Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? Or the Holder of the Scalpel?

With modern medicine able to turn men into women, women into men, and Octomom into Angelina Jolie, it’s not just our chins, chests, buttocks, and eyelids changing. But also our concept of beauty. You could argue that cosmetic surgery’s goal is to make human begins more attractive. (Yes, there are surgery aficionados who use it for other purposes.) But invariably, when a rhinoplasty goes awry, or calf implants are bungled, a tummy tuck botched, and a face lift too tight, we’re left with persons who are not conventionally beautiful. But are they still, well, beautiful?

British photographer Phillip Toledano takes us on that journey here, and it is riveting.

Is self-professed plastic surgery addict Steve Erhardt — who’s had over 40 procedures and spent more than a quarter million dollars — beautiful? Is he disfigured? Somewhere in between?

This post isn’t an opportunity to call people “ugly.” “Ugly” is a terribly ugly word. But every day we spot more folks at Starbucks, the gym, sitting in traffic, who are obviously not entirely creatures of God. A nose too upturned. A forehead too taut for one’s age. Breasts that are twice the circumference as the woman’s waist. All efforts by these individuals to make themselves more beautiful. To themselves? To us? To their creator?

(h/t to the nine people who sent us this link)

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  • The Milkman

    Lord have mercy, those are some freaky pics.

    Strange. I’m all for cosmetic surgery if one approaches it with a degree of moderation. But I always think, especially when it comes to male patients, that the best course of action would be to take one step back from the surgical plan and do just a little less than the patient thinks is needed.

    It’s the surgical analog to Coco Chanel’s famous and very true instructions… before going out for the evening, a lady should always stop in front of the mirror and remove one piece of jewelry.

    Sometimes less really is more.

  • Scottie

    Instead of seeing a plastic surgeon to make them more deformed-looking, these people need to see a psychiatrist. The pictures are absolutely horrid. When someone looks at you, wouldn’t you rather have them say how attractive you are than being horrified and saying what have you done?!?

  • Lukas P.

    Forensics scientists will sometimes create an image of what a corpse’s face would have looked like while the person was still alive. They do that to try to identify an unclaimed body and solve a crime.

    Anthropologists will sometimes resort to similar reconstructions to help us imagine what early man may have looked like, or guess who Cleopatra or King Tut may have resembled.

    That’s what these photos remind me of. It’s a humanoid. Its got facial features, the way that Sims characters do or animated movie people seem to. The parts don’t seem to match each other. The features possibly don’t move like normal lips, eyes, skin, and forehead are supposed to.

    I can’t say with certainty I won’t get a hair transpant or veneers on my teeth someday. I know people who have had a little lift, a nip, a tuck, whatever, to get back something they had but lost. They feel better about themselves for it.

    Where things get dicey is when people don’t think about the risks involved with the surgery, or have unrealistic expectations of how that new chin will change their whole life.

    It’s like what happens when you redo your kitchen and realize that the living room now looks worse than ever before. Oh, just notices that the hallway flooring doesn’t really match now. Crap, what about the stairway and that guest bathroom?!

  • romeo

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but an appreciation for certain symmetries, etc., is hardwired in the brain, or so I’ve read. Most people know beautiful when they see it, and it has a great deal to do with naturalness. For instance, for all the surgery, there is no comparison with the natural balances and planes on Angelina’s face compared with Octomom. The people that go to these extremes just have no taste. AND they don’t understand that plastic surgeons are limited in what they can accomplish by what they start out with. Marilyn Monroe had her nose bobbed and a chin implant, and, of course, it turned out gorgeous because the surgeon had Marilyn to work with. He was just making minor improvements, he wasn’t reinventing the wheel. These people’s attempts to reconstruct themselves are kind of doomed because they’re just not seeing what’s in the mirror. Most of them would look far better if they set more realistic aspirations. But I know living here in LA that that ain’t gonna happen. LOL

  • Sam

    I find this whole topic both gruesome and fascinating.

  • Tina

    I find this topic offensive and transphobic.

    People are beautiful in all shapes.

  • David

    They all look like sci-fi aliens.

  • ChicagoJimmy

    I think most healthy people accept and adapt to the realities in our lives. For me, I know I’ll never be tall. That is simply something I must reconcile myself with. No matter how much I would love to be a model, basketball player, or just tall, dark and handsome it just isn’t in the cards for me. Rather than focus on what I don’t have I try to focus on what I do, like a welcoming smile, a cute butt, a great head of blond hair, etc.

