There are certain mistakes a celebrity can make, and get away with it. Post-workout paparazzi shot? We’ve all been there. Sex tape? That could be a plus, depending on your “O” face. Forget the name of the EPA during your make-or-break political debate? Hey; at least it lands you the best segment on Letterman.
But a star’s relationship with their plastic surgeon is sacred. There’s no “do-over” on a bad tuck, lift or rhinoplasty. Like Luke Skywalker, you only get one shot—and it’s because of this that one can find the best and the worst plastic surgeons on the planet right here in LA-LA Land, California.
Traditionally, the industry’s best surgeons have set up office in Beverly Hills, or perhaps have “slummed it” toward Century City or the Westside. But over the last few years, as paparazzi lenses have ferreted out those offices, celebrities seeking clandestine “work” have ventured farther afield for their nip-tuck. One of these hotbeds is Glendale: a hidden gem tucked against the San Gabriel Mountains, more slightly laid-back than its 40-carat neighbor, Pasadena. In Glendale, stars can scoot past the Brand Farmer’s Market to pick up some local produce for their post-op snacking pleasure, or swing the other direction and go highbrow at the Americana At Brand, where that great I’m-Going-Incognito hat is waiting for them at stores like Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman, Georgiou, Barney’s New York and Juicy.
Their eventual destination is likely to be the offices of Dr. Armen Vartany: one of the stars’ “go-to” guys for excellence in plastic surgery. Originally from Boston, Dr. V came west for his residency in General Surgery at UCLA Medical Center, then continued on in training at Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Orange County’s esteemed UCI Medical Center. By that time, he’d fallen in love with the Southern California weather, and decided to center his practice in Glendale.
Speaking with Dr. Vartany in person is like a mental spa visit: you instantly trust that you’re in great hands. There’s strength and surety in the doctor’s voice as he speaks about the profession for which he’s clearly passionate:
BNH: Every specialist’s path has a story behind it. What’s yours? How did you come to choose Plastic Surgery for your profession?
AV: When I started med school, I had no idea what specialty I was going to like. But I discovered that I enjoy working with my hands, and that I’m good at it, too. Plastic Surgery is especially rewarding because it’s like art—sculpting—making something beautiful. You get to fix things. It was the best decision I ever made.
BNH: Describe your “best day ever” on the job.
AV: They’re all the best day ever. I love knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives. When they’ve healed from their surgery, they feel so much better about themselves. It often changes their whole personality. Those follow-up visits are the most fun. Many times, I work on young girls, and it really affects their self-esteem. They blossom as people.
BNH: This one may be hard. Who’s the ONE patient you will never forget, good or bad?
AV: That’s not hard at all. Four or five years ago, a young woman came to see me. She was a recent emigrant to the U.S. from Armenia. She had a profoundly drooped nose, and one of her eyelids also severely drooped. I did her nose, and a colleague of mine worked on her eye in the same surgery. When she was done, she could have been a model. She started taking care of herself. She held her head up with pride. Her life was completely different. I have her picture in an album in my office.
BNH: We hear Glendale is the new “it” location for celebrities wishing to sneak in some “work” under the radar. What’s your thinking on this? Do you agree? And if so, why?
AV: I see a lot of celebrities, and I simply think many of them are realizing you don’t have to go to Beverly Hills to see a great plastic surgeon. And word is growing because they all talk to each other. There’s a lot of BAD plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills! I’m not saying they’re all bad, but a lot of bad ones have gravitated there. Also, celebrities like it here because it’s more relaxed. They can get in without being hounded by the press.
BNH: Well. speaking of that catty Hollywood press!…everyone reads the gossip magazines and sees the “expert” plastic surgeon’s opinion on what a celebrity has gotten “done”. Aside from the obvious culprits, how can you tell if a person’s been “done”, and what they’ve had done?
AV: I don’t think you can tell something like this from a photo of any kind. A lot of times, they show these pictures and it’s not always true. A lot of times, it’s probably photo-shopped—or a trick of the lighting. I don’t’ always trust those pictures.
BNH: Quick, without thinking too hard: your Top “Oh-My-God” celebrities: the ones you saw after their work, and just said “Oh-My-God!” And why?
AV: Well, obviously Michael Jackson; may the man rest in peace. I think he makes everyone’s “Oh-My-God” list. Ummm…, Mickey Rourke. Not a good job, we’ll let it rest at it. And who’s that Italian Prime Minister…Silvio Berlusconi…his sideburns give it away. A tell-tale sign of a bad face lift is an unnatural sideburn. Meg Ryan is another obvious choice. I pick the ones you all do, too. Bad plastic surgery is pretty easy to spot.
BNH: Who’s the one celebrity you wish you could get your hands on, and why?
AV: Paris Hilton. She is such a stunning woman in many ways, but her nose is a little long. I’d give it a cute little tilt at the end, too.
BNH: You really like noses.
AV: (Laughs) Yes; I really like noses. They’re my specialty. And they’re important! Look where they’re located on your face!
BNH: What’s the one thing you wish the world could know about your job, that we don’t already know?
AV: That I’m passionate about my job. That most good surgeons are. That I really love what I do, and it’s not always about the money.
BNH: Do you get busier before the Academy Awards?
AV: No. I’m actually getting ready for my busiest season. It’s always right before the holidays, and then again in the summer, when people are going to their high school reunions. It’s any time people will be going to see loved ones, or friends they haven’t seen in a long time. During the winter, I’m always busiest during school break times.
BNH: Who are the celebrities that people request to be “transformed into” the most?
AV: Patients always bring in pictures. For noses, I see a lot of Kate Winslet shots. And Penelope Cruz. For men? Hmmm. That’s tougher. They generally don’t pick actors or “names”. They pick male models; guys with strong, balanced features.
AV: Ask about the doctor’s board certifications. Make sure their certifications are in plastic surgery, not some other specialty! I’m board-certified by two boards dealing specifically with plastic surgery. For instance, you wouldn’t want an Ears-Nose-Throat doctor doing your tummy tuck! A lot of surgeons will tell you they are certified, but you need to check the specialty. Also, go to a surgeon who does A LOT of what you want to have done. Make sure they have many pictures of the other procedures they’ve done; look through their albums. My album for noses is three inches thick. My other albums aren’t as big. You can tell what I’m best at. And ask around. Ask for references. Do your research. You can never do too much research.
Thanks for letting us get a little nosy with you, Dr. Vartany! To check out the doctor’s work, check out his website: www.vartany.com.
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