A few days ago, in Stellar magazine, Olivia Newton John gave an interview in which she spoke about plastic surgery and her distaste for it, insisting she’s never had plastic surgery. “I’ve always said that I wanted to grow old gracefully and not cut and slash…..So far I have, and I hope I can continue to do that. I guess because I have had real surgeries for really important, serious reasons, I don’t take playing with your face lightly.”
She went on: “I’ve had points in my life when I’ve gone to see plastic surgeons, when I was down and depressed or after a break-up or something, but I couldn’t ever do anything, I couldn’t go through with it. I thought, ‘I don’t want to look like those women.’ Some of them look great, it doesn’t all look bad, but I couldn’t do it.”
Well, there’s a whole lot to unpack right there.
I'm going to write the rest of this post very carefully because discussing any woman's appearance (even your own) is incredibly fraught. I do not wish to make accusations or assumptions about Olivia or any other woman in the public eye or woman who has or has not had surgery.
I will say that there seems to be a new demarcation line between 'plastic surgery' and 'altering your appearance'. The second description is far wider in scope and includes injectables. The first requires a scalpel.
So those who have embraced the needle but not the scalpel are now able to accurately insist they have had no surgery. Semantics or a valid distinction?
I guess that's subjective.
What makes Olivia Newton John's comments - and the raised eyebrow reaction to them from many woman - so poignant at this moment in time is that her daughter is currently in the middle of her own plastic surgery controversy.
This week, Chloe Latanzi has been the subject of media reports that she has spent $400,000 on plastic surgery. Who knows where this figure came from. It's probably rubbish. But it is clear that Chloe has altered her appearance and it would be disingenuous to pretend she hasn't. About as disingenuous as a woman pretending she was a natural blonde or any woman over 45 pretending she didn't have to dye away the grey.
Or insisting she had red hair when we could see it was brown.
Feminist disclaimer: what any woman chooses to do with her face or body is up to her. I don't have to agree with it because it's not my face or body. However, I think it's important to remember all 'choices' are made in the context of societal expectations, they're not solely personal decisions.
But the whole question of mothers and daughters and plastic surgery - or "having work" as I'll call the spectrum of invasive procedures that includes both cutting and injecting - is playing on my mind as I head towards 45 and consider Botox.