Image Description: Syringes with different chemicals injections into a red apple on an orange background.
When we think of reality stars we think of their aesthetics; the long (often) blonde extensions, the big pout, chiselled jaws, plumped up cheekbones and cute button notes. Such trends and the silent agreement of what is beautiful, results in all these stars looking vaguely related, especially in the cross-over episode nature of the world of UK reality TV.
However, the tide is turning and reality stars are increasingly jumping on a new trend bandwagon of cosmetic procedure reversals. Reality stars such as Love Island’s Molly Mae Hague, TOWIE’S Chloe Sims, and Ex On The Beach’s Megan McKenna have followed one after the other in dissolving their lip fillers and other cosmetic modifications. In many cases they cite the personal nature of their choices, the realisation that it was time for a change and the desire to return to a more natural look.
Molly Mae Hague shared a YouTube video in October of 2020 taking her viewers through the process of having her lip fillers dissolved. She stated she had been using lip fillers since she was 17 and now wanted a more natural appearance. As well as her lips, Hague has also dissolved the filler in her cheeks and jaw and has dissolved the composite bonding on her teeth. Since going through these procedures Hague has said that she’s much happier.
The same can be seen with TOWIE’S Chloe Sims who had her lip fillers dissolved in April and Megan Mckenna who also dissolved her filler in March citing body dysmorphia as a trigger and criticising Instagram for feeding into body insecurities through filters and lies.
All these stars documented and publicised their latest aesthetic decisions on Instagram and YouTube, and who can blame them when their primary occupation is that of influencing. Social media accounts are littered with before and after photos that feed into the shock factor that has people hooked on celebrity lives, and taps into peoples’ enjoyment of the highs and lows of influencer culture which allows them to live vicariously through others.
Social media accounts are littered with before and after photos that feed into the shock factor that has people hooked on celebrity lives, and taps into peoples’ enjoyment of the highs and lows of influencer culture which allows them to live vicariously through others.
Is this trend for reversing cosmetic procedures and opting for a more natural look a product of lockdown? For many of us lockdown was a time to be casual and comfortable with joggers, messy hair and no make-up. Bras were ditched (though not burnt) and online retailers reported increased sales of loungewear. Over the various lockdowns there was also an emerging transparency around mental health with health influencers and self help sites encouraging people not to get stressed and downcast over their productivity levels, and instead focus on being more in tune with their mind and body. Is this natural look part of that?
Excuse the cynic in me, but can this move actually be understood as a move by influencers to jump on the emerging trends of natural living and embracing your inner beauty? Have Hague, Sims, and McKenna seen a change in the zeitgeist and, in a bid to stay relevant, tried to make a point and prove that they too can be counted among the wellness club members? Is it all ultimately a capitalistic, consumerist con that their tens of thousands of adoring Instagram fans are falling for?
Possibly. Whether it is or not, I think that tackling issues of body dysmorphia and social pressures is important. Reality stars are coming out and sharing their issues regarding their bodies. Although sensationalist newspapers such as The Sun, and The Daily Mail often skip over stars’ admission of mental health issues, the idea that cosmetic surgeries are reactions to unrealistic beauty standards that have serious mental health implications is beginning to figure in the wider conversation. But the gossip columns’ cavalier dealing of such admissions is symptomatic of a wider denial that reality stars might be struggling, such is the extent of their de-personalisation and commodification. Instead we focus on the before and after which feeds into the attitude that finally, these frivolous stars have seen the light and we can all laugh at their stupid previous decisions.
But the gossip columns’ cavalier dealing of such admissions is symptomatic of a wider denial that reality stars might be struggling, such is the extent of their de-personalisation and commodification.
But where’s the sympathy and the discussion of the deeper issue? Where is the discussion that ignoring stars’ admissions of body dysmorphia, mental health problems and eating disorders will lead to difficulties later down the line? It’s not simply narcissism and vanity. The real issue that ought to be tackled, especially following such a turbulent period where ideas of self love and positivity boomed, is that discussion of mental health and the reactionary behaviours it can cause is necessary if we want to see a wider change in culture.