Pimp My Bod

Our intrepid reporter travels north Scottsdale in search of the sweet life. Someone's version of it, anyway

I am standing topless in front of a photographer. My back is against the wall as she snaps picture after picture of my bare breasts. This is quite possibly the most embarrassing day of my life. Not only am I half-naked with a stranger, but the lighting in here is just terrible. Fluorescent. Harsh. Unflattering.

Moments earlier, the same photographer measured the "droopiness" of my breasts by seeing if a Q-tip would stay stuck underneath them. (It didn't. I'm a 24-year-old B-cup, and gravity isn't that cruel.)

I'm not at some weird bare-chested Q-tip fetish pornography shoot. I am at a plastic surgeon's office, pretending to want breast implants.

Landon Armstrong
Landon Armstrong

I've never considered plastic surgery before. In fact, I used to openly mock it.

Things have changed. At least, temporarily they have.

We all know the Scottsdale stereotype. The skinny, large-chested bottle blonde, perfectly manicured and bronzed from the tanning bed. Coach bag on her arm, Chanel earrings in her ears, Tiffany bracelet on her wrist, Juicy Couture on her ass. She's in the VIP room at Myst, turns up in the back pages of 944, shops at Electric Ladyland, and projects a precise and contrived image of wealth and beauty.

That is not me.

I dye my blond hair brown. I don't remember the last time I was at the mall. If I'm going to spend money on a purse, I'd rather buy a vintage Enid Collins than a monogrammed sack handcrafted in China of completely natural soft milled cowhide. The bars I favor tend to be located in central/downtown Phoenix strip malls. They don't have windows. They serve well vodka.

I know what some of you are thinking. But I like it.

And, hey, I've been to the VIP room at Myst and I spent the night fighting off the unwanted advances of a fiftysomething man named Walt, declining his lecherous offers to buy me a drink. His best line was, "I don't usually like brunettes, but you're hot." Then he told me all about his money. Gross. The whole mess left me depressed. I kept asking my friends, "Do people really do this? Every weekend? Really?"

It's just not my scene.

But what if it were? What would it take for someone like me to fit in someplace like Scottsdale? Obviously, a lot of people enjoy the luxe lifestyle there. They can't all be morons. There must be something to it. I decided to find out. And because image is the first and most important thing in Scottsdale, I started with a makeover. Or the idea of one, at least.

I am very aware that I am the polar opposite of what is generally considered "hot" in Scottsdale.

On a scale of bag lady to babe, I probably fall somewhere between librarian and theater actress.

I'm cute, not sexy. I'm okay with this — I hate the word "sexy." I exercise, but I'm not skinny. My body is what the men who hang out around the Circle K on Van Buren and 18th Avenue like to call "thick." (It's a compliment, coming from them. I think.) My nose is a little crooked and my two front teeth are very slightly chipped.

I like those things about myself. My nose and my teeth are my two favorite things about my face. But imperfections, no matter how adorable, are still imperfections. So I spent the past six weeks trudging from surgeon to surgeon to find out just how much work it would take to make me "perfect."

Let me tell you what I don't like about myself.

But first, let's talk shop. Of the 110 plastic surgery offices located in Arizona, 83 are in the Phoenix metro area. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the region Arizona is in accounted for the highest number of all plastic surgeries performed nationwide in 2006. We win the prize for the most breast implants, calf implants, chin implants, ear and eyelid surgeries, face-lifts, vaginal rejuvenations, tummy tucks, and liposuctions. To be fair, our region does include southern California, but there's no doubt that plastic surgeons in Scottsdale do a thriving business.

You hear stories all the time about this celebrity or that one flying quietly into town for a little work. I'd bet most of the tales are true. Rich people have been flocking here forever for it. When I was a kid, Elizabeth Arden still ran an exclusive spa (read: fat farm) perched on Camelback Mountain, called Maine Chance. Everyone from first ladies to B-movie actresses went there — very, very quietly.

These days, many people skip the fat farm and go straight for the knife. Not surprisingly, the most popular procedure nationwide is breast augmentation, followed by nose reshaping and lipo. When it comes to non-surgical procedures, Botox takes the top spot.

And it's not just desperate housewives trying to recapture their youth (and their husbands) who are getting these surgeries. Nationwide, more than 800,000 women in my age group (20-29) underwent cosmetic surgery last year.

At least I'm not alone. I decided to focus on the most popular procedures for my adventure through Scottsdale. Although this is not a story about botched plastic surgery, I did research each doctor before I visited. Each of them came highly recommended from online forums, like yestheyrefake.net, where women meet to exchange surgery tales and doctor names. I checked each doctor out with the state medical board, and though the records they keep go back only five years, none of my doctors faced any malpractice suits, though one had gotten into trouble for writing an unnecessary prescription for a family member. I've chosen not to reveal names here because no one knew what I was really up to.

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Congratulations (?) on writing the first article about plastic surgery that I've ever read.

Let me just tell you, as an Angeleno who's spent quite a bit of time in Phoenix and Scottsdale: nothing compares to southern California when it comes to all-consuming, near-nihilistic vacuous vanity.

You should know that males such as myself, few and far between though we may be, value a woman with your wry wit and healthy self-acceptance more than a harem's worth of plasticine airhead Barbie-dolls.

(P.S. I came here from Two Percent Co. vis-�is your reporting on that ignominious fraud Allison DuBois. Please accept my personal thanks for bolstering my faith in humanity, which has been in figurative ICU for some time. Keep up the good work!)


I swear the last doctor sounds like mine. Fantastic article!

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