Tag Archives: plastic surgery

A Match Made in the O.R.

by Sala Levin

The dating ritual is replete with anxieties: What dress to wear? How long should I wait to call after the date? Is my nose so big that I’ll be single forever? Well, Orthodox denizens of greater Miami, Michael Salzhauer is here to help you with at least one of those worries. The plastic surgeon gained some notoriety last month for putting out a music video (called “Jewcan Sam”) in which a young man–played by the lead singer of The Groggers–with a prominent nose just can’t get the pretty girl to go on a date with him. In exchange for the band’s performance in the video, Salzhauer offered gratis nose jobs to any of its members. The lead singer took him up on it, but his character–now smooth-nosed–still didn’t get the girl. Now, Salzhauer is offering scholarships for free plastic surgery to Orthodox singles. Yes, really. We caught up with him to ask him about it. (The following is a lightly edited transcript.)

Is this for real? Are you serious about these scholarships?

Yes. I’ve done a fair amount of pro bono work over the years. I had been speaking with shadchans [matchmakers] for years, trying to tell them, “I’m here for you if you have clients you think could benefit but can’t afford it.” It’s still spoken about in hushed whispers, especially in Haredi communities. So I’ve been trying to coax them. They love the idea, but getting people to talk about it is kind of awkward. I’ve been getting a little bit of attention through this music video, so I’ve been using that to gain some attention for this free plastic surgery concept. It’s obviously not going to solve the shidduch crisis, but if it helps one person find their match, I think it’s worth the controversy.

How do you decide who gets a scholarship? What is the application process like?

This program is requiring a matchmaker to refer the patient so that I know that they’re seriously dating for marriage, that the shadchan thinks it would improve their chances, and that they don’t have the financial means to pursue plastic surgery otherwise.

How many will you grant? Will you perform any procedure requested?

If I get so busy that it’s overwhelming my practice I’d try to schedule them out or enlist the help of other plastic surgeons. By the nature of the community and the size of the issue, I don’t expect thousands of girls or boys. There’s no procedure that’s off the table. There are a lot of women with breast asymmetries, where one breast failed to develop, and especially in the Haredi communities, people are embarrassed to talk about it. That would be on the table. Even liposuction—if it’s a tiny area, I’d be happy to do those also. No procedures are off the table—it just has to be the right procedure for that person.

Who’s been applying?

The youngest one so far was 21 and I’ve received from people in their 40s and anything in between. I would say it’s about 70 percent female and 30 percent male.

Is plastic surgery really the answer for single people?

There’s no one answer for single people in general. However, I’ve seen in personal experience in my own practice girls and boys come in and they’re kind of shy and self-conscious, and plastic surgery gives them a huge boost in self esteem. They’re happier. They say, “What you did for me really opened up my life.” Parents tell me how much it opened up their children. I know from firsthand experience this does help people’s self-esteem: I had rhinoplasty, so I know how big a difference it can make. It’s something I believe in and that I’m passionate about. Is this going to solve all singles’ problems in the world? Of course not. But this is something that does help. I’ve reached a stage in my career that I have enough skill and experience that I can really help people. I’m trying to give back to the community that I’m part of. I understand this is controversial, but I think if it helps one girl or boy find their mate, it’s worth all the controversy.

You say that those under 18 can apply with parental consent. Do you have any qualms about performing surgery on minors? Should they even be thinking about marriage?

Of course they need parental consent, but I don’t have qualms about performing a rhinoplasty on a 14, 15 or 16 year old. We routinely pin back ears on seven- or eight-year-olds. I doubt that 14- or 15-year-olds are thinking about marriage. They usually don’t start dating until 17, 18 or 19, so I don’t think that will be an issue—but on the other hand, performing surgery on minors for cosmetic reasons has been done for a long, long time.

What has the community response been?

Surprisingly supportive, as controversial as the notion is. I think there’s general acceptance that it could help certain people. There are people out there that from the beginning don’t believe in plastic surgery, whatever that means. When I ask, “Well, if your children had crooked teeth and you took them to orthodontist and put metal braces and twisted their teeth, you wouldn’t say ‘Ugh, they’re so vain.’ You’d say, ‘Of course we’re straightening their teeth.’” That’s a purely cosmetic procedure. I don’t see where the moral argument comes in when you say straightening a crooked nose is different from straightening crooked teeth. It’s not like braces are necessary to eat or live. Neither is rhinoplasty, but it does enhance people’s self-esteem.

