Is plastic surgery worth it? Two writers weight the risks and the rewards

In an ideal world, we women would be judged solely on our inventive wit and wisdom. And if I ever find out that such a groovy galaxy exists, I'll book passage pronto and swear never to endure another fat-sucking procedure. However, I have been forced to face the ugly truth: Looks do count, and liposuction really can last forever.

Celebrities have always lived on the cutting edge, because their career can fizzle or flop at the drop of well-placed cleavage. Plastic surgery pick-me-ups have become so de rigueur in Hollywood that even African-American celebrities have succumbed to the age-defying and figure-defining scalpel, with results so satisfying they'll kiss and tell. Radio personality Wendy Williams, for example, gabs on air about her liposuction and breast implants. And Queen Latifah publicly announced her decision to have breast reduction last summer.

But make no mistake, celebs aren't the only ones feeling the pressure to exude eternal youth and attractiveness. Anyone climbing the career ladder can feel the sting of the beauty-equals-bigger-bonuses factor. Explains high-powered New York City attorney Patricia L. Gatling, "I'm in the public eye, and I always feel as if I'm representing Black women when I walk into a courtroom or press conference. I found as I turned 40 that it was getting too hard to maintain a size 6 and look fabulous in my suits, so I decided to get liposuction on my arms, stomach and hips. I'm very happy with the results. Now I feel more comfortable when I reveal my arms in sleeveless tops and sit down in my tight, straight skirts."

Adds Stanley Taub, a New York City plastic surgeon who has nipped and tucked his share of stars and secretaries: the past decade there has been a "In considerable increase in the number of African-Americans getting plastic surgery. Rhinoplasty, tummy tucks, liposuction and eye lifts can provide a psychological boost and restore youthful confidence. And in today's economy, fees have become more reasonable."

Given the latest plastic-surgery breakthroughs, the question is no longer, Should I or shouldn't I? but rather, What are my expectations However, you need to be realistic. "You must understand plastic surgery isn't going to fix your problems or change you as a persons, but it can help you feel better about your appearance," says Gatling.

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