Drastic Measures for Bullying Victims

August 8th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Is plastic surgery a solution, or part of the problem?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Watch the CNN footage of 14-year-old Georgia girl Nadia Ilse being interviewed by Sanjay Gupta, and you’ll probably agree that from here on out, she probably won’t be bullied much. Thanks to $40,000 of plastic surgery, she’s now a knockout.

Nadia told Gupta that since first grade, she had been called “elephant ears” and “Dumbo.” Once a social, happy-go-lucky kid, she turned into a lonely, introverted pre-teen. By the age of 10, she was begging her mother for surgery to pin her ears back, but her family couldn’t afford the procedure. 

But then Nadia’s mother discovered the New York City charity Little Baby Face Foundation, founded by plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Romo II. The foundation flew her and her mother to New York City, where she not only underwent the ear-pinning procedure, but also corrective work on her jawline and a partial rhinoplasty to fix a deviated septum. 

The benefits of plastic surgery donations are easy to see in third-world countries, where organizations like Smile Train and Operation Smile fly doctors in to fix major deformities like cleft palates. But Nadia’s story is reigniting the debate over whether kids who are bullied for their appearance should get “fixed” to end the bullying. As an article in the San Francisco Chronicle notes, “Parents will do just about anything to stop their kids from being bullied at school – but should they allow their kids to get plastic surgery? And if yes, how young is acceptable?” 

The number of teens getting plastic surgery has increased by 30 percent in the past decade, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. In fact, the Huffington Post reports, “In 2007 alone, about 90,000 youth underwent cosmetic surgery — though not all cases were the result of teasing.”

While Nadia was in New York, the charity did provide counseling, but some are suggesting that should have been the first step before major surgery. While such a charity may have good intentions, it also sends out a very clear message that plastic surgery is an answer to bullying.

Jacqueline Burt at The Stir writes, "In an ideal situation, Nadia would have learned to love herself exactly the way she was, ears and all." However, she’s also probably correct that the bullying wouldn’t have stopped if she didn’t have the ear-pinning surgery. The real problem, Burt says, are the extra surgeries the doctor suggested. While she has undergone a drastic transformation, she may not have learned that “perfection doesn’t protect anyone from bullying. Only self-esteem does.” 

What do you think? Is plastic surgery a viable solution for teens and pre-teens looking to escape bullying, or is it sending the wrong message?