Pressure to fit the dominant standard of beauty is not just a black problem. Asians grapple with demands to look less “ethnic,” as evidenced by Julie Chen’s recent admission.
The co-host of CBS’ “The Talk” revealed she got surgery to look “less Asian” and advance her career as an on-air anchor:
“My secret dates back to – my heart is racing – it dates back to when I was 25 years old and I was working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio,” Julie began.
She then set the scene by showing a clip of what a young Julie Chen looked like as a reporter at one of her first jobs and explaining how it was her dream to be a network news anchor some day.
“So, I asked my news director… over the holidays if anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in? And he said, ‘You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese.’ He said ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera, you look disinterested and bored.’
“So, what am I supposed to say to my boss? I wanted to cry right then and there. It felt like a dagger in my heart, because all of my life I wanted to be a network anchor,” she continued.
A “big-time agent” then encouraged her to get the plastic surgery to look “less Asian” saying he wouldn’t represent her without it. She had the procedure done, and still grapples with her decision.
Admitting it divided her family, Chen says she often wondered: “Did I give into The Man?”
The truth is most minorities struggle with that question, on varying levels, daily. Chen’s career took off after her surgery but at a grave cost that for some, just isn’t worth it.