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Cherry Healey challenges the big issue of being a feminist and wanting plastic surgery

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Susan Devaney
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TV presenter Cherry Healey’s new documentary, Sex, Lives & Liposuction, addresses the normalisation of plastic surgery. Warning: it’s not for the faint-hearted (or squeamish). 

“I sat outside the hospital and I cried, I cried for a good 15 minutes,” says Healey. “I mean I wept, I really wept.”

And chances are you will (or have), too. Having hit our small screens last night (Thursday 20 September), journalist and TV presenter Cherry Healey’s new documentary, Sex, Knives & Liposuction, really delves into why more women than ever before are opting to go under the knife. And it makes for an eye-opening, emotional watch.

Throughout the three-part series playing on W, Healey challenges her judgemental views towards people who decide to seek plastic surgery, asking: can you be a feminist and have plastic surgery?

To answer her question, she goes international – from Russia to Brazil and Turkey – to witness first-hand the physical, financial and psychological implications of altering your body.

In the first episode, Healy follows one woman (Keisha) to Turkey to undergo an expensive Brazilian butt lift. Before she has even set foot in the very lavish medical resort, Keisha hasn’t yet met with the doctor who operates on her – it’s her first time in Turkey, and her first consultancy to discuss the body-changing procedure.

With Healey by her side, she goes ahead with the operation – and it’s brutal.

“She [Keisha] was bruised from top to bottom,” says Healey, reflecting on the experience. “When she woke up in the hospital, she projectile-vomited into the loo. Then loads of blood and liquid started seeping out of her, and then she wet herself. She just couldn’t stop vomiting.”

According to a recent report, the death rate following the procedure was found to be 1 in 3,000 – thankfully Keisha is not part of the statistic.  

The one thing that the documentary aims to do (and achieves) is show the stark realities of having surgery – something which Healey was adamant in highlighting as the number of people seeking surgery continues to rise.

Case in point: in 2015, a record number of people in the UK underwent cosmetic surgery – with more than 51,000 people having procedures to alter their appearance. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) the number of operations grew 13% overall since 2014 with all procedures seeing an increase across the board.

But does changing the way you look mean that you’re taking back control of your own appearance? Or does it mean that you’re giving in to the overwhelming pressure of the patriarchy? There’s no denying that women’s decisions about their own bodies have the potential to spark huge debates – even celebrities Anna Faris and Chimananda Ngozi Adichie have previously had their say on it.

“The problem isn’t women, the problem is society and the message that pushes them through the door,” says Healey. “Every single day, a hundred times a day, we [women] get told to be better.”

Throughout the series, Healey even toys with the idea of going under the knife herself after being given a cardboard cut-out of her ‘ideal’ body (a bigger bum, boob lift and more). But you’ll need to tune into the next couple of episodes to find out whether she does or not. 

But can you be a feminist and have surgery? “We absolutely cannot tell another woman if she is or isn’t a feminist,” says Healey. 

“My friend had her boobs reduced because she was getting loads of attention from boys that she didn’t want. She’s still a feminist. So we must never tell a woman whether she is a feminist or not.”

You can watch Sex, Lives & Liposuction on Thursday 27 September and Thursday 4 October at 10pm on W. 

Images: Getty / Instagram