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Cosmetic surgery booming in China

From CNN Correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver

Hao (left, after surgery) now has bigger, rounder eyes.
Hao (left, after surgery) now has bigger, rounder eyes.

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A woman is becoming an advert for China's cosmetic surgery industry. CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver reports.
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Cosmetic surgery

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Life is good for 24-year-old Lucy Hao.

She has a part-time job as a freelance writer and an apartment in Beijing. And her 15 minutes of fame have stretched into weeks as local media documented her transformation.

Hao has become a living billboard for cosmetic procedures in China.

After four months and twelve operations, she now has a higher nose. And her eyes are larger and rounder -- doctors removed the fold in her eyelid to give her a more European look.

Hao also had breast implants and liposuction to take fat from the lower buttocks, making the head-to-toe makeover.

Many of Hao's procedures are common enough in China. What's unusual is the promotional nature of what is normally a private matter between doctor and patient.

Hao told CNN she has an agreement with the hospital.

"I will be their spokeswoman after my operations, kind of like being an advertisement," she said.

"I want more people to know about this hospital so that they will have done what they need to improve themselves."

Neither the hospital nor Hao will reveal who paid for the some $50,000 worth of operations.

But the Evercare Medical Institution, which serves an affluent minority, wants more people to have work done here, rather than go abroad.

"Lucy will become a public image and make people realize that she has become more beautiful because of surgeries performed by Chinese doctors," a doctor at the hospital said.

"This will improve the public recognition of Chinese plastic surgeons."

For an elite who travels outside China seeking an alternative aesthetic, the pursuit of perfection includes an element of wanting to look more Western.

Beauty and fashion editors notice another pattern for people who make a living on their looks: looking international is bankable.

Hao had operations on her eyes, nose, breasts, bottom and other parts of the body.
Hao had operations on her eyes, nose, breasts, bottom and other parts of the body.

They say for actresses and the like, the careers depend on international appeal -- the more European the more fashionable.

But East Asian aesthetics are also finding an expression in surgery.

One example is the ideal of a gracefully curved jaw line, which is schedule to be one of Hao's last operations.

It's a relatively difficult one that can go wrong -- as it did for Julia Liu, an aspiring actress.

"It's difficult to make a face thin, but I tried because I want to look good on the screen," Liu said.

"But they took too much off my jaw line, and my face got too thin. I have had so many operations done, and I can't remember them clearly."

Liu has come to the Evercare clinic to correct the botched surgery that was done somewhere else.

Hao, meanwhile, says she can understand the impulse to keep on going with cosmetic surgery.

"Having plastic surgery can be addictive. One might want to do it again and again after the first time," she said.

"For instance, after seeing good results from changing my eyes and nose, I was confident that the next operation would also turn out really well."

Actress Julia Liu says doctors took too much off her jaw line.
Actress Julia Liu says doctors took too much off her jaw line.

But Hao insists she will know when to stop and has already decided not to have two procedures her surgeon recommended.

Hao says her quest for physical perfection is not about looking more Western; instead her post surgical self is simply an alternate reflection of a young woman.

According to one industry estimate, at least 200,000 people have reported being disfigured after plastic surgery in China in the last decade.

More than a year ago the Ministry of Health issued rules to weed out unqualified surgeons.

Even now potential dangers remain but they are often overshadowed by dramatically increased wealth and changing values in a society where changing one's looks is just another service that can be bought for a price.

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