Today In Things That Are Alarming

July 21, 2010 § 5 Comments


Eighteen-year-old Filipina singer Charice Pempengco underwent a Botox procedure to prepare for her upcoming role on Fox’s Glee.

If you are like me, you are wondering: WHY?!?! The AP reports on some diverging perspectives:

Pempengco’s publicist Liz Rosenberg said the procedure was “absolutely not cosmetic,” but rather to treat pain in the muscles of her jaw.

The “celebrity cosmetic surgeon” (oops! There’s that word, cosmetic, which this is “absolutely not”…) Vicki Belo, who performed the procedure, said that it was intended to make Charice’s “naturally round face,” um, less round (and less natural?). “You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it’s a bit protruding… It’s like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face…we want to give you the apple cheek look because it’s cute, right?”

Charice herself says that the she got the procedure “to look fresh on camera.” Further, “all people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”

So, to review: the procedure is “not cosmetic,” but serves to make Charice look “cute” and “fresh,” a look which she has received “tremendous pressure” to embody.

Um. Do we know what cosmetic means? (“Serving to beautify the body… serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature… decorative rather than functional.” So, all of the above.)

Just for reference, here’s a photo of Charice before the procedure. (Not, of course, to imply that if she looked older or different, then a Botox procedure would be warranted, expected, or necessary — only to provide evidence that even someone who is praised for her beauty, and who has likely undergone a rigorous audition process based heavily on physical appearance, is simply never beautiful enough.)

Image: Charice Pempengco

In patriarchy, women are told that our lives will be gloriously happy if only we achieve physical, aesthetic perfection. What we’re not told is that such perfection is impossible. And the looming irony is that we’re inundated with messages that CONFIDENCE IS SEXY!, messages produced by a culture that makes it so damn difficult to be confident (and even demonizes women who are “too confident” by deriding them as sluts and bitches).

Let’s talk about me. Though I don’t wear makeup and I couldn’t be called busty, I benefit from almost every other kind of beauty privilege you can imagine. I’m white, I’m thin. I don’t use glasses, my hair isn’t too frizzy, I’m not acne-prone, I shave lots of places. But still! Still, even with all this privilege that lands me very, very close to my culture’s beauty ideal, and even with all the strength of my feminist backbone, still I have days and moments where I feel hideous and self-conscious and unworthy because I feel unbeautiful. It is staggering to imagine the hatred that women are expected to direct inward.

Charice’s case is not an anomaly. It’s indicative of the grossly disturbing prevalence of ever-unachievable beauty standards.


§ 5 Responses to Today In Things That Are Alarming

  • bigassalice says:

    Hey Miranda,
    I think you’re beautiful, and so was that post.

  • katiee says:

    I have to wonder if Pempengco, being a woman of color, may have felt extra pressure due to how white most of the main cast of Glee is. I don’t watch it, but I’ve read enough blog posts and articles to pick up the fact that all of the main cast of Glee is white, most people of color are background characters with no lines, and the two or three characters of color who do have lines are reduced to characatures. Pempengco is likely under a lot of pressure, whether subtle or overt, to fit in with the white cast and appeal to the presumably heavily white audience, and may be trying to adhere to the white standard of beauty.

    I agree with everything, great post!

  • Elena says:

    My college assisted students that wanted to do the open Glee auditions via Myspace, by providing an accompanist, film equipment, and advice from one of the professors, who formerly worked as a casting director in NYC. When people auditioned, they focused on what was important: their musical performance, and performing their songs to the best of their ability, and acting the song as well. It’s very depressing to read that this young woman was pressured into cosmetic procedures that might harm her singing voice (a drug that paralyzes muscles? Injected into your face? When your job is to sing? A lot?), as part of being cast on the show.

    This does make me want to refrain from watching Glee, since the whole point of the show seems to be using music to overcome any sort of disadvantages that you may have.

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