In 2011, as WHAS 11 in Louisville began converting to high-definition television cameras, meterologist Reed Yadon saw career clouds developing. The longtime broadcaster and 17-year veteran of the station was enjoying his career more than ever, but he was no longer comfortable with his on-camera appearance.
It’s especially heightened for broadcasters, but personal appearance is such an important form of branding for individuals in every field that thousands of Kentucky business professionals undergo procedures to enhance theirs.
Yadon is an avid runner who’s always taken care of himself, but years of sun damage plus the effects of gravity and time had changed his face into someone who looked older than he felt. (Yadon says he is “old enough to know better” than reveal his age.)
High-definition television seemed to shine a light on all of his flaws, he said.
“HD is a big deal in television,” he said. “All of the sudden, you’re dealing with television that can show things it didn’t show before. The cameras are better, the detail is better, the TV sets at home are better.”
Yadon’s employers did not pressure him about his appearance and he wasn’t necessarily facing having to give up his job, but his misgivings about wrinkles, sunspots, a deep frown line and “sleepy eyes” had caused him to lose confidence in front of the camera. He wanted to look his best at work on the air.
“I was concerned about some of these blemishes that we all have on our faces being more recognizable … even more pronounced in HD than in standard definition,” Yadon said.
Rather than retire and allow a younger face to take his place, Yadon decided to take matters into his own hands – or rather, into the hands of plastic surgeon Dr. T. Gerald O’Daniel.
He first met the Louisville surgeon in 2001, when O’Daniel repaired a deviated septum Yadon had suffered with much of his adulthood. (When the thin wall separating the right and left nasal cavities deviates to one side, it can reduce airflow, cause breathing difficulty, nosebleeds and other symptoms.)
Though Yadon had heard rhinoplasty surgery horror stories and expected black eyes and great pain, he was pleasantly surprised how well and quickly he recovered. The meteorologist was back on the air within the week.
Impressed, he began a conversation with O’Daniel about getting a facelift. It took 10 years to take the plunge, but then Yadon did it in a really big way.
Ever the television personality, Yadon had decided if he ever had another procedure, he would share it with the public. So in November of 2011, when the patient returned to the operating room, five cameras accompanied him. A relaxed, on-camera O’Daniel explained the procedures to WHAS viewers as he performed them.
He gave Yadon a deep plane facelift, an advanced procedure that tightens the features of the face, not just the skin. His face was reshaped using fat from his stomach. Fat was cut from around Yadon’s eyes, and the muscle that forms frown lines between the eyes was removed, and fat was injected to smooth the appearance of those creases.
O’Daniel worked on Yadon’s cheeks, removed fat from his neck and tightened the muscles there.
The result, the TV weatherman said, was more than he could have hoped for. There was no major bruising, and the pain and recovery time was minimal. Confidence soaring, Yadon was back on the air in three weeks.
“Dr. O’Daniel rolled the clock back. He easily took 15 years off of me,” he said.
All walks of life get plastic surgery
His journey certainly was more public, but Yadon is just one of thousands of Kentucky professionals who use cosmetic procedures to enhance their personal brands and appear more youthful and energetic, according to O’Daniel and Dr. David Kirn, a Lexington plastic surgeon.
While people from all walks of life get plastic surgery, a significant portion of O’Daniel’s patients are professionals who want to remain competitive in their career field. He treats numerous patients who work in real estate, sales and the legal profession who want their appearance to reflect their abilities. He often sees corporate executives, doctors, dentists and others in highly visible fields.
“They (professionals) want their appearance to show that they have the energy to do what they need to do to, particularly when they are dealing with younger clients,” O’Daniel said. “Society places a high value on the appearance of youth.”
Older real estate agents have told the Louisville doctor that even though they have extensive, highly valuable knowledge of a real estate market, younger buyers sometimes think mature agents cannot relate to them.
“Real estate agents – male agents in particular – feel like if they have a more youthful, energized look that it helps them in their business,” O’Daniel said.
