Inside America's Obsession With Plastic Surgery

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 24, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: "Extreme Makeover," "Nip/Tuck," "The Swan." Those TV shows have been huge TV hits in America and that's no surprise to my next guest. She says we are a nation addicted and dangerously obsessed with plastic surgery.

Alex Kuczynski is a recovering addict herself and author of the new book "Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery." She joins me now.

So, addicts, you call yourself a recovering addict. What do you mean by that?

ALEX KUCZYNSKI, AUTHOR, "BEAUTY JUNKIES": Well for 10 years I got Botox, but I've been Botox-free for a year. I had my upper eyelids done because they were congenitally quite fat and made me look like Bill the Cat, the cartoon character. And I also confessed to having had a tiny bit of liposuction from the posterior of my body.

GIBSON: Now, we have some figures about what is commonly done in this country. I think, 2005, Botox: 3.29 million injections; liposuction: 460,000 operations; breast augmentation: 360,000.

That constitutes a nation addicted?

KUCZYNSKI: Well, that constitutes a nation that can afford it being addicted. And actually, it's a lot easier for Americans to afford cosmetic surgery now because most banks will give you a wonderful loan to have your breasts done.

GIBSON: They will?

KUCZYNSKI: Yes, at hugely high interest rates.

GIBSON: Are you telling me that Pam Anderson, famously known for having her breasts redone, could have gotten a mortgage on that, essentially?

KUCZYNSKI: Yes. Unfortunately, the loans are rarely paid back because patients already have the goods, so it's not the best deal for banks.

GIBSON: Well, are people then therefore looking better? Is this actually a better-looking country from all of this cosmetic surgery?

KUCZYNSKI: I don't think so. I think we are getting older and fatter as a population, and I think that part of the boom of cosmetic surgery is that we are trying desperately to combat that and retain some sort of hold on our youth.

GIBSON: Is your book saying that this is a terrible thing and we should stop, or it's not such a great thing in excess and we should be careful, or that run willy-nilly, what difference does it make?

KUCZYNSKI: Well, my book basically says, look, take advantage of medicine and technology, just don't go overboard. And in my case, I felt like I went overboard, and so I just stopped and went cold turkey.

GIBSON: What is it about shows like "Nip/Tuck" that make them such hits? Is it because they are funny shows or people really are obsessed with plastic surgery?

KUCZYNSKI: I think people are just amazed and entranced by the idea of being able to change their bodies and the way people perceive them. And it's so easy. It's such an American notion, the one of transformation. And it's so immediate.

GIBSON: And you are saying it does work? It is quick and it does work?

KUCZYNSKI: Yes. There have been many studies that suggest that women who have had facelifts live longer than women who haven't. At the same time, there have also been studies that suggest that women who have had cosmetic surgery attempt suicide more frequently. It's difficult to tell.

GIBSON: Her political opponent, Hillary Clinton's political opponent, says that she must have had some work done. Do you agree when you look at Hillary Clinton?

KUCZYNSKI: You know, I've met Hillary Clinton a couple of times over the course of a few years and it wouldn't surprise me if she might have dabbled in a little Botox. But you know what, I think she is just really well styled and wears makeup and brushes her hair more often.

GIBSON: Alex Kuczynski, recovering addict, author of the book "Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery," thanks a lot.


GIBSON: Alex, appreciate it.

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