A New York City-based nonprofit recently began offering free plastic surgery to bullied teens.
Dr. Thomas Romo and Lauralouise Duffy Blatt founded the Little Baby Face Foundation (LBFF) in 2002 to provide free plastic surgery for children around the world born with facial deformities.
LBFF evaluate plastic surgery applicants based on financial need and the severity of the deformity. However, controversy arose when American teens, long bullied for their looks, began applying for cosmetic surgery with the nonprofit.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied to alter themselves surgically?” New York psychologist Dr. Vivian Diller asked in an NBC News interview. “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
A recent Dateline report profiled four teen LBFF applicants, Connor, Cheyenne, Donovan and Renata.
Illinois based 16-year-old Connor decided to apply after consistently hearing the name “Toucan” for his large nose, while Cheyenne was born with a condition causing smaller than average eyes. Classmates even went so far as to tell 16-year-old Donovan to commit suicide because of his looks.
South Carolina 15-year-old competed in beauty pageants when she was younger, but she applied to LBFF after taunting from classmates about her appearance got so bad that she began home schooling. LBFF ultimately accepted Renata’s application for a rhinoplasty procedure.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
LBFF co-founder and director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, Romo comments that changing someone’s appearance can help empower them.
“You take a child and you change the way they look,” Romo said on Dateline. “To anybody who sees them, they’re good looking. That gives the child strength. We can’t go after the bully. But we can try and empower the children.”
Renata claims that she has gained more confidence since her rhinoplasty procedure.
“I feel happy and I feel confident and I feel like I don’t have to hide myself anymore,” Renata told NBC News.
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