After writing so much about photoshopped, airbrushed and overall retouched photos that turn images of women into something so different that it looks like a new woman…

…I thought it might be interesting to bring this up, here:

At a plastic surgery clinic in Upper Manhattan that caters to Dominicans, one of the most popular procedures is an operation to lift women’s buttocks, because — as the doctor explains — “they all like the curve.”

In Flushing, Queens, surgeons have their attention trained a few feet higher, on upturned noses that their Chinese patients want flipped down. Russian women in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, are having their breasts enlarged, while Koreans in Chinatown are having jaw lines slimmed.

As the demand for surgical enhancement explodes around the world, New York has developed a host of niche markets that allow the city’s many immigrants to get tucks and tweaks that are carefully tailored to their cultural preferences and ideals of beauty. Just as they can find Lebanese grape leaves or bowls of Vietnamese pho that taste of home, immigrants can locate surgeons able to recreate the cleavage of Thalía, the Mexican singer, or the bright eyes of Lee Hyori, the Korean pop star.

They can also find a growing number of doctors offering layaway plans to help them afford operations. If the price is still too high, illegal surgery by unlicensed practitioners is available in many neighborhoods.

As these specialized clinics reshape Asian eyelids and Latina silhouettes, they provide a pore-level perspective on the aspirations and insecurities of immigrants in 21st-century New York — a mosaic portrait buffed with Botox.

“When a patient comes in from a certain ethnic background and of a certain age, we know what they’re going to be looking for,” said Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, the president of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, which has three clinics in the city. “We are sort of amateur sociologists.”

The extreme makeover is, in many ways, a tradition among the city’s immigrants. A century ago, in the early days of cosmetic surgery, European Jews underwent nose jobs and Irish immigrants had their ears pinned back in attempts to look “more American,” said Victoria Pitts-Taylor, a professor of sociology at Queens College who has written about popular attitudes toward plastic surgery.

“The bulk of those operations were targeted at assimilation issues,” Ms. Pitts-Taylor said.

So, I might be a little all over the place here, with this, and that’s okay. But does this mean that other minority groups also struggle with embracing and representing their own ethnic identities in a country with a mostly Eurocentric standard of beauty? And if other non-Europeans in America are struggling with the idea of representing themselves – eyelid surgery? – what does it say about the standard?

Am I mildly throwing shots at people who’ve endured elective plastic surgery with this post? I’m trying not to, but I can’t help but ask questions about why we choose to embrace certain standards imposed upon us by a society that doesn’t have our best interests in mind or at heart… and I can’t help but ask why we let these things push us toward going under the knife to conform.

…and if “surgery is no big deal” to you, that’s fine. It’s a huge deal to me regardless of whether it is cosmetic or vital.

Moving on, though:

Dr. Holly J. Berns, an anesthesiologist, feels as if she is on a seesaw when she travels from Dr. Yager’s office to suburban clinics. On Long Island, she said, “they’re doing everything they can to get the fat taken out of their buttocks.” In Washington Heights, “it’s the opposite — they just want their rear ends enlarged and rounded.”

Italia Vigniero, 27, a Dominican patient of Dr. Yager’s, received breast implants in 2008 and is considering a buttocks lift to attain, as she called it, “the silhouette of a woman.”

“We Latinas define ourselves with our bodies,” she said. “We always have curves.”

“My personality doesn’t go with small breasts,” she added. Using the words “pecho” and “personalidad” — Spanish for “breast” and “personality” — she coined a term that could serve as Dr. Yager’s motto: “Now, I’m a person with a lot of ‘pechonalidad!’ ”

I mean, the issue that I have with cosmetic surgeries – like butt lifts and lipo – is that you “need” the surgery because something in your lifestyle prevents you from obtaining that body without intervention of surgery… which is why people who have these kinds of surgeries regularly. It may be no big deal to them to have that procedure done regularly… but I’m cheap. I’m just sayin’.

Moving on, again:

Perhaps the most sought-after procedure among Asians is “double-eyelid surgery,” which creates a crease in the eyelid that can make the eye look rounder. Some people criticize the operation, which is hugely popular in many Asian countries, as a throwback to medical procedures meant to obscure ethnic features.

“You want to be part of the acceptable culture and the acceptable ethnicity, so you want to look more Westernized,” said Margaret M. Chin, a professor of sociology at Hunter College who specializes in Asian immigrant culture. “I feel sad that they feel like they have to do this.”

During consultations before surgery, Dr. Lee shows patients a slide show of a white woman with a natural crease in her eyelids and Asian women without it. He discusses the techniques — a stitch here, a cut there — that can bridge the anatomical differences. But he, like several other Asian plastic surgeons, said the procedure had little to do with assimilation.

“One of the traits of beauty is to have large eyes,” Dr. Lee said, “and to get that effect you have to have the double eyelids.”

For all the cultural differences, New York plastic surgeons acknowledge that ethnic neighborhoods are not islands. American pop culture, they say, has strongly influenced how immigrants and their children believe they should look, and reality television shows like “Bridalplasty” have encouraged surgical solutions.

In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Dr. Elena Ocher, a Russian immigrant, attributes the wave of young Russian women requesting breast implants — by far her clinic’s most popular procedure among that group — to American culture, not Russian. “The new generations of Russians are very American, and there’s something in America about large breasts,” she said. “What is this fixation?”

Maya Bronfman, 30, an accountant from Moldova, said many of her Russian friends had undergone procedures, but she shrugged off notions of American beauty ideals. “Everyone in New York is some sort of an immigrant,” she said. “They’re just doing it to feel good.” [source]

I mean, by the definition in this article, Black Americans aren’t immigrants, but um…. is there anyone else that is seeing the same similarities that I’m seeing, here?

As I read this article, my heart just sank lower and lower. Sure, there are examples of individuals who didn’t seek to obscure their ethnicity, but think of those numbers – 5% of Asians, 3% of Latinos and 4% of whites? Each year? And the doctor shows a patient a powerpoint of white women with “desired eyelids” next to Asians who don’t have them? People need surgery to “feel good?” Television – one of the most non-diverse environments ever – is influencing how children think they should look?

“One of the traits of beauty is to have large eyes,” Dr. Lee said, “and to get that effect you have to have the double eyelids.”

In other words… “one of the traits of beauty is this thing that isn’t found in my culture at all, but I’m going to embrace this foreign standard anyway and undergo surgery to obtain this trait.” I mean, that’s basically what that means, right?

That leads me into my final point.

I’m at a point in my journey where I have to truly sit and think about what I want my body to look like… and every time I try to decide on an acceptable personal standard, I take the time to think about “why.” Did I want to be “thick?” Why? Did I want to have huge boobs? Why? Did I want to have an extremely curvaceous figure? Why?

The trick, here, is not to conform to someone else’s standard of beauty, but to identify and feel secure in defining my own. My own standard that isn’t in existence because I want to attract a mate or because I want to use my body as a status symbol among other women (hell, other men, either.) My own standard that exists because it not only keeps me fit, but protects my health, as well. No keeping an excess of fat because I’m scared of losing my booty; no starving myself because I want to look like [insert actress].

If I create my own standard while keeping in mind that it exists because of my own health and happiness, not creating a body that makes me happy because it makes “someone else” – usually men, especially since they seem to like a lot of pechonalidad – then guess what? The amount of confidence that comes from that can never be shaken. Ever.