Writer Melanie Berliet is 27, slender and attractive. So why did a doctor propose she get $33,000 worth of lipo and plastic surgery?
Well, she asked the plastic surgeon for his opinion, as part of an exposé for Vanity Fair. Since Americans spent $13 billion on 11.7 million cosmetic procedures (both surgical and nonsurgical) in 2007, and it seems that patients getting elective cosmetic surgery are younger and younger. Berliet actually visited three physicians for her article, asking them what she "needed" and, as the piece notes, "The answers were as different as the doctors themselves." Berliet writes:
When I began this project, I was relatively certain that I didn't need plastic surgery. I also suspected that plastic surgeons might tell me otherwise. To test my hypothesis, I went undercover. In the process, I hoped to learn something about what happens inside examination rooms across New York City and, by extension, the United States. Are teenybopper idols and those who emulate them freely choosing plastic surgery? Or is plastic surgery choosing them?
The first surgeon, Dr. Rapaport, wanted to lipo Berliet's "waist wads," even though they were "borderline." (He said: "I've done supermodels with much less than this. To them it was important. To each his own.") He also wanted to suck the fat out of her outer thighs and "banana rolls" — that is, the part of her butt that peeks out of her underwear. ("As a Caucasian woman, you probably…would want this brought down," he explained.) Add a C-cup, some Restylane, and a nose job, and you've got $33,000 worth of procedures. Dr. Rapaport also suggested Berliet do something with her hair.
The next two doctors Berliet visited weren't nearly as aggressive. "Botox? You don't need it. You look good," Dr. Heller insisted. Dr. Racanelli was more even-handed: "The way it works is: you tell me if something specifically bothers you, and I'll tell you if I can address it. But I'm not here to sell you services or goods."
But one has to wonder if the eager Dr. Rapaport is the exception or the rule. Are cosmetic surgeons more salesmen than doctors? Remember the 26 year old who was told she needs Botox? Or what about the doctor who suggested Tracie get lipo on her vagina? And what are the chances that a young woman or teenage girl is going to see a Dr. Racanelli type instead of a Dr. Rapaport type?