For Glee’s Lea Michele, A Nose is a Nose is a Nose is a Nose

by Amanda Walgrove

Last week’s episode of Glee preached the self-acceptance of mother monster Lady Gaga’s single, “Born This Way.” Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk used the hour-and-a-half special to cram in as many subplots as possible, advocating various avenues of self-love in coming to terms with sexuality, OCD, and physical imperfections. Revisiting a recurring reference of the show, Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele) finds herself struggling with the option of rhinoplasty, even though her idol, Barbra Streisand, refused to go under the knife.

The bossy, ambitious, and charmingly vulnerable Rachel gets served her own “Marsha Marsha Marsha” moment when she receives an accidental blow to the nose during a dance practice. Considering her deviated septum, a doctor suggests that it would be a good time for a “vanity adjustment.” Donning an impressive schnoz of his own, he reassures Rachel that his daughters had their noses done at sixteen and describes the cosmetic surgery as a “rite of passage for Jewish girls.” A conflicted Rachel, who has been consistently proud of her Jewish roots and concerned about her intended Broadway career, weakly offers, “But Barbra…” to which the doctor replies, “She’s also one in a million.” In other words, this is the norm, and Barbra, an unachievable ideal, is the exception.

At first, Rachel agrees to go through with the surgery, using the excuse that it will enrich her talents and help the glee club at nationals. In truth, Rachel wants to look more like Christian Barbie doll beauty, Quinn Fabray (played by Dianna Agron). Adding a real-life layer to this diverse comedy, Agron herself is actually Jewish, whereas Michele (born Lea Michele Sarfati) is of mixed ancestry. When Rachel shows the composite photos of her future nose to her fellow glee club members, she excitedly refers to them as “less Hebraic and more Fabray-ic.” Of course, Rachel doesn’t receive the support she desires. Self-described “hot Jew” and former love interest, Noah “Puck” Puckerman chimes in to say, “Every year girls show up to my temple after their sixteenth birthday and look suddenly slightly different…but they’re not as hot.”

With hormones raging, Puck has been known to associate a “Jewish” look with attractiveness. In the Season 1 episode, “Mash-Up,” he first became interested in Rachel after his mom pressured him to date a Jewish girl. Thus ensued a kitschy dream sequence in which Rachel came into his room through the window wearing a shining Star of David, stirring in Puck the feeling that they were destined to be together because of their religious ancestry: “It was a message from God: Rachel was a hot Jew and the good Lord wanted me to get in her pants.” Presented through the same lens of religious observance, Puck has also said that his family celebrates Simchat Torah by ordering Chinese food and watching Schindler’s List. Murphy and Falchuk have taken many liberties in representing complex societal archetypes on Glee and Puck’s adolescent Judaic enthusiasm is just one example among the mix.

It isn’t until her good friend Kurt stages a “Barbra-vention” that Rachel decides to cancel her appointment. Kurt delivers an inspiring speech, crediting Barbra with redefining the Hitchcockian ideal of blonde beauty and warning Rachel not to spit on that legacy. Additionally, Puck throws in that the supposed cosmetic “rite of passage” is not as important as upholding the nasal legacy: “Your nose has been passed down from generation to generation as a birthright. It’s a sign of the survival of our people.”

While Rachel could have opted to change her appearance in order to have her “ideal” nose, she removed herself from the societal pressure and, in true Rachel fashion, continued striving full-force towards that other ideal: Barbra’s “one-in-a-million” success story. Channeling the legendary singer, Kurt tells Rachel that she herself is one-in-a-billion and if she were to get a nose job, she would be letting down all the little girls who will look at her beautiful face one day and see themselves. An avid Barbra fanatic herself, Lea Michele told US Weekly last year, “I’ve always been proud of my body, my Jewish nose and all of that.” Michele also told the New York Daily News that she never thought there would be a place for her on television, citing her very specific look as a combination of Jewish and Italian ethnicities. But what the twenty-four year old actress described as specific may have just provided her with more universality than she thought. Be it be a Jewish nose, a bubbly personality, or an unforgiving desire to realize some elusive dream, Michele brings qualities to Rachel that are undeniably relatable.

Whether or not you find yourself to be a fan of Glee or this episode’s insipration Lady Gaga, both preachy vehicles have rapidly expanded into widely recognized media commodities, with intentions of speaking directly to a young generation. In an episode devoted to self-love in the face of societal differences, seeing Rachel embrace her nasal prominence in the name of a Jewish icon was endearing. In a famous 1977 interview, Ms. Streisand credited her deviated septum with producing her unique voice, saying, “If I ever had my nose fixed, it would ruin my career.” So besides chutzpah, how does one account for the commercial appeal of Lea Michele, forerunner Barbra Streisand and fictionally Broadway-bound Rachel Berry? Perhaps they were just born that way.