Asian Americans in the US are increasingly opting for plastic surgery in order to look more like a White Caucusian. The pressure to alter one's features and body is almost endemic in every group and ethnic community in America, observers say. But the minorities feel the pressure more acutely.
According to a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the number of minorities getting plastic surgery quadrupled between 1997 and 2002. And in 2005 Asian-Americans had 437,000 cosmetic surgeries, up 58 percent from 2004.
One only needs to open a Vietnamese magazine or newspaper in San Jose or Orange County to see the onslaught of ads for cosmetic surgery: eyebrow tattoos, dimple and split chin fabrications, laser treatments for skin blemishes, facelifts, breast augmentations - and an easy-to-pay credit plan to facilitate such operations.
The most popular are nose and eye surgeries. For instance one has only to look at the online business directory of the Southern California, where the largest Vietnamese population in the United States resides. There are more than 50 local listings for cosmetic surgery in the directory.
Going under the knife in the name of beauty seems to have become a passion for Asians these days. That is a striking contrast with the past when they held on to their traditions proudly.
Andrew Lam, a noted commentator and of Vietnamese origin, recalls that Vietnamese children of mixed parentage, born of American soldiers during the war, used to be a permanent underclass. Perceived as children of the enemy, they were often derided, chastised and beaten.
But now those mixed children's features are coveted by many wealthy people in Saigon and Hanoi. They would do any thing to look like Americans.
In Korea, one in 10 adults have had some sort of cosmetic surgery procedure. In China the ban on cosmetic surgery was lifted in 2001. Since then the country is experiencing a boom in the cosmetic surgery industry. There are more than 10,000 medical institutions for cosmetic surgery and the industry is thriving. There is even an annual Miss Plastic Surgery beauty contest.
However, there is now a "look East" movement underfoot -- a growing Asian social consciousness in the United States and Asia. A classic Roman nose or a double eye-lid is not necessarily seen as the last word on beauty.
Plastic surgeons have begun to develop techniques to preserve ethnic characteristics and retain their identity.
"Ethnic correctness" is the new catch phrase in cosmetic surgery, reports Anna M. Park in Audrey Magazine, a fashion magazine for Asian-American readers.
Plastic surgeons are trying to understand better the anatomy of the Asian eye and are evolving more ethnically sensitive procedures, Park adds.