(LOS ANGELES) — Julie Chen, 43, has had a successful career hosting shows like Big Brother, The Early Show and now The Talk.
But it wasn’t always that way, and Chen admitted Wednesday as part of The Talk’s Secret Week that she gave into industry pressure years ago to change the look of her eyes to look less Chinese. In fact, she had plastic surgery.
Chen was working as a local reporter in Dayton, Ohio, almost 20 years ago and wanted a chance to be an anchor.
“[The news director] said, ‘You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese,’” Chen revealed to her co-hosts. “He said, ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? … Because of your Asian eyes, sometimes I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested, you look bored because your eyes are so heavy, they are so small.’”
Chen said his speech felt like a dagger in her heart.
“It felt like a weird, grown-up version of racism in the workplace,” she added. “I started developing a complex.”
To make matters worse, she met with agents for career advice, only to hear from a “big-time” agent, “‘I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger,’” Chen recalled. “And I did it.”
The concept of changing her face to look less Chinese divided her family, she said. “Members of my family wanted to disown me if I got it done.”
In the end, her parents supported the decision. She showed before and after pictures to show that, “If you look at the after, the eyes are bigger, I look more alert.”
After the procedure, the opportunities did start to pick up for Chen, she continued.
“I don’t like to live with regrets,” she said. “I did it, I moved on. No one’s more proud of being Chinese than I am.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jeff Peterson, Deseret News
Kayla Nelson, Idaho State University Marketing and Communication