News anchor Julie Chen has revealed that she had a cosmetic eye surgery at the age of 25 to make her look “less Asian” as a young TV news reporter.
Julie Chen, 43, made the emotional admission in an episode of The Talk yesterday, describing how she was told she would never be an anchor because she is Chinese.
“My secret dates back to – my heart is racing – it dates back to when I was 25 years old and I was working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio,” she said.
“I asked my news director … over the holidays if anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in? And he said, <<You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese>>.
“He said <<Let’s face it Julie, how relatable is you to our community? 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>>.”
Unsurprisingly, her boss’s words hit her hard.
“I wanted to cry right then and there,” Julie Chen said.
“It felt like a dagger in my heart, because all of my life I wanted to be a network anchor. . . I started recording my newscasts every day and all I could see was my eyes, and I’d ask myself, <<Does he have a point? . . . Do I look bored?>>.”
The Ohio news director was not the only one to say such a thing to Julie Chen, now one of CBS’s most familiar faces.
“I started meeting with agents for career advice, and this one big-time agent basically told me the same thing,” she continued.
“He had the biggest names in the business. . . He said, <<I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look better>>. He then whips out a list of plastic surgeons who have done this procedure.”
Julie Chen’s family in Queens, New York, was divided on the idea though. While her parents had witnessed the racist bullying that saw her called “Ching Chong” on the school bus, they feared she was denying her Chinese heritage.
“I consulted with my mother, and [she greeted me with] silence. She said, <<This is a deeper conversation that we have to have with your father>> . . . This divided my family.
“Eventually, my mom said, <<You wouldn’t have brought this up to me unless this was something that you wanted to do>>. And they told me that they’d support me, and they’d pay for it, and that they’d be there for me.”
Julie Chen went ahead with the procedure, which removed the excess skin that creates the double eyelid appearance.
She admits that she did get more high-profile work after the cosmetic surgery, but she did have concerns about whether she should have agreed to do it so readily.
“After I had it done, the ball did roll for me, and I wondered, did I give into the man?” Julie Chen told The Talk.
Not that she harbors any regrets: “I don’t like to live with regrets.”
“I did it. I moved on. No one is more proud to be Chinese than I am.”