The political vanity fair

2011-10-14 08:14

The celebrity world already has a love affair with all kinds of cosmetic surgery procedures. Now politicians are jumping on the bandwagon, writes MOKGADI SEABI

Politicians are not fashionistas. Just take a look at the red carpet during the opening of Parliament and you’ll readily agree. Not convinced? How about Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s endless deluge of suits, which in her mind are flattering?

But there’s a shift happening. And it has nothing to do with political policy. Rather, it has everything to do with vanity. Some of Mzansi’s leading female politicians have been bitten by the beauty bug.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has long made image-conscious women of Mzansi cringe at her upper-lip mole, which was a more wicked witch than Cindy Crawford beauty spot.

These days, the mole has been relegated to the same resting place as that of singer Enrique Iglesias’, which he removed back in 2003. The singer later said he was surprised that anyone noticed that it was gone. Nkoana-Mashabane cannot say the same.

She will now put her best face forward at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference, COP17. Heck, even her choice of synthetic hair has improved!

Another MP who demands a second look is Angie Motshekga. The basic education minister recently completed a dental procedure to fix her buckteeth and close her famous gap. And the eyesore black mole next to her left eye is a thing of the past.

While her spokesperson, Panyaza Lesufi, claimed the “teeth were becoming loose, so fixing them wasn’t a vanity issue”, we see absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of egotism.

Just take DA leader Helen Zille. She kicked off the vanity trend two years ago when she admitted to smoothing her wrinkles with the help of a needle.

“I had a Botox treatment for the first time in 2005. A friend told me she had had it done, and I was a bit surprised because I thought she was being very superficial. I thought about it a bit, looked at my own frown lines and decided to give it a try. The results seemed worth it.”

While this move was seen as conceited by some people – Trevor Manuel took jibes at Zille – she received support from fellow Botox worshipper Edith Venter.

Dr Anushka Reddy, owner of the Medi-Sculpt Clinic and president of the South African Association of Cosmetic Doctors, says: “South Africans are quite conservative when it comes to discussing their medical beauty regimes. People will readily admit to having a facial, but very few, if any, will admit to having Botox or cosmetic surgery.”

Reddy believes this could be because people don’t want to be accused of overindulgence in a country where the gap between the rich and the poor
keeps widening.

“The other reason is vanity itself. People wish to be perceived as naturally attractive. They don’t want to be perceived as in need of a nip or tuck to look better,” she adds.

Botox, facial surgery, hair laser treatment, breast augmentation, tummy nip and tuck, and liposuction are just some of the popular treatments across the world.

People use these treatments for various reasons, including fighting the signs of ageing, getting rid of fat or getting rid of unsightly bits on the body. Medical science has ensured that a good self-esteem takes centre stage.

Says Reddy: “It is a little known fact that people who are attractive and youthful-looking tend to earn higher salaries and climb the corporate ladder more readily. The current trend among people – and you could extend that to anyone in the public eye, such as politicians – is that more women and men are using Botox because they want to look their best when in a competitive position.”

Last year, news that 500 Chinese government officials undergo cosmetic surgery every year made international headlines. They opted for the surgery to make themselves look more attractive for TV and public appearances. Plus it’s a little known fact that many Chinese job ads include physical requirements for height and weight.

Even globally famous politicians have admitted to cosmetic procedures. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had Botox injections.

The country’s vice-president, Joe Biden, has had hair transplants, while former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a partial face-lift.

In Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva admitted to some Botox, while Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is well known for his fondness for surgery, including a face-lift and hair transplants.

Says Reddy: “Botox is rapidly gaining popularity among men. Botox for men is such big business that it’s even got a nickname: Boytox.”

Now that we are practically in bed with China – and they seem to be calling the shots – expect more local politicians to go under the knife. After all, one doesn’t want to offend a Chinese delegation with one’s looks.

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