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  • Sep 22, 2014
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Hong Kong K-pop contestant, 14, left in tears after organisers offer plastic surgery

Fourteen-year-old finalist in Korean pop talent competition was advised to go under the knife for a chance to break into the industry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 1:08pm

Aspiring singer Shimali De Silva was surprised when she got through to the finals of an international Korean pop talent competition last year.

Her surprise quickly turned to shock, however, when organisers of the K-Pop Star Hunt took her to see a plastic surgeon, who told her, "You're 14, but you look 30", and proposed major changes to her appearance.

"They told her she was too dark and her nose was not proper," the Hong Kong teenager's mother Ruanthi recounted to the Sunday Morning Post last week.

Today, as dozens of young Hongkongers audition for this year's Star Hunt, Shimali is busy rehearsing for her role as Diana Morales in the Youth Arts Foundation's production, A Chorus Line, confident and self-assured.

But barely a year ago, the Australian-born Sri Lankan girl's self-esteem was in shreds. She was just 13 when she won the Hong Kong leg of the Star Hunt, and was, alongside 15 other finalists from Asia, flown to Seoul last November, where a television crew filmed their efforts.

Two weeks into the finals, the contestants were told they would be given a "surprise". Shimali, who had just turned 14, was the youngest of the group.

The "surprise" turned out to be an individual consultation with a plastic surgeon. Shimali, now 15 and a Year 11 pupil at Sha Tin College, said: "We weren't told what we were doing, but we quickly caught on, flicking through the catalogues of eyes, noses and boobs.

"The doctor brought out this terrible mugshot and said to me, 'You're 14, but you look 30'. He pointed out the curvature of my forehead, the ratio of my nose to my chin, all this stuff that I hadn't even thought about.

"I was trying not to be affected by it, but as a 14-year-old, people tell you that the way you look is important if you want to break into this industry; that sunk in and I started tearing up.

"I told the doctor I appreciated his comments but that I was opposed to the idea of changing your appearance as a prerequisite to success in your career.".

Immediately after the consultation, Shimali called her mother, crying from the toilet in the doctor's clinic.

"I felt devastated, violated and helpless, so I took a flight the next day to get her back from Korea," Ruanthi said.

"We teach our children to be proud of who they are, that they should be judged not by the colour of their skin but by their good actions. Suddenly, my daughter was told that her skin, her nose, her face are not right; my heart was breaking."

Shimali was eliminated in the next round of the competition, but she does not believe her stance against plastic surgery played a part. Some contestants opted for temporary cosmetic procedures, such as nose fillers, which last about two years.

Ruanthi, like her daughter, understood there were cultural differences. Overall, Shimali enjoyed the experience, she said.

"She has put it behind her now, and it was a learning experience. The organisers didn't mean to harm the contestants; they thought they were doing them a favour," the mother said.

Shimali added: "I don't think there was a racial element to it; it's just that they perceive beauty as having light skin."

A spokeswoman for Channel M, a K-pop television channel and organiser of the contest, said the visit was "part of the programme for the contestants to understand K-pop culture". "Channel M did not and would not request K-pop Star Hunt contestants to undergo any plastic surgery treatment for the programme," she said.

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This article is now closed to comments

mercedes2233
This shouldn't even be news. She wasn't singled out, as according to the article, all contestants were given this offer. Of course the doctor would say nasty things about people's appearances to get business. This is just business tactics.
Relji Joseph
It's not what is a K pop culture or what all these artist go through to become famous, we all are aware of the dark side of that colorful world...here i felt devastated that a 14 year old girl was taken to a plastic surgeon without her parent's consent, I consider this unlawful.
daily
If she wasn't prepared to go under the knife..........should have stayed away from the Korean entertainment industry...........over there, it's the norm...........every girl in the business has had something done to their face.
seanniem
So what did PSY look like before plastic surgery ?
ahpui
He didn't- that's why he was lucky to have his break-through after what.. 20 -odd years(?) in the industry.. besides how many cases of PSY can you count?
oxymoron19
So the myth about Korean kids dreaming of getting a plastic surgery as a 1st-to-do-list when they grow up is right. I am an Asian so what I am about to say is not racist. Korean people do share common features of having a flat face and uneven face symmetry. I travel a lot in Asia so I could literally tell which is which without them saying a word.
It's safe to say that 90% of the good looking guys and girls you see at K-pop or entertainment undergone plastic. It's a cultural thing to do. It's sad they can't embrace their own kind and probably hate what they see in the mirror. It's like Michael Jackson can't stand himself being a black and bleach his skin white. Unnecessary infeiriority complex.
goncalo
Too dark? To me she has a beautiful skin!
sontan0917
the truth is koreans look ugly. they have very ugly tiny nose and eyes. they are short. of all the most they are devalued and low esteemed people.
oxymoron19
In SCMP you must address the issue with political correctness. Though I agree with your observation but people would dislike your post because of lack of etiquette. We are all hypocrites but some are more than others.
ramsay
It is amazing how similar K-Pop stars and Korean beauty contestants look.

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