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Renee and Uma, Makeup and Plastic Surgery

On February 10th, chatter began amongst the celebrity and fashion mags that actress Uma Thurman had pulled a "Renee Zellweger," and appeared on the red carpet with a different face. Jill and I had talked about Renee Zellweger back in October, and now here we were again, talking about plastic surgery, makeup, and what female celebrities face when it comes to their physical appearance. We thought we'd turn our discussion into a blog post, particularly now that it seems that Uma Thurman's "new face" was due to makeup, not a facelift.

What was your reaction when you first saw the photos of Renee Zellweger and then the photos of Uma Thurman, seemingly looking different than what they used to?
Jill: I honestly didn't recognize Renee Zellweger - I thought she looked more like Daryl Hannah or Robin Wright than herself. I was very surprised her facial structure had changed that much, particularly around her eyes which I think are/were the most unique and characteristic feature of her face. I felt a bit sad that she had traded her unique looks for a more Hollywood, generically attractive face.

My reaction to Uma Thurman's "new face" was similar though much less strong. Uma looked like she had some work done, like maybe a face lift, but much less resculpting than Renee. I too felt a little disappointed that she might have had plastic surgery because I've always thought she was so incredibly beautiful. Her eyes looked tighter, more pulled up and smaller to me, as well her cheekbones looked really emphasized although I could tell she had fairly dramatic contouring.

Cath: When I first saw the photos of Renee Zellweger not looking like herself, I reacted with surprise and confusion. I searched the photos for what I could recognize in her face, her body, the way she carried and held herself, the way she tilted her head or smiled. I wasn't sure if I was able to recognize her when she didn't have Renee Zellweger's face.

With Uma, the headlines screamed "Another Renee?" and again, in these photos, I didn't see the woman I would recognize as Uma Thurman. I reacted not so much surprise and confusion as with Renee, but sadness and frustration.

For both women, I looked at old photos, not sure if I believed their faces had been changed with makeup, with plastic surgery or with age. I had to remind myself of how old they were and compare that with how I would expect a woman of their ages to look. Were eyes looking larger? Smoother? Fuller lips?

After the reaction to Renee, I was very hesitant to assume Uma had a new face, but could it really be just her makeup as some of the speculation was? And can we really tell just from looking at photos? Some of the photos of Renee did look like Renee, others didn't at all.

Renee says that the change in her appearance (while not acknowledging that there has been one) is due to a happy life: "I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows." Thoughts?
Jill: I think it's very understandable that Renee doesn't want to discuss how or what she might have done to change her face. And I do believe she changed her face through medical procedures. There is still a double standard in our society where we demand women to look beautiful and young, but are simultaneously judgmental if women pursue "unnatural" or "artificial" means to achieve that standard. We have unrealistic ideals that can only be achieved through artificial means and we ironically value "natural" beauty.

I completely agree that any person should have the right to alter their appearance and that people also have the right to be judged on their character and not on superficial details. However, I also think it's understandable that many people were taken aback by the change in her appearance, which could be described as significant or drastic. We come to identify people we know by their faces and when that changes significantly it confuses our concept of identity. I think this effect is magnified with celebrities because we don't actually know who they are as people, and their "brand" is so dependent on how they look.

Cath: I definitely think that the changes to Renee's face aren't just due to age, health, happiness or love. And I don't judge her for having plastic surgery or Botox or whatever she has had done. She doesn't need to share it with anyone if she doesn't want to. But whatever has been done to her face has changed her appearance completely. She doesn't look like Renee Zellweger anymore. That is also her choice. I don't question my reaction to it though. If I walked into work and one of my coworkers had a new face, I'd react with surprise and confusion too.

Both Renee and Uma were beautiful women, and they both still are. It does makes me sad that Renee has lost what made her distinctively beautiful.

We don't scrutinize appearances of male celebrities like we do female celebrities nor do we hear male celebrities have to defend themselves about changes in their appearance as much as female celebrities. Men aren't asked to discuss their support garments or "walk" their hands down a runway for the mani-cam on the red carpet. After an event, lists are compiled of the best dresses, the best hair and the best makeup looks on the red carpet. Men get "Best Dressed Men" lists, or possibly on lists of "Best Dressed Couples". Women's appearances are itemized, broken down into parts and men are judged on their overall appearance.

It turns out that Uma's change in appearance was mainly due to makeup. She isn't, in fact, unrecognizable in this Today Show interview. How do you feel about your reaction to what seemed to be another actress changing her face completely?

Jill: I was relieved to find out it was just makeup. I could also tell that her contour was very heavy and that the MUA was definitely going for a more editorial look by eliminating things like mascara.

Cath: Even knowing how transformative makeup can be, I was surprised to learn that she hadn't indeed completely changed her appearance. That fascinates me. I know the transformative properties that makeup can have, but Uma wasn't wearing a lot of makeup and still people thought she'd completely changed her appearance. That's incredible and her MUA Tony Surrat gets a high-five from me. Surrat talks to People Magazine about the makeup he used here, if you're interested. 

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