The “selfie,” or self-portrait obsession that has swept not just the nation but the globe can cost more than just the embarrassment of a snap gone wrong. It can cost more than a black mark on one’s reputation as the result of drunken selfies, inappropriate selfies, misguided selfies or otherwise obnoxious selfies. The selfie craze even cost President Obama a moment of political embarrassment when he was caught taking a selfie during the somber funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela in late 2013. In the case of one woman however, her apparent lack of esteem regarding her appearance cost her $15,000, which she spent on plastic surgery so that she was, at least in her own judgment, more “selfie-genic” in social media environments.
Millions of selfies are shared across the social media spectrum every day. However, unlike most people who improve their selfies though photo editing apps that are either free or less than a cup of gourmet coffee, 38-year-old Triana Lavey of Los Angeles, California chose a radical and costly route to a “Photoshopped” appearance. For a hefty sum, she went under the knife and had her face permanently altered to “improve” her “weak chin” and the shape of her nose. She also underwent the distasteful sounding but apparently quite effective procedure known as “fat grafting” in which fat is removed from the abdomen or buttocks and injected into areas of the face to achieve a plumping effect.
Lavey also undergoes regular treatments with Botox to control unwelcome wrinkles such as those that would otherwise naturally appear on her brow, around her eyes, or the wrinkles that many call “laugh lines.” Lavey claims that for her, Botox is as important a necessity as “rent, food, gasoline and medical insurance.”
Lavey, who is a talent manager for the public relations firm, uFluencer Group does not have to justify why she chose plastic surgery to alter her face. Plastic surgery is a practice so commonplace it is advertised daily on television. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2010 there were 112,955 facelifts, 208,764 eyelid surgeries and 252,761 nose jobs performed in just the United States.
What is interesting however is that Lavey claims to have had the surgery to perfect her selfie because of how she wanted to be perceived in the social media sphere and she states that a person’s “social media presence” is just as important as their “real-life presence.” This perspective is both interesting and disturbing in light of the fact that Lavey felt she had to change her appearance to conform to some societal conception of beauty in order to maximize her effectiveness in the social media arena. Potentially this sends a message that could be very detrimental to the self-esteem and body image perception of women of all ages. By her actions and subsequent comments, Lavey seems to say that a person’s appearance is more important than their words or behavior as they communicate and interact in the widespread world of social media.
uFluencer Group states on their company page that an influencer is someone who has the power to be a “compelling force” and produce “effects on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others.” Lavey says that a selfie should be considered a “headshot” and it appears that she believes her power to influence others will be heighted because of her investment in selfie perfection. She says that now, after her numerous plastic surgeries she has the face that she “always thought she had.” She says that she still looks like herself but now she looks “Photoshopped” all the time. With her $15,000 custom made face and a career focused on self-promotion, Lavey’s obsession with the perfect selfie may make her feel more attractive and increase her influence but, by her own definition, she has turned her face into a social media tool.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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