Progressive politics, ideas & culture

July-August 2004

Plastic fantastic!

Annette BourdeauWebsite@abourdeau

Cosmetic enhancement for the common folk

Live injection demonstrations were a highlight of the show.

A few days after Cinar co-founder Micheline Charest died while undergoing her “spring lift,” I received a brochure in the mail for the third-annual New You consumer trade show, designed to inform the masses about medical cosmetic augmentation. Intrigued, I immediately cleared my schedule. In a world where everything is for sale, including enhancement of every imagining, I wanted to see who would actually attend such a trade show this far north of the Hollywood Hills.

When the time comes, the New You show gives the normally stodgy Metro Toronto Convention Centre a facelift of its own, transforming it into a mecca of the aesthetically enhancing. Exhibitors run the gamut from Botox purveyors to plain old wrinkle cream manufacturers and even a lonely looking fudge salesman. Much to my surprise, Pamela Anderson clones are in the minority; most of the visitors who shelled out $12 to interact with plastic surgeons and dermatologists are average-looking businesswomen and soccer moms, many with husbands and kids in tow.

Demonstration stages flank the exhibition hall, with the Botox stage garnering the most attention from curious onlookers. Speakers wrap up their presentations with injection demonstrations simulcast on two large screens anchoring the stage to give the crowd a clearer, if more unsettling, view.

Downstairs, seminars provide a quieter setting to learn about advancements in cosmetic surgery. Dr. Peter Adamson’s “Are You a Good Candidate for Plastic Surgery?” is one of the biggest draws. A plastic surgeon with a clinic in Toronto’s Yorkville, Adamson looks like a cross between Jack Layton and Steve Martin. He tells the crowd that cosmetic surgery can’t remove every imperfection, make you physiologically younger or fix interpersonal problems. It’s important, he emphasizes, to go under the knife with more reasonable expectations. “My name’s Jack, not Jesus,” he quips.

Adamson says you can expect surgery to improve specific imperfections, decrease the visible signs of aging and improve your self-esteem, not make you look like a supermodel. He says many of his clients undergo surgery to gain an advantage in business. One client is the chairman of a large corporation who was tired of having the young guys at the boardroom table regard him as the old lion, so he had an eyelift.

Adamson has some clients on hand to provide testimonials, including Maria, an attractive twenty-something who had rhinoplasty to minimize her “Greek nose.” Maria’s father is against cosmetic surgery, so she had the operation on the sly. It wasn’t easy, as she lives with her parents. But, apparently, dad still hasn’t noticed, which is remarkable because the difference between the before and after shots is quite obvious. It isn’t that Maria is any prettier after the surgery, but her most prominent feature in the before photos is her nose, while in the after shots her eyes are the first thing you notice. “You really see a good rhinoplasty in the eyes,” Adamson remarks.

As I leave the trade show, I begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with me for slowly embracing my own big schnoz. The convention has more of a PTA meeting feeling to it than the scene out of The Stepford Wives I had expected. There are no rich and famous people (unless you count Joan Rivers and Carla Collins), just average folks looking to buy back some of their youthfulness to stay afloat in our age-phobic society. I shudder and make a mental note to move someplace where aging is embraced and big noses add character. Does such a place even exist anymore?

Annette Bourdeau is a graduate of Ryerson university’s magazine journalism program and a former This Magazine intern.

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