I actually cried.
On a regular basis, I see, study, and write about celebrity plastic surgery disasters. One would think I would be immune to the tragedy of it all. But, as it turns out, not so much. When I recently saw TLC's Truth Be Told special about plastic surgery addiction, I found myself shedding actual tears. The show featured Steve Erhardt, a Los Angeles hairstylist who is currently trying to break the world record for the most cosmetic procedures. The record is 50, and Steve is only a few surgeries away from reaching his disturbing goal.
While somewhat well known for his A-list hair-styling prowess, Steve is much better known for his plastic surgery escapades. But even more than the sheer number of procedures, he is known for his resulting appearance. After a reported $250,000 plus worth of cosmetic tweaking, Steve looks like a feminized and alien-ized version of Patrick Swayze. I swear I'm not saying this to be mean. I truly feel for the man.
While I obviously can't diagnose Mr. Erhardt (and wouldn't try), the words body dysmorphic disorder do come screeching to mind. Steve claimed once in a People magazine article that he's just "trying to look presentable". What I have to wonder, though, is this: What does he actually see when he looks in the mirror? Does he honestly think his "after" looks better than his "before"? Body dysmorphia is defined by a distorted and false perception of one's appearance. Generally, this means that the person suffering from BDD sees a hideously ugly image of him or her self. But can it work in the opposite way? Can he really be seeing improvement following each procedure while we all see something vastly different?
Don't get me wrong, I do not judge Mr. Erhardt or his choices. The whole thing just makes me sad. It also makes me a little bit angry at the doctor(s) who continue to contribute to his obvious obsession (if not considerable mental/emotional pathology). Here I feel at least a little bit justified in my judgment. I seriously question the ethics of a surgeon who considers his bottom line over the patient's health, both physical and mental. And I don't buy into the "If I didn't do it, someone else would anyway" argument. Forgive my Pollyanna-esque naiveity, but what kind of world would this be if we all thought that way?