Northwest Asian Weekly
Compare photos of Julie Chen from 1996 to photos from the present day, and it’s obvious that the Big Brother host and The Talk co-host has had some work done. But it wasn’t until Sept. 11 that she explained why. On an episode of The Talk, Chen revealed that she had plastic surgery at the age of 25 to look less “Chinese” and to further her career.
“My secret dates back to — my heart is racing — it dates back to when I was 25 years old and I was working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio,” Chen said. “So, I asked my news director … ‘over the holidays if anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in?’ And he said, ‘You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese.’ He said ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that, because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera, you look disinterested and bored.’”
She continued, “So, what am I supposed to say to my boss? I wanted to cry right then and there. It felt like a dagger in my heart, because all of my life I wanted to be a network anchor.”
She conferred with her family and, after meeting with a talent agent who told her he wouldn’t be able to represent her if she didn’t have the surgery, she decided to go through with the operation.
“So I started meeting with agents for career advice, and this one big-time agent basically told me the same thing. He had the biggest names in the business. And he told me the same thing. He said, ‘I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look better,’” Chen said. “‘But the agent said, ‘You’re good at what you do. And if you get this plastic surgery done, you’re going straight to the top.’”
Her decision divided her extended family, but opportunities began to appear after the surgery.
In 1999, four years after the surgery, Chen left Ohio to become a news anchor for the CBS Morning News, her first job at a national program. She would go on to co-host The Early Show on CBS, Big Brother, and The Talk.
Since the surgery, she said she has looked back on the reasons why she did what she did.
“And after I had it done, the ball did roll for me,” Chen said. “And I wondered, did I give into the man?”
“I have to live with every decision that I’ve made,” She concluded. “And it got me to where we are today. And I’m not going to look back.” (end)
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