Reaction to Chen’s surgery secret: Empathy and outrage

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Julie Che confessed to having plastic surgery as a young news reporter.

Julie Che confessed to having plastic surgery as a young news reporter.

The Talk co-host Julie Chen got a big secret off her chest this morning when she revealed that she’d had plastic surgery years ago on the advice of a boss who said she looked “too Chinese.”

Chen says back in her Dayton, Ohio days a news director told her, “Because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera, when you’re interviewing someone you look disinterested and bored because your eyes are so heavy, they are so small.’ ”

(Chen’s revelation was part of a themed week of secrets on The Talk where fellow co-host Sharon Osbourne revealed a past romance with Jay Leno and Aisha Tyler opened up about her struggles with infertility.)

Chen said the comment and more like it from other bosses and superiors pushed her into getting plastic surgery to alter her appearance.

The confession has some fellow Asian Americans in the media empathizing with Chen.

“It’s really unfortunate that an individual has to think that their outer appearance will determine their future and will determine their job prospects. I honestly do empathize with her situation,” says David Yi, a Korean-American freelance fashion journalist and style expert.

But Yi adds that going to such great lengths to change one’s appearance is not the natural next step as he sees it.

“There are so many women in the media who have gone through this,” Yi says. “One example is Oprah Winfrey. They said that her hair was too frizzy. They said that she had too much of an ‘ethnic, black’ look, but that didn’t stop her. It’s a testimony to Oprah’s strength and her talent that she could surpass what she looked like physically and show people that they should open up to her because she is someone that should be embraced.”

On Twitter, reaction was split among those who feel badly for Chenand others who consider her a sellout for succumbing to racist demands.

“You looked fine b4,” user @Autumnbaby_NYC tweeted. “Too bad the self-hate & white-worship bug that plagues so many Asian Women bit u too. #sellout.”

@AMuller6 wrote, “Julie Chen: I got surgery for my ‘Asian eyes’ BS Julie. How about don’t sell out? Weak.”

But, there were others who tweeted their support for Chen, who also made news this summer when several contestants on her show Big Brother directed racist comments at their fellow houseguests.

“Julie your (sic) awesome on the talk..who cares if you had your eyes done..I love you anyways,” wrote jodiann3204.

@MCKBA applauded Chen’s courage. “Thank you #JulieChen for being so #brave to share your story!”

Yi adds that although he has not come up against the overt racism Chen faced, there have been moments where his appearance seems to matter more than his abilities.

“Being Asian-American and especially as someone who wants to pursue television, there have been some people who have been like, ‘Well, we don’t know if an Asian-American face will make it on TV.’ I don’t have a ‘traditional’ look, but that’s just going to make me work harder so that my talent speaks for itself.”

Courtesy of USA Today

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