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Bella Hadid's plastic surgery honesty sets a high celebrity bar

Hadid’s candor won’t dismantle beauty standards, or stop every teen pining for an unnecessary nose job. But it's a start.
Image: Bella Hadid
Model Bella Hadid walks the runway for the Givenchy Fall-Winter 2022-23 collection fashion show during the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week, in Nanterre, France, on March 6.Julien De Rosa / AFP - Getty Images file

In a March 15 Vogue cover story, supermodel Bella Hadid spoke candidly about intimate topics like dealing with an eating disorder and managing mental illness. But it was the 25-year-old’s surprising regrets about getting plastic surgery as a teenager that feel most noteworthy.

In the interview, Hadid admitted for the first time publicly (after years of intensive media speculation and her own insistent denials) that she did indeed have a nose job at 14, explaining that she underwent the procedure after always feeling “uglier” than her older sister, fellow supermodel Gigi. Considering how few celebrities — especially models like Hadid — openly cop to having work done, that honesty alone is significant. But ultimately what followed her admission is more important, as Hadid noted that she now wishes she’d “kept the nose of my ancestors,” believing she would’ve “grown into” her natural nose over time.

With over 50 million Instagram followers and global name recognition, Hadid wields huge influence, especially over her millennial and Generation Z peers. Paparazzi photos of her tiny sunglasses or ‘90s shoulder bags have helped popularize nostalgic fashion trends, and as she acknowledged to Vogue, her style is so widely imitated that she can look outside and “see a hundred people dressed exactly like me.” Even those who don’t follow her on social media may still be subliminally affected by her fashion.

Image: Bella Hadid
Bella Hadid attends the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education's 15th Grand Slam for Children benefit concert at the Wynn Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, on Oct. 9, 2010.Denise Truscello / WireImage file

While Hadid’s style is clearly influential, so is her facial structure. Plastic surgeons have said her nose is cited as an ideal shape by people contemplating a procedure, with one U.K. doctor telling The Daily Mail in 2021 that hers was the most requested face of the previous year. Many of those requests may have come from teenagers. In 2020, there were 229,000 cosmetic procedures performed on adolescents, including 88,000 surgeries, per the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons’ Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. Nose jobs were by far the most popular choice, with over 44,686 teenage procedures recorded.

Of course, there’s no way to know exactly how many of those surgeries were inspired by Hadid’s face. And while side-by-side photos of Hadid as a pre-fame teenager and an adult have long fueled surgery rumors, she’s never previously admitted going under the knife. But that’s just another reason why her Vogue cover is consequential. Plastic surgery is a major life-changing decision. We see the finished product, but behind the scenes, surgery risks physical side effects like scarring and nerve damage, and, not infrequently, mental health consequences like post-surgery depression or increased body dysmorphia. The latter is especially challenging for adolescents, 1 in 7 of whom suffer from a mental disorder per the World Health Organization, and all of whom have both brains and bodies still in the process of developing.

The negative impacts of unrealistic beauty standards are amplified on social media, and this may be especially damaging for Hadid’s main fan demographic.

The negative impacts of unrealistic beauty standards are amplified on social media, and this may be especially damaging for Hadid’s main fan demographic. The Wall Street Journal’s explosive 2021 report on Facebook’s internal research stated that 6 percent of teens with suicidal thoughts cited Instagram as a cause. And according to an internal Facebook presentation, “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” With its endless feed of models and influencers, the app has given its most impressionable users plenty of reasons to feel insecure about their own features. Moreover, when celebrities deny that their altered appearances are due to anything other than dieting and good lighting, they may be worsening their young fans’ confusion and anxiety.

Hadid noted that her widely celebrated look came with a very specific cost — losing a physical connection to her heritage. And, as she added, she has no idea what she could have looked like as an adult. She also has obviously benefited from her teenage decision: Hadid is now one of the highest-paid models in the world. But as she told Vogue, the decision she made at 14 — with her parents’ consent — still haunts her. That’s a reality more celebrities need to be honest about.

Hadid’s candor won’t dismantle beauty standards, or prevent every teen considering plastic surgery from going through with the procedure. And it’s also frustratingly late, coming after repeated assurances by both the model and her mother, “Real Housewives” star Yolanda Hadid, that she had never altered her face through surgery or fillers. For some people, the star’s frankness now may not be enough to make up for those years of denial. But for others, Hadid’s confession may, hopefully, help them see past what TikTok and Instagram filters say they should look like, and feel confident that they are already their best selves, no surgery required.