Why Julie Chen’s Eye Surgery Confession Means A Lot For Other Ethnic TV Hosts

Julie Chen

Last Wednesday Sept 11, on an episode of daytime talk show ‘The Talk’, one of the hosts Julie Chen made a shocking personal confession that was quickly grabbed by news headlines everywhere. She admitted to having surgery on her eyes to make them look “less Asian” and this was not in an effort to look more pretty or more white, but because of people in her industry telling her she would never get anywhere because of how Asian she looked.

It was shocking and sickening that someone would even say such a thing to a person. Like, out loud!

The 43 year old told the audience and her co-hosts that when she was 25, she was working as a reporter for a news station in Ohio whose news producer told her she would never be a news anchor because she was Chinese. Wow…

“You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese…Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community?…On top of that because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera, you look disinterested and bored.”

But it didn’t stop there, she went on to express how her agent at the time, who had an “all-star” clientele told her she needed to get plastic surgery.

“He said, ‘I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look better.’ He then whips out a list of plastic surgeons who have done this procedure.”

Unfortunately, being a victim of bullying on the school bus and labeled “ching chong” growing up, it forced her to actually listen to the advice, and her parents helped her pay for the procedure which removed the extra fold of skin from her eyelids.Julie admits that doing the surgery did in fact increase her chances of work, but in the back of her mind was the issue that she was essentially denying her Chinese culture.

To be a young ethnic woman on American television at the time would’ve been a huge deal and made her a pioneer of sorts.

We acknowledge Julie for being brave and admitting this live on national television, but the significance of it goes beyond that. She was willing to put it out there and be real about how the event affected her.

“I don’t like to live with regrets,” she said. “I did it. I moved on. No one is more proud to be Chinese than I am” says one of the now-most recognizable faces on US TV, and the wife of CBS President Les Moonves.

There are divided opinions on this issue. Would she have her current success if she didn’t have the eye surgery? There is no way to speculate.But it’s a good lesson to other young women who work in an industries where their ethnicity, not just their gender becomes a barrier in itself to success. Does it mean you have to find alternative ways to get ahead and compromise yourself? No, and we hope this would not be the route all you take.

Julie’s confession, we believe, is not to encourage other girls out there to alter their physical state just to fit into someone else’s ideal, but to show that we all have our weak moments, but whatever decisions we make, we need to stand by them and continue to stay true to our authentic selves.

If you are a woman of color, nothing should make you more proud! There is nothing, we repeat, nothing wrong with the way you look. Plastic surgery is not the answer to all your insecurities. Julie Chen went on to have a very successful career in television because of her talent, passion and dedication. She chose to rise above the “Asian eyes” incident and not let it dictate her path.

Julie Chen headshots
Julie says she has received a lot of support from viewers and is glad she put the story out in the open. Even her own parents made sure to tell her how proud they were of their daughter, ensuring that they didn’t condemn Julie for the decision she made.”We had a long conversation about if it would be denying my heritage,” Chen said. “It divided my family. Members of my family wanted to disown me if I got it done.”

But Chen doesn’t regret the change. “I have to live with every decision that I’ve made,” she continued. “And it got me to where we are today. And I’m not going to look back.”Being surrounded by racism in the workplace can never be an easy thing, but the more we dig deep and are comfortable with who we are, there should be nothing that anyone else says that can force us to feel bad. No one can affect you with what they say, unless you let them.

Let Julie’s experience be an important lesson in self-reflection and acknowledging that success is not determined by physical appearance. We as women need to work to change the attitudes of society and the media, and the way we can start is by focusing on all our best attributes which have nothing to do with what we look like.And how’s this for a bit of retribution and a testament to her rise in TV despite her Ohio-based news producer saying it would never happen. WDTN in Dayton, Ohio have issued a public apology saying “they do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind”. Yeah, now!

Here’s to more brave women willing to admit mistakes but learning the important lessons which will inspire others in the right direction.

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