No Scalpel or Chemicals Required

For the first time in my many years of watching The Academy Awards, my viewing was tinged with sadness. As I watched the gussied up celebrities make their way along the red carpet and stop to tell us who they’re wearing (always fun), I found I was averting my eyes a bit too much for my comfort.

Whether because of injection or surgery, some of the women’s faces were painful to look at. Puffy in spots. Unnaturally stiff. Doll-like.

Why oh why? What are you doing?

I kept sighing. No. No. Not you, too. You’re so beautiful. You typically radiate from within. Tonight you don’t. You’ve got a surface feel.

Admittedly there were probably plenty of people on that red carpet who had had work done and it was subtle enough that it flowed right into their being. OK, I suppose. I understand that the industry expects things of you, gives you more work if you live up to an ideal, frustrates the heck out of you with its worship of surface gloss.

But please reconsider your priorities.

There is a movie that came out a few years ago that is probably terrific, but I’ve never been able to watch it all the way through because one of my favorite actresses had had such obvious and poorly executed work done on her face. I’ve tried to watch repeatedly and just keep thinking, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” Ultimately I change the channel, even now.

I don’t want to name names. It’s not productive. I’m not auditioning for a spot on a Mean Girls sequel. And I know I’m not saying anything startling here.

But maybe in some ways it’s becoming more startling because there’s blessedly so much to counter it in 2013. On the same day as the Oscars there was a story in The New York Times about women with “something to say” hitting Broadway this season, in roles ranging from former Texas governor Ann Richards to the Virgin Mary.

“Hailing from the worlds of American politics, Hollywood deal making, children’s literature, urban fable and the Bible, they are figures prone to saying what other people will or can not,” Ben Brantley writes. “This means that even when these characters whisper, their voices have the volume of bullhorns. It also means that actresses bold enough to play them have the opportunity to make 10-course meals of their roles and to grab the Tony nominating committee by the lapels.”

Come on, women, we’ve got this. We can make our way. But it’s up to us to gently lift (or forcefully thrust, as the case may be) this societal weight off our backs and focus on the craft or the task at hand that helps us grow and succeed in whatever way that means to us.

In what I see as the inadvertent inspiration I always seem to get while watching the Oscars, aside from Anne Hathaway’s poignant “it came true” as she cradled her statue, I was drawn to the energy of the men so much more this year. Quentin Tarantino collected a writing award while focusing on the fact that his characters are memorable if they’re well cast, a nod to teamwork that had the actors from Django Unchained beaming in the audience. Ang Lee was radiant even before he won his award, simply deriving joy from members of his team making the march to the stage to receive their accolades.

I’m not saying women aren’t happy for their co-workers and co-stars. There was just this palpable difference in the energy of those who were there to celebrate their artistic achievements and those who were there to celebrate their artistic achievements while trying to look like they hadn’t aged. The latter is bound to drain energy from a human being, yes?

When Argo won the Best Picture award, Ben Affleck had the simplest of messages – fall down, but keep getting back up. I think one of the things I enjoy about watching the Oscars now is that it reinforces that glorious loop. This is a profession that allows us to see its victories and disappointments ceremoniously. If my Twitter stream is any indication, Affleck’s words and emotions made an impact on many.

This is just one way we remind ourselves that no matter what phase of that loop we’re in, at some point we’ll get up. We’ll get back in. We’ll give it our all. And if we wind up with a reward, well, OK then.

No scalpel or chemical required.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to