The charity Little Baby Face appears to usually deal with children who have cleft palates, facial palsy and hearing restoration. Physically Ilse's case is mild, but ongoing bullying has had a strong emotional affect so the charity agreed to go ahead and fund surgery.
That's great! While they haven't done Will Smith any harm, I have heard stories of protruding ears being more trouble than they're worth so huzzah! Good for Nadia Ilse and well done Little Baby Face. The before and after pictures look great, she's glowing, who knew an otoplasty and an eyebrow shape could do so much...
When the interviewer asks Dr Romo: “She never talked about the nose and chin before, right?” he's informed that no Ilse never mentioned her crazily pointed chin or her distractingly crooked nose but these features had now been noted as something she should be insecure about and therefore needed to be corrected (I paraphrase).
Should a 14 year old undergo cosmetic surgery as severe as rhinoplasty, otoplasty and mentoplasty? The charity, founded by Dr Romo, thought so and gave Ilse $40,000 worth of surgery. Post-op Ilse was delighted: “I look beautiful, this is exactly what I wanted, I love it.”
Ilse is about to undergo a series of counselling sessions and she says she is well aware that the bullying might continue but argues it would have continued whether or not she's taken action.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what teenage girls truly need to improve their self worth. Is it education? Access to 'corrective' cosmetic surgery? To be supported and taught to be more supportive? Should we be dealing with the victims or the perpetrators? Do we even have to make a choice?
This young woman was by no means deformed and I think we've all learned (yes the hard way) either you grow into your looks or that unsightly feature suddenly becomes the quirk that makes you attractive. Of course I know full well when you're a teenager such foresight is nigh on impossible. The idea I would ever even hit my 20s and be free of school seemed implausible, the notion I would ever miss having a round face? Phh!
Rather cruelly the growth spurt my nose had at 18 was never matched by the rest of me, at 14 I saw a documentary about a girl who had had her legs lengthened and begged my mother for similar surgery. She said I was being silly and that I'd grow. I finally hit 5'1½ feet aged 20 and I am the shortest in my family. But now, even though I can't reach, I like being short. Also, for the record, I happen to find a large nose an extremely attractive feature.
I am not trying to trivialise this teenage girl's suffering and insecurities. My desire for leg surgery was quite sincere and there's no follow up ha-ha remark of 'I also wanted Claire-From-Steps hair' and at 5'1 ½ I can certainly vouch for the fact sometimes you don't grow out of these things. Pun kind of intended.
It is also not a comfort to be told as a teenager that in spite of the consistency of their peers' snidey remarks everyone is way more concerned worrying one boob will now refuse to develop because Robert Tang-Richardson (uh, yeah that's a pseudonym...) punched them directly in the right nipple. For example.
So what do we do about this, teenage insecurities I mean, not my right boob. Do we counsel future self acceptance, do we take a seemingly more proactive stance and offer them surgery instead of saying the hopeless sounding 'you haven't finished growing'. Or have Little Baby Face just vindicated a teenage girl and her bullies? In Jodie Marsh's documentary called My Secret Past about the bullying she'd suffered at school she described how teasing about her nose caused her parents to pay for her cosmetic surgery. Instead of putting a stop to the bullying it merely fanned the flames and she was called Michael Jackson at school.
Writing about Ilse, Jessica Valenti quotes writer Jaclyn Friedman who told Valenti the problem “isn't that girls don't know their worth – it's that they absolutely do know their value in society.” The issue is that girls and women are well aware how their value is based on their looks.
We desperately need to start finding more value in a woman's intelligence, wit or physical ability and talent. Perhaps the real answer to 'I hate my [insert physical feature here]' should be 'so what' instead of 'that's silly, you're beautiful'.