March 27, 2002 -- Do you wish you had Halle Berry's cheeks or Nicole Kidman's nose? If only you had just a particular body part of your favorite celebrity … then life would be great.
You're not alone. Cosmetic surgeons are being besieged by starstruck clients demanding specific features of celebrities.
The Need to Look Beautiful
Perhaps nowhere is the need for someone else's look so urgently felt as in Los Angeles, where even the most beautiful people in the world can feel insecure about how they look.
"Out here, everybody's beautiful and, you know, a lot of people pay for it," says Leigh Ann Spence, 28, a former Denver Broncos cheerleader who now works as a financial analyst in North Hollywood, Calif. "Especially in a town like Los Angeles, it's all about how you look."
Neal Gabler, a cultural historian and media critic who wrote Life, the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, agrees. "In Hollywood, everyone has to be youthful and everyone has to look good," he says.
Spence had a nose job two and a half years ago, but wasn't happy with the results. So she's about to get her third nose from Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Fleming, who spends about 40 percent of his practice hours working on celebrities.
Fleming's motto: "If you want to, and you can, do it."
This time, Spence's point of reference is Nicole Kidman's nose, which she calls "perfect."
In fact, Nicole Kidman's nose is one of the most requested body parts by his clients, says Fleming, who has gotten so many requests for celebrities' features that he compiles an annual list of the favorites.
This year's most requested eyes belong to Heather Graham. Hottest cheeks: Halle Berry's. The most lusted-after lips: Denise Richards. The most asked-for jawline: Cate Blanchett. And the hottest body: Britney Spears.
Fleming can do some magic with his scalpel, but he admits that a 60-year-old woman can't walk out of his office looking 20 again.
So can Spence get a Nicole Kidman nose? "It's very realistic for her to achieve that," Fleming says.
And it 's not just women lining up for that certain look: Men now make up half of Fleming's patients. They're often looking for Edward Burns' nose, Johnny Depp's jawline and Will Smith's body.
Hollywood’s 11th Commandment: Don’t Tell
But there's a peculiar irony in this game of copying celebrities' features: The firm chin or high cheekbone you love so much on the silver screen may not actually have been heaven-sent.
"There are a lot of people on the hot body list that were not born with the particular characteristic that is now referred to when people come through the door," says Fleming. "Anybody older than a mouseketeer in Hollywood has had some cosmetic surgery."
The same way some women might diet before a big event, the Academy Awards brings celebrities into cosmetic surgeons' offices in droves for some last-minute primping.
Fleming compares the increase in his workload to tax season for an accountant. "People want to come in and have little peels, small laser procedures, contouring, maybe a little liposuction," he says.
According to a survey by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a trade group, four out of five American women say they wouldn't be embarrassed if people knew they had plastic surgery. But celebrities who might openly talk about their drug addiction or alcoholism are still reluctant to admit they've gone under the knife, says Fleming.
"It's always been kind of an unwritten 11th commandment: They don't talk about it," says Fleming. "They'll want to schedule surgery in the evenings, they'll want to schedule the entire clinic for the day" just to keep it a secret that they are not physically perfect.
"Hollywood will accept two-faced people, but they won't accept people with two chins," says Fleming.
Who Has, Who Hasn’t
Though Fleming won't talk about his own patients, he claims that plenty of celebrities have had work done, unbeknownst to most people.
"Burt Lancaster had his facelift … Dean Martin had his nose done," says Fleming, and John Wayne, when he was in his 60s, had cosmetic surgery on his neck and eyelids before going on to make 11 more films.
"Without cosmetic surgery, gravity always wins," says Fleming, pointing out that Gary Cooper had some work done, as did Marilyn Monroe, who had a chin implant that changed her jawline.
Though Michael Douglas denies it, Fleming says he's had a facelift and some eye surgery. "There is no way to get from point A 10 years ago to point B today without cosmetic surgery," says Fleming. "It's very obvious … they look different. I mean, it's not because of their herbs or their guru or their yoga. They've had a physical change."
Gabler says it's part of our culture that Americans resort to plastic surgery. "We live in a dictatorship," he says. "We like to think of ourselves as a democracy, but we live in a dictatorship. It's the dictatorship of the 18 to 49 demographic cohort. They rule everything!"
People who go under the knife usually want to look natural, says Fleming, as if their new features are their own.
"If somebody walks up to an individual … and says 'I love your nose, who did it?' that's not a compliment. " says Fleming.