Dr. Kirby's Blog

Why Can’t I Have Maleficent’s Cheekbones?

cartoon woman

It appears that real-life celebrities are getting some competition from fairy tales when it comes to their coveted looks. While Kim Kardashian’s derrière still sits firmly at the top of RealSelf’s “Most Requested Celebrity Body Part” list, one of the more sought-after features these days are the dramatic (and prosthetic) cheekbones that belonged to Maleficent, the misunderstood “evil” queen played by Angelina Jolie.

In my profession, it is common for patients to use a celebrity as an example to illustrate what he or she thinks is attractive; doing so can be helpful during a consultation to help a patient communicate his or her goals. However, fixation on an “ideal” becomes problematic when someone believes plastic surgery can help them look like another person or a fictional character.

I have noticed that “cartoon beauty” tends to take characteristics that we generally view as desirable—large eyes, full lips, high cheekbones—and enhance them to an extreme. These exaggerated features work well in movies to let us easily recognize a character’s expressions or give the character a trademark trait. While such dramatic features may make for a stunning fairytale character, “cartoon beauty” will not transfer to a real human face and still look beautiful.

When it comes to human beauty, several scientific studies have shown that a naturally attractive face is one that is symmetrical with balanced proportions. The exaggerated features of characters we see on screen would simply look unnatural or even frightening in person. If you would like to see just how unpleasant beauty taken to extremes can look, view this photoshop experiment that morphs real women into Disney princesses.

Plastic surgeons are not here to make patients look the same or like someone other than themselves. Still, there are some defined aesthetic norms that plastic surgeons learn and use to help individual patients improve the appearance. My plastic surgery training and experience affords me the skill and knowledge to make improvements that enhance a patient’s beauty naturally by applying guidelines of symmetry and proportion to an individual’s unique anatomy.

For the right candidate, plastic surgery can work to accentuate a desired feature or improve an injury or defect, bringing greater aesthetic harmony to your appearance. However, to try and mimic someone else’s features, no matter how beautiful, on another person’s face or body would result in a cartoonish look—and very few of us would consider that a fairy tale ending.

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