Secretary of State John Kerry has been looking a little different lately. His face is a bit fuller, a bit wider. It’s no big deal. It could be anything: allergies, some new medication, a classic combination of crying and stress eating. (I know I would be!) There are plenty of YouTube commenters who lean toward the clone/double/Illuminati reptilian shapeshifter theory. Really, who’s to say?
People only noticed because Kerry’s been in the news so much lately. But because he was in the news so much on account of pressing business in Syria, it didn’t seem like the best moment to bring this all up. According to the Boston Herald, that moment is over.
“It’s time to face up to the rumors, John Kerry!” announces today’s headline. The rumors, according to the possibly credible plastic surgeons interviewed, are that Kerry’s had some work done. Some fat grafting, perhaps, or a little Botox or Juvederm.
“No. End of story. That’s not a denial, that’s a fact,” Kerry’s spokesman Glen Johnson told the tabloid.
Fact though it may be, the media’s treatment of aging female celebrities suggests it is never the end of the story. Tabloids have spent decades speculating about Demi Moore's surgical rap sheet, for example. But, lucky for Kerry, that means these women have developed many strategies for handling such touchy accusations. We offer him the plastic surgery rumor playbook, free for the cribbing.
Teen idols Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears shot down rumors they’d gotten breast implants by drawing attention to the to very creepiness of those allegations, reminding the public that they weren’t done growing, and perhaps their pituitary glands were responsible for the improved cleavage. If no one will believe Kerry’s still a growing boy, he could sympathetically play up the cruelty of aging. I barely recognize myself either, fellas, and it’s frankly terrifying! What kind of jerk makes fun of an old guy's face?
Remember when everyone said high rates of plastic surgery in South Korea had turned Miss Korea into a creepy clone beauty pageant? It was later revealed to be the work of an overzealous photo editor with a very specific type. In "before" photos, the contestants displayed an array of face shapes and features. Photoshop is powerful stuff. It won’t explain away news photos of Kerry, but when official portraits are used to bolster the rumors, as the Boston Herald did, Kerry can just say some Adderall-popping State Department underling thought it patriotic to remove his nasolabial folds.
Cite Health Reasons
What Kerry needs is a deviated septum excuse for his jaw. No one begrudges Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz their nose jobs, because they admitted they got them done under the guise of a medical procedure to improve their breathing. In fact, Kerry knows this firsthand: In the seventies, he had jaw surgery to correct a bite problem (“malocclusion”) that also improved his appearance, according to the Washington Post. What Kerry needs is a second deviated septum excuse for his jaw.
Blame Contouring Make-Up
This strategy involves bargaining: would you be willing to trade rumors you had plastic surgery for confirmed knowledge you wear makeup? Julie Chen confessed to getting eyelid surgery as a career move, but she firmly denied allegations she’d also had a nose job, chalking it up to the contouring skills of her makeup artist. This trade may be less attractive for male politicians. Even though they all wear makeup, they must never be seen wearing makeup.
The Small Confession
Celebrity plastic surgery only becomes newsworthy for its “gotcha” element. You were pretending to be a supernaturally hot person, but all along you’ve just been an abnormally hot person. That doesn’t mean Kerry needs to walk back his “no” and send the Washington Post his medical bills. (Although radical honesty works for his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, who admits to regular Botox sessions and once said, of plastic surgery, “When I need it, I get it.”) Even a minor or incomplete confession is enough to take the sport out of it. Gwyneth Paltrow says she’s willing to try anything, and even admits to dabbling in Botox but hating it, thereby making it not at all fun to accuse Gwyneth Paltrow of having had work done.
The Big Problem
If Kerry wants to shoot for the moon, he will pull an Ashley Judd. Appearing on ABC’s Missing last year after an acting hiatus, bloggers observed that Judd "had work done" to make her face look fuller. Judd responded with a long op-ed in the Daily Beast, blaming the change on prescription steroids and weight gain, but mostly condemning the media dialogue that “is constructed so that [women’s] bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others — and in my case, to the actual public.” It didn't convince me she didn’t get fillers, but it did make me ashamed for entertaining the thought. Plus, Judd's essay left the door open for Kerry to continue the conversation, from a man’s perspective. “[B]oys and men ... are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood,” she wrote.