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10 American Icons of Cosmetic Surgery

by Marisa Amorasak

10 American Icons of Cosmetic Surgery

This month, Plastic Surgery Portal is celebrating the ingenuity and achievements of America’s top plastic surgery icons. Although research shows that plastic surgery can trace its most basic roots back to pre-historic India and Greece, many of the field’s modern innovations are owed to good ole American doctors like Dr. Robert Rey of Dr. 90210. And there’s no doubt that many of plastic surgery’s biggest advocates are also American—hello, Dolly Parton and Cher! Read on to learn more about 10 very notable plastic surgery icons and their influence on today’s view of plastic surgery.

1. John Peter Mettauer. Dr. Mettauer is widely regarded as America’s first plastic surgeon. As an 1809 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he was inspired to practice medicine because of his father, who was also a surgeon. Dr. Mettauer founded John Peter Mettauer School, which became part of Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College. Dr. Mettauer was a gifted and creative surgeon, who worked extensively to close vaginal tears caused by birth. Dr. Mettauer was a pioneer of cleft palate restoration, a procedure that focused on improving the health and physical appearance of a patient. As one of the first people to give a cosmetic flaw medical attention, Dr. Mettauer opened the door to future aesthetic procedures.

2. and 3. Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow. Augmented ladies can thank these two Dallas plastic surgeons for creating the world’s first silicone-based breast implant. The Cronin-Gerow implant contained a silicone gel by the Dow Corning Corporation, and was used in the first breast augmentation in 1962. Despite a 14-year ban that’s since been lifted, silicone implants are the go-to material of choice for many women seeking breast augmentation. Today’s variants of silicone breast implants include the Gummy Bear implant and IDEAL implant.

4. Timmie Jean Lindsey. Often labeled a surgical guinea pig, Timmie Jean Lindsey received the world’s first breast implants in 1962. The breast augmentation was carried out by Dallas plastic surgeons Dr. Thomas Cronin and Dr. Frank Gerow using a silicone gel implant. Lindsey’s experimental surgery paved the way for the over two million women that have received breast augmentation since. Her story has made recent headlines as the 50-year anniversary of her implants nears.

5. Dolly Parton. What’s a list about plastic surgery without the queen of country music? Dolly Parton’s over-the-top image is an integral part of her persona. She’s admitted to having breast implants, breast lifts, eyelid surgery, face lifts, neck lifts, Brazilian butt lift, and chemical peels. Parton is comfortable with her decisions to have plastic surgery, even once telling Oprah, “If I have one more face lift, I’ll have a beard!”

6. Cher. Although Cher denies any reports of plastic surgery, pop culture has unanimously accepted that the record-breaking recording artist is also a plastic surgery icon. Her carefully sculpted face and body have barely aged a day since the days of Sonny and Cher, thanks to reports of cheek implants, liposuction, facelifts, eyelid surgery, and lip augmentation. In her own right, Cher represents the idea that aging gracefully is no longer entirely up to nature.

7. Michael Jackson. The King of Pop has undergone some of the most drastic physical changes in the entire celebrity sphere. In addition to changing the color of his skin (which he attributed to medical conditions vitiligo and lupus), Jackson underwent numerous rhinoplasties. By the mid-1990s, Jackson’s nose had been through so many revision rhinoplasties that there was little cartilage left. Jackson’s plastic surgery decisions evoked criticism from many onlookers, who felt that his changing looks reflected a desire to abandon his African-American heritage. The discussion regarding plastic surgery and maintaining ethnic features carries on today.

8. Dr. Robert Rey. Dr. Robert Rey rose to fame following the debut of Dr. 90210 on the E! Channel. The series followed Dr. Rey’s professional and personal life including his private practice, flashy Beverly Hills home, and homemaker wife Hayley. The show inarguably showed the world the glamour of not only Dr. Rey’s lifestyle, but the patients on his show. Viewers followed patients throughout consultations, surgery, and post-op results.

9. Amanda Lepore. Born a male bearing the name of Armand, Lepore knew that she was destined to be a woman “from the very beginning.” Lepore underwent gender reassignment surgery before she was 18 years old, and has transformed herself into a woman—some would argue a caricature of a woman—ever since. Lepore owns up to three breast implant surgeries, a rhinoplasty, multiple eyelid surgeries, eye slanting, a forehead lift, face lift, lowered hairline, reduced brow bone, lip reduction, waist reduction, and silicone injections to her lips, hips, and butt.

10. Dr. Jeffrey Klein. In 2011, liposuction finally bypassed breast augmentation as the most popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States, with over 300,000 fat-vacuuming surgeries performed. Dr. Klein is the creator of tumescent, or traditional, liposuction. Tumescent liposuction gives plastic surgeons the ability to remove large amounts of excess fat safely and effectively, while giving a smooth contour. Tumescent liposuction has given way to more advanced liposuction alternatives, like Vaser LipoSelection and Liposculpture.

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