China’s Tortured Beauties

Topics Society


This documentary takes a look at how modern China is working hard to give itself a new image. And now a frightening new craze for Western-style beauty is driving a nationwide boom in dangerous and drastic cosmetic surgery procedures.

“Until recently, communist ideals valued natural beauty. Today, other things are considered beautiful”, explains fashion photographer Zheng Chen.

At just 19 years-old, young model Ai Xiao Qi has found success in China’s fashion world. But she isn’t under any illusions about the painful cause of her popularity: “when you’re in front of cameras, your face must have a strong profile”. A strong profile: the new Chinese euphemism for surgically-enhanced Western features. In a bid to be as tall as Westerners, Chinese girls are even undergoing gruesome procedures to break and extend their legs. After a botched surgery, tour guide Qi Lixia ended up horribly disfigured.

“The doctors tried to re-assure me. But my nose was completely deformed.” But such is the pressure on young girls that she’s prepared to go under the knife again: “Looking good helps me in my job”. As this mantra becomes more widely accepted, the message to young girls is clear: it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

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