Julie Chen Says Having Surgery to Look “Less Asian” Helped Her Career


I personally applaud Julie Chen for her courage to speak out about her eye plastic surgery. The co-host of The Talk revealed her secret about her difficult decision of getting a plastic surgery on her eyes just to pursue her dream as a network news anchor. Chen was told by her boss back in the 90s that she would never become a desk anchor because of her ethnicity, and her eyes were considered looking disinterested and bored on camera.


After Chen enlarged her eyes to look like a Caucasian, she said “And after I had it done, the ball did roll for me,” she confessed. “And I wondered, did I give in to the man?”

Her story reveals a bigger issue as Asian Americans face racism in newsrooms or in any industry. The points Chen’s old boss made were:

A) There wasn’t a big Asian community for her to cover.
B) Viewers didn’t connect with her because she is Asian.
C) Her eyes looked too small on camera.

Her former boss (or anyone who thinks he way he did) tends to put Asian journalists into their own ethnicity. For them, the only thing that an Asian journalist can cover is their own community. If there aren’t any Asians involved, sorry, it’s not your story. They also think viewers connect with reporters based on the way they look, not the way they tell the story.

Don’t forget that there are Asian American journalists such as Juju Chang, Lisa Ling, Laura Ling, and more who took on the TV spotlight without having to look “less Asian.” I am sure there are a lot of young “Julie Chens” out there who are also struggling with the decision to get plastic surgery to reach their career goals. It’s a competitive world, especially in journalism, and people will always come up with something to bring you down. For them and all of us, I think the question is, “Are you comfortable in your own skin?”

Another question is if this is a rule of the game, do you follow the rule and play with it, or do you change the rules and start a new game? For an individual who has to deal with the problem right there and then, change is something that comes late and slow. So many will bend to the rules of the big white world, and make decisions that they have to make.

But we should carry on the conversation and continue to push for change. Change starts with speaking up, as Julie Chen did.

In my interview with journalist Jose Antonio Vargas earlier this year, he said something very inspiring, which is “Don’t let white people define success for us.”

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Follow Shako Liu on Twitter.

Image credit: The Talk

EDITORS NOTE 9/13/2013 @ 5:15pm Pacific: A paragraph referring to a personal citation was removed, by author request.

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About Shako Liu

Shako Liu is a multi-media journalist in Los Angeles. She gained her master's degree in journalism at University of Southern California.
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