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Photographer Documents the Global Beauty Craze

Over a five-year period, photographer Zed Nelson visited seventeen countries as he documented the global craze for beauty. In his book, Love Me, Nelson writes, "Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry. Body improvement has become a new religion."

He cites the following examples:

  • In Manhattan women have their toes surgically shortened and then secured with metal pins so they can fit into three-inch Jimmy Choo stiletto heels.
  • In China, a procedure which was originally developed to lengthen the legs of dwarves, has become popular for people who simply want to be taller. By severing the shinbones and stretching them apart with an implanted metal frame, up to three new inches of leg bone can be grown, but the operation comes with risks of deformation and weakened muscles.
  • Nelson noticed that everyone wants to look the same (like white Americans). He saw skin-lightening products in Africa and surgical procedures to "Westernize" eyes in Asia. Women in Iran proudly walk the streets with bandaged noses, excited to be the new owners of American-style noses.
  • In South America women have operations that make them look the Barbie doll ideal, and blonde-haired models appear on the covers of most magazines. Anorexia is on the increase in Japan, and in China beauty pageants, once banned as 'spiritual pollution', are now held across the country.
  • Nelson was amazed at how common cosmetic surgery has become all around the globe. Banks offer loans for plastic surgery. American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 percent of all cosmetic surgery patients.

Nelson believes that our never-ending pursuit of youth is the primary cause behind this global quest for bodily perfection. He says, "As our role models become ever younger and more idealized, we are so afraid of aging that the quest for youthful preservation generates an almost pathological obsession with our bodies."

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