer Hawkins would be clapped into the stocks of public opinion if they came out about getting work done. But they should do it anyway.
Because it’s time that women started to own their faces.
It’s time to admit that ‘just woke up like this’ is the biggest beauty myth of them all, and move on from there. It’s time to admit that looking good costs money. That it takes work. And that it’s sometimes aided by a bit of hyaluronic acid and a little prick with a needle.
Because it does take work and money, and injectables certainly help. It’s not just Jennifer Hawkins either. Almost every woman you see on a screen, on a magazine page or plastered across a billboard is getting some sort of non-invasive cosmetic procedure done to her, and a good deal of blokes are too. Whether it is fillers, Botox or laser, plenty of people who can afford it will get a bit tweaked, a bit zapped or a bit frozen.
We’re so flooded with images of people who have had work done but won’t admit it that we don’t actually know what ‘work’ looks like. Plastic surgery can look like whatever you want. Sometimes it can make you slip into the uncanny valley of the almost-human, and sometimes it just makes you look like a fresher, plumper version of yourself. It all depends on how you calibrate it.
Cosmetic surgery is like diet and exercise – it’s entirely possible to go overboard, but it’s also entirely possible not to. And like diet and exercise and dying your hair, if you do it, why not admit to it? Gone are the days when stars can say that they “just eat whatever they want” without being booed down. We don’t believe it anymore. We want to hear the truth.
It’s easy for me to come out about getting fillers because I’m not famous. I might be shamed for it, but it’s not going to ruin me. No one thinks of me as a role model. It would be a whole lot harder for Jennifer Hawkins or Nicole Kidman to do likewise.
But if every woman who got work done came out at once, it would look like a scene straight out of Spartacus. There’d be too many admissions to attack individuals. Perhaps then, we could accept it quickly and move on. We could embrace women’s faces for the marvels of art and science they often are, and be done with all of the shame and speculation.
So: I am Spartacus and this is my face. The part I’m most proud of is the part that I paid for. And if you have an opinion? I’m cool with that. You just don’t get me and that’s how I’ll take it.
Do you think it would be better for female celebrities to own up to plastic surgery?
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