Kirn treats many patients who make a living in sales.
“We have a seemingly disproportionate number of people in sales and real estate, and professionals – attorneys, physicians and dentists,” he said.
Professionals have more disposable income for cosmetic procedures, Kirn said, but they are motivated by the desire to gain a competitive edge.
“People will come in and say, ‘I’m competing against the upstart 20-year-old. I know my business and industry very well, and I want to continue working at this. I want to look fresh and youthful,’ ” Kirn said. “We hear a lot: ‘I want to look like I feel.’
“Most people won’t tell you straight up, ‘Hey I am doing this because I want to keep my job,’ but they say that when they meet a new or existing client, they want to come across fresh, energetic and youthful. They perceive that that gives them a competitive advantage.”
Middle-aged patients in sales often tell O’Daniel they want to have facial procedures to appear more youthful because the “people under them are younger” and the marketplace is shrinking, he said.
“Youth suggests a higher energy level, a higher motivation level,” he said, “and some people feel that they’re not capable of competing because the idea of being older suggests they’re not as qualified, which unfortunately is a societal misconception. We have this sense that youth is where it’s at and totally disregard the wisdom of aging.”
While neither of the two national plastic surgery associations track the professions of patients, they do keep records of age, gender and location. The U.S. numbers confirm what O’Daniel and Kirn have experienced in their offices.
Of 14.6 million cosmetic procedures in 2012, 6.8 million of those were performed on middle-aged Americans 40 to 54 years old, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. ASPS has represents 94 percent of all U.S. board-certified plastic surgeons.
The 55 and older crowd got the second most procedures at 3.6 million, and that was a 6 percent increase over 2011. The large majority of those were minimally invasive, nonsurgical procedures such as Botox or chemical peels, according to ASPS.
For “Claudia Gibson” (a pseudonym), a Central Kentucky woman in her early 60s, interaction with younger clients and coworkers played a big role in her decision to have plastic surgery earlier this year.
In her job at a Kentucky university, Gibson works with teacher interns and first-year teachers who are typically in their early 20s. Through an instructional leadership program, she also coaches school administrators and frequently presents at state and national conferences.
Gibson’s resume is impressive, but like Yadon, her aging appearance made her uncomfortable, especially when dealing with younger colleagues.
“The people I work with … are becoming increasingly younger,” Gibson said. “When I first started out in education, people in administrative roles, like the principal and district leaders, were middle-aged people because that’s who was hired for those roles.
“Then, there was a big gap when nobody went into education for a long time. What happened is younger people started filling those roles,” she said.
As she meets prospective clients who may benefit from her program’s leadership coaching services, Gibson has to “sell” herself and the program. That means she needs to look energetic, capable of keeping up with the job’s demands, she said.
“The first thing they see is me – I am my brand,” she said. “They don’t have to hire me; I have to convince them I can be of assistance.”
Gibson always exercised and watched her weight, but with what she called “droopy eyes” people often asked if she was tired. She wasn’t.
“When you look tired, it pulls your whole demeanor down,” she said.
Meanwhile, the effects of age – and an accident that broke her back several years earlier and gave her a “stooped” look – were having a negative impact on her life.
Presentations she normally sailed through became more difficult because she was hyper-aware of her appearance. Working with younger clients and students bothered her more and more. She started saving for and researching plastic surgery options.
After consulting with four surgeons over an 18-month period, Gibson decided on Kirn because he answered all of her questions and made her feel at ease. She had a brow lift, a neck lift and a lower facelift.
Now, a few months later, Gibson is thrilled with the results. She feels better about her appearance and thinks her already busy career will get a boost from her renewed confidence and more youthful-looking face.
“I’d do it again,” she said.
Postponed retirements a factor
For many reasons, Americans are working longer.
Employees no longer spend most of their career at one company and leave at age 65 with a plush pension and gold watch. Thanks to modern medicine, Americans are living longer, too.
