Over the last couple of weeks, a 14-year old Georgia girl Nadia Ilse made news when she received $40,000 of free plastic surgery after being repeatedly bullied at school. Some critics say the girl and her parents took things too far, that kids will never learn their true worth if they take such drastic measures when facing hardship in life.
Thanks to Little Baby Face Foundation, a non-profit organization that deals primarily with cleft palates, Ilse received a rhinoplasty (nose job), ortoplasty (ear pinning) and mentoplasty (chin surgery). The girl was repeatedly taunted at school and called Dumbo for her ears that stuck out too far. She says she now feels beautiful and is thrilled with the results, though she continues to go to counseling to combat the effects of the incessant bullying.
Ilse is not the first young girl to undergo plastic surgery. Nicolette Taylor, 13, made headlines when she had a nose job after being bullied, and Samantha Shaw, 7, from South Dakota also appeared in the news after undergoing ear pinning surgery last April. Dr. Stephen Pearlman of Little Baby Face Foundation said this of young girls receiving plastic surgery: “It depends where you draw the line. If it’s minor, yes. If it’s cosmetic, absolutely not.” He does not believe ear pinning is considered cosmetic surgery.
Cosmetic surgery has gone up 30 percent this past year, with nearly 90,000 children undergoing some form of it. Though ear pinning is among the most common and least invasive surgeries, other procedures, like nose jobs, are much more risky and can require extensive healing time. Critics worry that parents have become too eager to put a Band-Aid on their children’s problems, taking matters into their own hands instead of helping their kids cope with what is often nothing more than a case of common adolescent anxiety. So did Ilse’s parents jump the gun?
As an adolescent, I clearly remember being teased for being short, while others who walked my junior high halls were taunted for being too tall, having bad skin, sporting a pointy nose, having too-curly hair and too many freckles. Today, things are no different, and despite well-meaning attempts by school officials to put anti-bullying laws into place, kids continue to be cruel. Some victims have even taken their own lives when the ongoing torment became too much. In an ideal world, beauty would be in the eyes of the beholder and glossy magazines would not set the standard for perfection. But we do not live in that world, and I’m not sure we ever will.
As a mother, I can’t condemn Ilse’s parents for what they did. I believe their choice to help their daughter gain a newfound confidence came from the most sincere place in their heart. I cannot imagine seeing my own daughter coming through the door after school every day, tears streaming down her cheeks as she relayed the latest cruel remarks her classmates had slung at her. But do I think every parent whose child comes home after a bad day should rush out to get their child a nip and tuck? Certainly not. Cosmetic surgery is a major ordeal, especially for a child who is still growing and may very well outgrow some of his or her awkwardness.
As for Ilse, I wish her nothing but the best. I commend her parents for continuing her counseling and hope that the girl’s classmates treat her with kindness and respect going forth. But life can be hard, and Ilse may face other bullies as she grows up—a boss who yells at her, a husband who puts her down, a college professor who mocks her paper and rips it to shreds. True beauty and confidence come from within, and if Ilse can learn that, she may just be all right.
Parents, what do you think? Did Ilse’s parents cross the line by getting their teenage daughter cosmetic surgery? Would you ever do something like that for your child if they were repeatedly bullied and hated their appearance? We want to hear from you!