Why I Regret Every Dollar I Spent on My $25,000 Plastic Surgery
Plastic surgery has become more and more mainstream these days.
Maybe it’s due to girls like Kylie Jenner who we’ve seen transform via Instagram, or maybe it’s due to the fact that every candid Snapchat needs to be “perfect.” Maybe it’s just because plastic surgery is starting to seem like NBD. Like, whatever, just casually pop in for some lip injections and be good to go by the next night, right?
But surgery is a big deal — not to mention expensive. A procedure that you desperately want right now could lead to serious issues for you down the road. Not to mention that if you’re dealing with body dysmorphia, it’s possible one surgery will never seem like enough, and you’ll just find another problem with your body.
We spoke to Emily Nolan, a model whose struggled with her body image for years and went under the knife for $25,000 worth of surgery to stay competitive in the plus-size industry. Here is her story, as told to Ashley Uzer.
I was working in DC when I got scouted by an agency out of the blue. They told me if gained five pounds I could be a successful plus size model and travel the world.
I was initially super offended. I was working so hard to be a size 2, and to hear an agent say that I could be a plus size model after gaining five pounds hurt. Instead of taking her up on her offer, I worked out like an insane woman for a year and was modeling at a straight size, but I was never successful–like, supermodel successful. On top of that, I was struggling internally with my emotions and physical dysmorphia.
After a year of that, I decided that I didn’t want to struggle anymore and I wanted to just accept myself. I called up the agent who had initially scouted me and asked if the offer to model plus size was still on the table, she said yes.
Immediately, I gained not five pounds, but 45 pounds. My agencies kept pushing me, telling me that if I was a size 14 it would be best. The plus sized modeling industry was just like the regular modeling industry, they perpetuated the idea that if you could just change one thing, or be one size, you’d be perfect.
With straight size modeling, I was too big. Now, I was too small. At this point, I had been 14 different sizes, plus I had previously gotten breast implants thanks to a narcissistic boyfriend that told me “real women had boobs.”
But gaining 45 pounds didn’t mean that I was just eating whatever I wanted. Even as a size 14, I was vegan and super rigid about everything I ate and how I worked out. And yet, I still felt that I wasn’t good enough to compared to other girls at castings. I was looking at these girls at castings that looked like they had been photoshopped IRL. These girls were size 16 and curvy AF. Like, this wasn’t human, and I wondered what was going on.
So, I called a plastic surgeon in Miami, where one of my agencies was, and asked if women who were above a size 4 were coming to get plastic surgery to get shaped and sculpted. He said yes, and that most of his clients do that.
At this point in my career I was so far into modeling that I figured I had to get surgery too. I walked into my NYC agency, went into a private meeting with my agent, put a piece of paper between us, and drew a stick figure of myself and arrows pointing to where I wanted to get surgery.
I wanted lipo on the inside of my knees, inside of my thighs, my lower back, my lower abdomen, my waist line, my under arm pits, my elbows, the back of my arms, under my chin, my throat. Everywhere, I even said that if I could get it on my ankles, I would. I wanted to be thin and curvy in certain areas, and then round and plump in the others. That’s the industry, that’s who they book.
My agent gave me the silent nod and was like, “okay, you should do this.”
On top of this all, I have a blood condition called Factor V Leiden Disorder. It’s a blood clot condition, so to do a surgery that massive was really life threatening. I risked my life big time, and I did this all for my career. I didn’t tell anyone. I hated the way that I looked so much that I was willing to basically kill myself in order to look pretty–what we consider pretty in our culture–even at a size 14.
When I came out after surgery, it felt like I had been in the worst car accident of my life. I was completely wrapped from head to mid-shin in gauze. After my chin lipo, my head was wrapped in a gauze and my jaw was tightly shut with the gauze and a really tight elastic strap for two weeks.
You don’t think it’s such a big deal to get a more chiseled jaw line, but my teeth started loosening because my jaw had been strapped so tightly shut in attempts to keep my skin from sagging under my chin. My teeth weren’t falling out, but they were wiggling enough where I was getting the worst migraines and the worst aches in my mouth. I actually shoved padding in my teeth, almost like a mouth guard, to try to keep my teeth separated because the pain was so incredible. It was worse than the pain of liposuction. My mouth would taste like medical pads or socks, whatever I could shove into my mouth, it was disgusting.
I was in this backwards sort of sling that went behind my back and over my arms and all the way down to my wrists. My husband would have to dress me and undress me. The healing process was worse than the actual surgery, if you can imagine that. I had to inject my legs with a blood thinning medicine because of my blood disorder. This resulted in huge bruises, bigger than softballs on my hips.
The first thing out of my mouth when the surgeon unwrapped me and I was seeing my body for the first time was, “it’s not enough.” After surgery you blow up because your body swells, it’s the natural reaction to any trauma on your body. I was really not happy with the results because I got bigger instead of smaller. I was now a size 16 instead of a 14. The results were not what I had imagined. I wanted to have a flat stomach, I didn’t want my tummy to roll when I sat down, those sorts of things.
Less than a year after the surgery — and about 8 months ago — there was a moment where I was like, “fuck this, I can’t live afraid like this, like I’m not enough.” I just picked up the phone, called my modeling agent and said, “I’m moving back to Florida.” The next weekend I sold all of my stuff in NYC, my husband came and picked me up in the red convertible he rented it from the airport, and we went to Montauk for the weekend. I was like, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m not doing that again.”
It was almost like the liposuction and that career choice coincided, they became one sour memory. I just didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I felt so full of lies and I just wanted to accept myself, even if people were going to shame me.
About six to seven months ago, I also decided to get rid of my breast implants. I looked in the mirror and seeing them reminded me of my narcissistic boyfriend telling me that I wasn’t enough the way I am. They were never out of love, it was always this insecure thing for me. So, I went in and ended up getting them out. It was me reclaiming my life, because for the first time in a decade I am living in my body that God gave me. I’ve had eating disorders and crazy body dysmorphia, and I never really felt what it felt like to be a normal woman.
It’s important that we forgive ourselves and the way we have treated our body. Forgive yourself and allow yourself that forgiveness. Then, you can start to love yourself again. There are things in my life, like spending my wedding money on liposuction, that was probably one of the hardest things to forgive myself for. But it happened, and I forgive myself because I’m human, because we all are. But forgive yourself first, then start to love yourself.