Twenty-two percent of workers polled in Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey said the age at which they expect to retire has increased. This year, 36 percent of workers said they plan to wait until after age 65 to retire, compared to only 11 percent in 1991. In the latest EBRI survey, 26 percent said they will retire at 70, and 7 percent said they don’t plan to retire at all.
Workers who said they will postpone retirement cited as reasons the poor economy (22 percent), lack of faith in Social Security or the government (19 percent) and the inability to afford retirement (19 percent), according to EBRI.
With high unemployment levels and a generation of workers postponing retirement, competition for positions can be brutal. King and O’Daniel both said some older workers who want to keep their job or compete with younger for a new job turn to plastic surgery for assistance.
“Because of the fluctuation in the (stock) market and retirement accounts, there are a lot of people who are working longer than they originally thought they were going to, either because they don’t have sufficient funds to retire or because they enjoy it and want to keep going. And they still feel fine and they’re still productive,” Kirn said. “That group is another subset that will do plastic surgery to really maintain that competitive edge and maintain freshness in their market.”
“In America, we’re all working to an older age,” O’Daniel said. “A lot of us, over the last four years, have to work longer because we’ve lost our savings. But more importantly we’re working longer because we like it.”
Botox, filler injections popular
Last year, Americans got 6.1 million injections of Botox, the highest number ever, according to ASPS. Of 14.6 million cosmetic procedures in 2012 (a 5 percent growth over 2011), 13 million were nonsurgical. Led by Botox’s 8 percent increase last year, minimally invasive procedures are driving major growth in the cosmetic surgery industry.
Americans spent $11 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2012, up 5.5 percent over the previous year.
After Botox, the most popular non-surgical procedures in 2012 were: 2 million soft tissue fillers, 1.1 million chemical peels, 1.1 million laser hair removals, and 974,000 microdermabrasion procedures. Those five were 86 percent of the minimally invasive procedures in 2012 and 77 percent of all procedures.
The nonsurgical category continues to soar – it was up 6 percent in 2011 and again in 2012 – because more non-surgical options are available than 10 years ago, Kirn said.
Smaller, less invasive techniques done more frequently appeal to professionals who want to refresh their appearance but cannot afford a lengthy recovery process, he said.
At Kirn’s practice, Botox injections are the most common procedure performed on male and female professionals. It takes five to 10 minutes to do it, and it’s done three or four times a year, he said.
“It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s safe and it works well,” he said. “They can come in, get it done and go off to work.”
Second-most popular at his office, Kirn said, are soft tissue filler injections such as Restalyne and Juvaderm, which diminish the appearance of wrinkles. Those treatments also have little to no downtime.
“The challenge imposed by this (professionals) patient population is they not only are doing this for work but they don’t want to take any time off from work either,” he said.
Wrinkle treatments and soft tissue fillers can soften an older person’s appearance and restore their faces to the smoothness and fullness they had when they were younger.
“Full lips and cheeks are associated with youth,” said O’Daniel, who sees “about 600 faces a year.” About half receive injectables and the other half are surgical patients.
Surgical procedures require more recovery time. It often takes weeks for swelling to go down, incisions to heal and bruising to go away.
At Kirn’s practice, the most common surgical procedure among professionals is blepharoplasty, an operation that improves the upper or lower eyelids, or both. It’s especially popular with male professionals.
“It’s appropriate, too, because when people look at you, what do they look at? They look at your eyes,” Kirn said. “So having the eyes look good is really the No. 1 priority, and people recognize that. They’re definitely something that will show age.”
Nationally, blepharoplasty was the third most popular cosmetic surgery in 2012. More than 204,000 eyelid surgeries were performed. That was up 4 percent; one in seven were done for men.
The other top surgical procedures in 2012 were:
• Breast augmentation – 286,000, down 7 percent
• Nose reshaping – 243,000
• Liposuction – 202,000, down 1 percent
• Facelift – 126,000, up 6 percent.
