Teenage girls and body image pressures

Published in The Sun UK  – Sept. 7, 2010

We speak to three girls who reveal why plastic surgery is no longer an option, but a necessity.

For most teenage girls, self-loathing and self-consciousness are almost rites of passage.

But while many young girls mature into secure and confident young women, a worrying new trend is emerging.

For instead of learning to make the most of their assets and focus on other talents, many youngsters who are unhappy with their looks are becoming obsessed with achieving what they believe is an ideal – even if it means going under the surgeon’s knife.

The minimum recommended age for plastic surgery in the UK is 18 but many girls begin planning their operations far earlier.

A survey published this month by youth charity Rathbone found only one in five young girls is happy with her appearance, while more than half of young women are bullied at school because of their looks. Academics at Rutgers-Camden University in the US believe this lack of self-confidence is down to TV shows suggesting happiness is just a nip or tuck away.

Here three teenage girls give NIKKI WATKINS a startling insight into why plastic surgery is no longer an option for them, but a necessity. They understand the dangers but are willing to risk all for perfection – and are counting the days until their surgery.

Nicole Cole, 17

'I'd give anything' ... Nicole wants boob and nose job‘I’d give anything’ … Nicole

wants boob and nose job

NICOLE, from Bedminster, Bristol, wants bigger boobs, liposuction and a new nose. The student says:

“I’d give anything for a boob job, a nose job and liposuction. My mum objects and gets angry and my friends think I’m crazy, but it’s not for them it’s for me.

“I laugh along with my friends who say I’m mad, but inside I still want it done. I’ve got 34DD boobs now but want them bigger as I think it would make me happier and more confident.

“My nose has been bent since I broke it at 13 and I’ve put on a bit of weight in the last few years and tried a cereal diet, WeightWatchers and Slimfast, but nothing works.

“I’d love to lose a stone and a half and go down two jeans sizes from my current 12.

“If the technology is there to make your body better, why not use it? My best friend wants to make her boobs bigger too. I know there are risks and Jordan looks stupid now but that’s because she keeps having work done.

Not in favour ... mum Julie

Not in favour … mum Julie

“But I’d be happy once I’d had these three things done. You’ve got to set yourself a surgery limit and do research. I can’t afford surgery now, but if I won the lottery it’s the first thing I’d spend money on.”

Mum’s views

Nicole’s mum, chef Julie Coles, 36, says: “I really don’t approve of what Nicole wants.

“I think you are what you are and have to get used to that. Nicole wants to impress other people, when it’s about her own happiness and how she feels inside.

“She’s so pretty and has a bubbly personality but she’s insecure about her looks, which is crazy.

“People under 21 shouldn’t be allowed plastic surgery. Wanting to be this perfect person is a new thing. Ten years ago teenage girls weren’t asking for boob and nose jobs. It sexualises children and makes them grown up too early.”

Siana O’Connor, 15

SIANA, from Berkhamsted, Herts, is an amateur singer who wants to become a professional. But she is convinced her looks are holding her back. She says:

'I was bullied' ... Siana

‘I was bullied’ … Siana

“I FEEL 100 per cent confident with my voice but I fear my face will let me down.

“I think I’ve got a big nose, my lips are too thick and I don’t like my jawline.

“If I had the money and was the right age, I would have corrective operations tomorrow. The music industry is very image-focused and I’d hate for these small, easily changed things about me to get in the way, when these days it’s so easy to sort.

“With a smaller nose and other changes to my face, I’d be more confident and I could achieve what I want.

“When I was younger, people said some pretty cruel things to me about my features, comments which really stayed with me.

“But my friends now tend to be more sympathetic and understanding about how I feel.

“Some friends also want to change something about their own bodies, from a nose reduction to liposuction, so I definitely don’t feel odd or weird for wanting to change myself.

“My parents have reservations about me wanting surgery so young, but having cosmetic operations won’t change the person I am inside.

“I see top singers being physically perfect and know if there’s anything wrong with the way I look, it will hold me back in my career.

“I read about and hear all the horror stories about operations going wrong, but if you get the right advice and pay good money, you should feel confident enough to take that step.

“I see stars like Heidi Montag, from The Hills, and think that she’s gone too far, but she’s still hugely successful.”

Parents’ view

Siana’s dad Paul, 41, works in music production and thinks image is seen as too important for young girls.

He says: “I show Siana stars like Barbra Streisand or Barry Manilow and tell her how their interesting features have made them more memorable and successful, but it’s not enough.

“It seems stars have to be perfect, which can be harmful. I know Siana’s beautiful and while I’m not going to tell her what to do, we have to make sure we don’t dismiss her concerns.”

Siana’s step-mum Tanya, 46, a communications worker, says: “Siana is such a gorgeous girl.

“The notion of her needing to conform to ‘a look’ in order to be successful is shocking.”

Published in “The Sun” UK: 07 Sep 2010

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