Day 6: Becoming Xander Ford

The face you are born with versus the face you choose. Welcome to a world where cosmetic surgery is the new norm. Photo source: Google

Xander Ford, the Filipino teenager who transformed his looks through facial surgery, is currently trending on Twitter. @iamxanderford, from bullying victim to bonafide internet sensation – but not before going under the knife first.

What Xander did is none of my business. We all have our own personal journey to take and it was the path that he took. Xander said his looks got in the way of a successful singing career and indeed, a month later – thanks, I presume, to a sponsored surgical operation – he has a shot at becoming a teen star.

While I’m not going to judge him, I am going to question to what extent society is responsible for the health risk he took to get to where he is today. His plight is again another example of the entertainment industry’s discrimination against looks. You could be the most talented person onstage but your star won’t shine as brightly as the person who is prettier or younger than you.

Getting stuff done is not unique to the Philippines. It’s the new normal.

But just because it’s accepted doesn’t make it okay. You really have to do your research. The same doctor who was part of the team behind Xander’s transformation was involved in a major cosmetic surgery only six months ago. It was reported that the then 29-year-old woman Shiryl Saturnino went to see him for a liposuction/butt surgery/breast augmentation. A few hours later, she died, while on the operating table. Going under the knife can be fatal.

Xander’s fate could have gone awry but his surgery was successful so instead look where he is: the toast of the town.

But for how long? And if he’s done the surgery as a teenager, does that mean he needs maintenance from now on?

There’s another Filipina actress who was rumoured to have had (another round of) surgery: Arci Munoz. She’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and I don’t see any reason why she needs to change. To her credit, she just shrugged off the negative comments.

Arci Munoz in a scene from the hit romcom “Always Be My Baby”.

The risk is that once you start, it’s hard to stop. You really need a good team around you and family support to keep you grounded. It’s hard to ignore this expectation – a very unrealistic one – that when you’re in front of the limelight, being beautiful is the bare minimum, you have to be perfect.

I am not against becoming a better version of yourself. Mentally, emotionally and physically – to realise your maximum potential is a good thing.

But I feel bad for entertainers, performers and anyone else whose success hinges on their looks. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Xander in his previous life as Marlou when he was being bullied because he was ugly.

Can I just say though that for the record, he is not ugly. Pre-op he looked like an average teen.  He may not look like George Clooney but even George Clooney didn’t look like George Clooney when he was young!

The choice of the name Xander is also interesting. It is close to Xian, the name of another actor who eerily has the same facial profile.

One of the famous actors in the Philippines, Xian Lim.

Xander Ford during the big reveal on TV with his mom.

Perhaps in a parallel universe he decided to stay as Marlou, abandoned his dreams to become a singer and instead studied, started his own business or chose another path.

What would his life be then? Have we just lost the next Steve Jobs or the next President? We will never, never know.

The lesson is this: the face we’re born with is no longer the face we need to live with. It is simply the starting point.

Is that a good thing? Maybe if we’re less obsessed with beauty then Xander wouldn’t feel the need to change and Shiryl wouldn’t be dead.

As a society, we can all try to be just a little bit kinder to each other.

Happiness is so elusive it would be a shame to withhold it from anyone simply because of their looks.


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