Erasing Ethnicity With a Knife?

More and more minorities are changing their features with plastic surgery.

ByABC News via logo

March 28, 2007 — -- More Americans are going under the knife than ever before, but for minorities, the rise is especially sharp.

From 2000 to 2005, there was a 65 percent increase in what experts call "ethnic plastic surgery." The types of surgeries some women of color are choosing aren't conventional breast implants or face-lifts. Instead, many are narrowing the nose by reconstructing bone and cartilage, or enlarging the eyes by creating an eyelid.

Some say they're doing away with an ethnic feature that signifies a certain race.

Katherine Cha, a second-generation Korean, had surgery to create a crease in her eyelids. "I'm not looking for huge eyes, but I do want it to look a little more open," she said before the procedure.

"It just looks more attractive when I do this in the mirror," Cha said as she pulled up her eyelid. "I just want that."

Cha's is a very popular surgery in the Asian community. Roughly 50 percent of Asian-American patients get eyelid lifts and eye lifts.

After Dr. Ryan Stanton lifted just three millimeters of Cha's eyelid, her eyes looked noticeably bigger. Stanton said the aim of the surgery was not to make Cha look less Asian.

"The goal is not to become like a Caucasian, but to improve what they already have," he said.

Cha believes she simply looks better with a bigger crease in her eyelid, and that doesn't mean she's pursuing a Western standard of beauty. For her, beauty today is multi-ethnic.

"I don't think it necessarily means that we want to be more white. It's just that we know what looks attractive, and we want to accomplish that," she said. "You know, you see different types of beauty, and then collectively just kind of take a little here and there."

Dr. Amiya Prasad, who has seen an uptick in ethnic surgeries, said his patients of color usually didn't want to make drastic changes or abandon their ethnic characteristics.

"When someone comes to me for a procedure like that, they are certainly very proud of their heritage and often will emphasize they don't want to change their appearance so radically," he said.

One of Prasad's patients, Loren Harris, a black woman, came to him looking to slim down her nose.

"I don't feel it fits my face," she said. "I feel like a straighter nose, which may be on the more Caucasian side, might look better."

Americans have always embraced a cultural melting pot, and with increasing globalization, the human race seems to be blending more and more. It's an idea Michael Jackson explored in his 1991 music video "Black or White," which morphed people from one race to another.

And it's not just people of color trying to change their image. Plastic surgeons say many white people are attempting to look more ethnic as well.

"A Caucasian thinner person of maybe Irish descent, who typically would have thin lips, is coming in to have Restylane injections to enhance their lips," Prasad said. "And so … that's a really interesting blending of ethnicity that is also considered very attractive."

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