I've never really been interested in daytime talk show The Talk. In terms of The View rip-offs or replacements, I'm probably most associated with the "How-you-doin?" demographic of The Wendy Williams Show. Still, it's impossible to avoid PR soundbytes that come out of franchised tabloid fodder every now and then. Each day this week, for example, the women that make up The Talk's panel - Julie Chen, , Sheryl Underwood, Sharon Osborne, and - are all revealing deep, dark secrets. I assumed that the biggest blog ripple would be caused by Osborne's silly, shallow declaration that she had an affair with when she was in her 20s.
And then Julie Chen, now 45, announced that she got plastic surgery at 25 to look less Chinese. Whoa.
She revealed her history with workplace discrimination: She claims her boss in Dayton, Ohio refused to put the journalist on camera when anchors were on vacation or traveling for the holidays. "'Let's face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community?'" he reportedly said. "'How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that, because of your Asian eyes, I've noticed that when you're on camera, you look disinterested and bored.'"
Chen, understandably horrified, decided to get the Hell out of Dodge. However, when looking to expand her career, a "big agent," one whom she insinuates represented legendary journalist Connie Chung, told her that he would only represent her if she got plastic surgery on her eyes. If she did, she would shoot to the top due to her talent. You can watch the entire segment here:
This was obviously a polarizing issue for herself and those around her. Family members threatened to disown her. In the end, she went through the procedure with the financial and emotional support of her parents. She even brought a tried-and-true before and after photo that fit so well on daytime talk shows, showcasing how dramatic the surgery actually was:
Viewers - off all races - will most likely judge her one way or the other. Some will feel betrayed. Some will say she looks better. But what's fascinating about the severity of this confession is that it was almost impossible for her to fully have a talk on The Talk about the ramifications of this on a personal level of how, if at all, it affected her relationship with her racial identity. That's not to say that she didn't try.
"If you look at the after [picture], the eyes are bigger, I look more alert...more expressive," she says. "I will say, after I had that done, the ball did roll for me."
Everyone should do what they feel is right for their bodies, but what is so bizarre about this segment is that the co-hosts made it more about generally opting to get plastic surgery, as opposed to dissecting its ramifications on a personal, cultural level. Sharon Osborne, for example, kept her assessment of the situation short and simple: "You look fabulous!"
Her other co-host, Sheryl Underwood, assured Chen that what she did was okay. "You made a choice that was good for you and you have represented people, you've represented your race, you've represented women and your colleagues. Don't look back." The only co-host who expressed verbal concern (Aisha Tyler mostly just looked horrified) was Sara Gilbert, who told Chen that she looked beautiful before and after.
For a show with such a racially diverse panel, it's just strange to see actions like that be completely devoid of conversation about socially inflicted ideals, how to overcome them, and how or why the hosts embrace them.
Just a few weeks ago in the same vein, the co-host Sheryl Underwood, who is African-American, made negative comments about natural black hair when talking about Heidi Klum and Seal's biracial children. Again, because it's a silly morning talk show, they were discussing how the former couple save locks of their children's hair. "Why would you save Afro hair?" she said. Co-host Gilbert said she did the same thing with her children. Underwood told Gilbert that doing that was different because it's "beautiful, long silky stuff." She later apologized for her "nappy," "nasty" natural hair comments, but suddenly the "silly morning show" seemed more important.
I personally don't think Chen or Underwood need to apologize for anything they've said or done regarding their bodies and beliefs on beauty. Again, everyone should do what they want with their bodies. But in this day in age - where boundaries of fame and success have radically changed - I just wish that Chen was able to express that the decision she made almost 20 years ago no longer applies or how to change it if it does. She didn't. And that hurts.