    I feel sorry for folks like Heidi Montag and those pictured who just seem so insecure with themselves that they mutilate their bodies.

    This is completely different than someone suffering psychologically because of a cleft palate, scarring, or gender identity.

  • Fitz

    I have had two “turn back the clock a bit” procedures, and I love them– Because my face matches my energy level and lifestyle and self image. I don’t know if I will re-do them.. . time is moving on… but I am glad that I got to reset the clock for a while.

  • tamops

    This incessant need to want to be beautiful. Yes they are beautiful, but so what?

  • romeo

    “Resetting the clock” is fine. My mom had some work done, but that was just a little “restoration” not reconstruction. If I’ve got the money when the time comes, I might want to turn back the clock a bit, too. The problem is people who want to create a whole new person, which plastic surgery is not equipped to do. I see work here in LA all the time, literally ALL THE TIME. And in some cases it’s obvious that in order to achieve what’s desired would require, not plastic surgery, but a HEAD TRANSPLANT. Though I think they’re doing it a little better now, some of the lip work you see here seems particularly counterproductive. Presumably, you get stuff done so people will like you, but with those lips! I don’t want to start a conversation with these people. I mean, I speak four languages with varying degrees of proficiency, but I have no DUCK at all.

  • Kyle24

    Why not eat healthy, drink lots of water, work out and stay out of the sun? I know a couple people who have gotten work done but these are they same imbeciles who bake in the sun, drink like fish and smoke like a chimney. A healthy lifestyle will prevent the need for all this crazy “cosmetic” surgery.

  • B Damion

    I just think we look the way we are to look to attract the person that will find us attractive…”Eye of the beholder”

  • The Milkman

    @Tina: No they’re not. We’re not talking about inner spiritual beauty here. We’re talking about external appearance and how it can be modified surgically to enhance or destroy the original.

  • romeo

    @Kyle #24: You’re right in principle, but, unfortunately, no matter how healthy the lifestyle, there’s still such a thing as gravity. LOL That was mom’s problem. Her stuff worked out great, but she has killer cheekbones, so she didn’t need a major overhaul.

  • Fitz

    @romeo: Exactly.. I think my lifestyle is very very healthy. If it weren’t, then there would be no point in what I did. You have to take care of yourself, or you will look like crap no matter what. Gravity and environmental damage happens.

  • romeo

    Most people are not as ugly as they think they are, anyway. If you’re the Hunchback of Notre Dame, then, yeah, get some work done, but most people just need to take care of their bodies, and skin in particular, and cultivate a friendly manner.

  • terrwill

    Who the fcuk was its plastic surgeon?? Dr Frankenstein????

  • Lukas P.

    A neighbor of mine got butt-cheek “enhancements.” He takes great care of his body, has a trainer, goes to the gym 4-5 x/week, eats right, etc..

    The procedures were expensive, and frankly not that noticible. But, his whole mood, attitude and demeanor changed as a result, and people did start treating him differently. He thinks it was due to implants. It’s hard to say. I mean, I know him well enough to grab his ass when invited, but not to engage in the psycho-babble!

    I kind of wonder about whether he’ll get any additional work done. The surgeon apparently has a psychologist screen people for unrealistic expectations and body image disorders, etc. That’s smart!

  • missanthrope

    As long as they’ve got the money to pony up for the procedures I have no problem, they can do what they want with their bodies and it’s not up to us to tell them otherwise. This guy does look freaky though.

  • MissSenile

    He must be related to Jocelyn Wildenstein the cat woman. Freaks all!

  • jhm

    those pictures are beautiful…they look like paintings almost…the subjects are interesting, you have to admit, but they are great pics!!!

  • Chris

    I’m sorry, but NONE of these people are attractive to me. Steve Erhardt is just a hideous, lazy fug monster with NO self esteem. I am not impressed by anyone with pec, calf, or bicep implants. That’s worse than steroids because this lazy ass doesn’t want to go to the gym and get a hot body the hard way. They all look like they have had the exact same work done – Michael Jackson noses and Daffy Duck lips. They are all idiots.

  • La Belle Otero

    The strange thing is how many of them look the same: squirrel-like cheekbones, strangely slanted eyes, inflated lips. It’s like that is the ideal.

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