Pressure to be beautiful? Many take extreme measures to change appearance

From magazine covers to the red carpet, from the catwalks to music videos, and even Main Street, America is obsessed with being beautiful.

Our nation spent $12 billion last year on cosmetic surgery.

Cosmetic trends are showing the extremes that people are going through to change their faces, and some say, their race.

Liposuction? Chin implants? Face lifts? And yes, even permanently changing your eye color?

How far would you go to get the look that American society deems beautiful?

"I had my eyes done and my eyelids because I'm Asian," said Tweety Li.

She came to the United States from Vietnam 25 years ago.

"My eyelids are sad-sacked down and I don't want to be sad," she said.

Fifteen years ago, she says she had cosmetic eyelid surgery to make her look more beautiful. More like the women on magazine covers and more like the women here in America.

Television talk show host and former news anchor Julie Chen recently admitted to having eyelid surgery to help boost her career.

"After I had that done, the ball did roll for me," she said.

Eyelid surgery is popular in many Asian countries.

Many of the transformations go beyond eyelid surgery and are so drastic that people now need plastic surgery certificates to prove their identities.

The phenomenon of skin whitening or bleaching is also huge among people of color in South America, Asia, Indonesia and Africa.

"When I was 14, it started as an accident, but I liked it and I kept going," said Viyon Amouso.

She moved from Nigeria to the U.S. when she was 12 years old.

She mistook her mom's skin lightening cream for lotion one day and rubbed it all over her body.

"I looked in the mirror and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I really like it,'" Amouso said.

And the transformation from when Viyon was about 13 or 14 years old before the lightener and Viyon after months of bleaching -- the change was so dramatic, she looked like a different person.

"Everybody was like, ‘OMG, you're so white,'" she recalled. "Then I started getting more attention. People were looking at me more. I was getting more compliments."

FOX 5 Anchor Shawn Yancy asked her, "Did anyone ever say you're just as beautiful with your brown complexion as your lighter complexion?"

She replied, "Honestly no. I was getting, ‘You look better lighter than darker.' So I was convinced I looked so much better."

"How do you respond to people who say you're doing that to look more white or like a white person," Shawn asked.

"Some people say that I really want to be white like an actual white person, but that's not my goal," Viyon answered.

Dr. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, owner of Visage Dermatology, is treating more and more patients, including Viyon, for what she calls the dangerous side effects of using over-the-counter topical creams to lighten their skin.

"I see the reactive hyper pigmentation," said Dr. St. Surin-Lord. "I see the stretch marks, red stretch marks, atrophic stretch marks. When someone gets it over the counter and they've been using it for months and years, they thin their skin out, and their skin may be getting lighter. But they're getting steroid acne."

Even Viyon admits she has had problems too.

"I broke out a lot and I get really dark under my eyes," she said. "It gets really dark during the summertime from bleaching and your skin gets really sensitive in the summer."

It is not just women bleaching their skin. Men do it too.

Former Major League Baseball player Sammy Sosa has admitted to using skin lightener.

And although they haven't confirmed it, there are plenty of other celebrities who appear to have gotten lighter over the course of their careers.

It is that look that Viyon is trying to emulate.

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