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With his faux six-pack, Celebrity Big Brother’s Darryn Lyons has heralded the dawn of a new age in cosmetic surgery. Say it loud, I’m plastic and proud
It’s pleated, really, Darryn Lyons’s stomach. It’s guinea pigs hiding in a flesh-tone duvet cover, it’s the illusion of having swallowed quite a lot of Subway’s subs without chewing, or the beginnings of an internal tsunami. The Celebrity Big Brother contestant’s cosmetic-surgeoned abs certainly don’t look like a six-pack. And that’s why, when I see it paraded on primetime Channel Five, the crown on a proud round belly, I sit up straight on my sofa and quietly wonder.
Plastic surgery is a complicated proposition. People have surgery to look younger, more symmetrical, thinner. We get our facial muscles frozen with botulinum toxin to swell out the creases between our eyebrows. We get fine wires threaded around our hairline to pull our skin tauter, like the top of a PE bag. We get bags of heavy water shuffled under the muscles in our chests, and sometimes our buttocks, like a built-in haemorrhoid cushion, but one inserted to look sexy. To clarify – we, “people”, are weird. But every now and again, whether by choice, through faulty surgery or, more often, by listening to the drawling voice in our head that says, “Just one more cut! One more op and then you’ll look perfect!” something happens where what was once a face (or in Lyons’s case, a stomach) morphs into something else entirely. A lip becomes an aubergine. A brow becomes an unpricked polythene lid, swelling in the microwave.
Lyons, the paparazzo-turned-housemate, has expressed delight with his “contoured” body. “The effect is created by producing grooves in overlying chest fat using liposuction,” explains the Independent, “to replicate the tendons inside muscle.” It’s not muscle – it’s a reference to muscle; it’s a portrait of a muscle, but painted in fat. While Lyons’s procedure has been pored over in the press, his bizarre six-pack is the very thin end of the “extreme surgery” wedge. A wedge that slopes upwards through those starlets with their spherical cartoon breasts, the young women whose Botox and fillers work hard to make them look like very expensive grandmas, through to the heroic transgendered model Amanda Lepore. She once advised me to wear a bra only while I slept, rather than during the day, to shape the “tissue” into a bra shape; Lepore you understand, is largely naked.
It’s easy to have disdain for cosmetic surgery, but sometimes it can be quite magnificent. The beauty of this kind of surgery – the resculpting, the inflating and physical remixing, cosmetic surgery as performance (whether intentional or not) – is threefold.
First, there’s the lack of shame. The unapologetic revelling in one’s appearance, with no thought of concealing the fact. Instead there is, as in Lyons’s case, the pride that comes with a big reveal. Pride too at his cleverness. He’s beaten the system! He’s built a six-pack without breaking a sweat. Which is charming, I think.
Then there’s the fact that, if you’re going to pay a surgeon thousands of pounds to tunnel through your flesh, surely you want quite a lot of bang for your bucks. Instead of “freshening” your look with a face lift and two days’ bed rest, why not get surgery that makes your audience really question what it means to be a man? If you’re going to get fake boobs, get really fake boobs. Ones that need their own seat on Ryanair flights. A breast is a breast. A fake breast can be anything you want. Give it eyes! Give it teeth!
Thirdly: with super-surgery, where people treat their bodies like toys, telephone pads to doodle on, there’s the sense they’re laughing in the face of death. Unlike those who fall back on Botox, trying to cheat death by making themselves look younger, these pioneers (with their bodies so perfect it’s as if they’re taking the piss out of bodies altogether) look like they’re challenging it to a fight.
Eva Wiseman, The Observer – September 4, 2011