Anthony Griffin’82 is a doctor, and he plays one on tv. He’s a plastic surgeon on ABC’s Extreme Makeover, one of several new reality shows that promise to change people’s lives by drastically altering their looks.
BAM There’s been a lot of plastic surgery on TV lately—Extreme Makeover, Nip/Tuck, The Swan. What’s the appeal of these shows?
Griffin TV is all about the story. Most of these people have such compelling stories. I had one woman, Kim Rodriguez, a relatively attractive woman whose teeth were just awful. All of a sudden she gets this procedure done, and it’s just changed her life. She’s confident. She can smile again. People love that.
BAM What kind of message do these productions send?
Griffin Extreme Makeover shows that we can change people’s lives. Plastic surgery is not all about vanity. Some of it is self-esteem surgery. We don’t call anyone an ugly duckling. We’re the only show endorsed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
BAM What kind of response has there been to your appearance on the show?
Griffin My practice went from getting about twenty e-mails a week to 200 a day. I went into Starbucks, and the guy behind the counter said, “How can I help you, doc?” Plastic surgeons are like rock stars now. It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in my career.
BAM Was there ever a patient on the show whom you would have treated differently off-camera?
Griffin In my first episode, I had a patient with a very large nose. I operated on her for three hours, and when I stepped back, I thought, “Wow, it’s still big.” Then it dawned on me that 10 million people would see this, so I figured I should do a little more work. If I hadn’t been on camera, I probably would have told her to come back in a few months for a second stage of surgery. That’s one of the pressures of the show. People have to look good in six weeks, and the before-and-after has to be obvious.
BAM One of your specialties is preserving ethnic features in minority patients. How would you treat Michael Jackson?
Griffin My advice for Michael Jackson is to come back and be black again. He’s a good example of why a lot of minority patients are hesitant to get plastic surgery. I think he has a body image disorder. If he walked into my office, I would just say no.
BAM How do you feel about society’s emphasis on beauty?
Griffin I think it’s good. Everybody wants to look the best they can, and I think they should. I do think there’s a slippery slope, though, and we’re trying to keep that in perspective.
BAM Speaking of slippery slopes, does anyone really need a Brazilian butt lift?
Griffin Absolutely. We’re trying to make the world beautiful one bottom at a time.
Interview by Michelle Walson ’99