Men get plastic surgery too
Women got 91 percent of all cosmetic procedures last year, but the number of men having work done is steadily growing, especially in the minimally invasive category. Males had more than 1.25 million cosmetic procedures in 2012, a 5 percent increase. Procedures for men rose 22 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to ASPS.
Last year, men had 390,000 Botox injections, up 7 percent; 194,000 laser hair removal visits, up 5 percent; 183,000 microdermabrasion procedures, up 10 percent; 90,000 chemical peels, up 3 percent; and 89,000 soft tissue filler injections, up 2 percent.
Beyond blepharoplasty, the top male surgical procedures in 2012 were:
• Nose reshaping – 62,000
• Liposuction – 23,000
• Breast reduction (gynecomastia) – 21,000
• Facelift – 12,000.
Statistics for individual states are not available. ASPS reports U.S. results for five regions. Kentucky is part of Region 4 with Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, an eight-state region with the lowest number of cosmetic procedures in the country.
In Region 4, nearly 300,000 surgical and 2.8 million minimally invasive procedures were performed in 2012. That was 14 percent of all U.S. cosmetic procedures.
The 13-state Region 5 in the West had 29 percent of the 2012 total.
If 50 is the new 30, what is 30?
“Having work done” is no longer taboo, nor is it reserved for Hollywood personalities and rich housewives. In the past 10 years, Kirn said, plastic surgery has gone from something no one ever discussed to being socially accepted and even celebrated.
When he opened his practice in 1998, “nobody would ever admit that they had had plastic surgery,” Kirn said. “It was actually useful to have a clandestine office location. You wanted people to be able to get in and out without being seen, no real visibility.”
The tables have turned 180 degrees.
“Now, it is accepted,” he said. “People talk about what they’ve had done and it’s not frowned upon by society.”
Plastic surgery successes – and failures – are part of the mainstream media. The plastic surgery reality TV show “Extreme Makeover” first aired in 2002 and was highly controversial. However, the show “changed things,” Kirn said.
“It let people see that ordinary people do this. It’s not just Hollywood celebrities, and it does transform people’s lives and their attitudes,” he said. “That gave the world an insight on what we all knew already but couldn’t tell anybody.”
Reed Yadon’s plastic surgery story and videos aired in early 2012 during Sweeps Week on WHAS and were instant hits.
“It was one of the biggest stories ever,” he said. “I was flooded with emails and calls. (Readers of his story) practically shut down the website.”
There is a real fascination with plastic surgery and the results one might get from having it done, said Virginia Blum, a University of Kentucky Department of English professor and director of graduate studies whose book, “Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery” came out just as “Extreme Makeover” was first being piped into living rooms. With the timing, she spent quite a bit of time on the news and talk show circuit.
“There’s this kind of cultural fantasy that if you have the money and are willing to undergo the risk, you could be transformed,” Blum said. “I think people often imagine it’s more transformative than it actually is.”
Of the 20 patients she interviewed for her book, published by University of California Press, several told her that once they “started intervening in their physical appearance, everything came under inspection and they started finding more flaws.”
For the same reasons cosmetic surgery is appealing, it can be addictive, Blum concluded.
More exposure to plastic surgery – through television, the Internet or just a trip past the grocery store magazine rack – has caused society’s ideas about what we’re supposed to look like to shift, said Christia Spears Brown, an associate professor of psychology at UK who studies attractiveness stereotypes and their impacts.
There is a lot of pressure on 50-year-olds to look 30, she said.
“Even the people on the cover of AARP Magazine are sexualized and young looking,” Brown said.
Older workers want to look younger because society increasingly associates youth and attractiveness with being better qualified and more agreeable, she said. The ideal face is getting younger and younger.
Because of America’s obsession with appearance, the cosmetic surgery industry will likely continue to grow, Brown said.
“It is becoming more and more mainstream,” she said. “It’s almost like getting a haircut now.”
“The more people do it, the more people do it,” she said. “I wonder what we’re going to look like in the future.”