More Than Skin Deep – Tablet Magazine

It was May 2021, Israel was at war with Gaza, Instagram was on fire with politics, and Dr. Sheila Nazarian, a prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, had a sense of deja vu.

Dr. Nazarian, who does everything from tummy tucks and chin lipo to burn surgery and hand reconstruction, was no stranger to social media supernovas. In 2020, she starred in the Netflix series skin decision, a reality show following her with beauty consultant nurse Jamie as they worked with patients – from a mother seeking a makeover after having quadruplets, to a woman with a bullet hole in the side after being shot by her ex-husband. The popularity of the show, which was nominated for an Emmy last year, as well as its own successes at the operating table in Beverly Hills, have left it with a considerable following. (Right now, she has 826,000 Instagram followers and says she gets 2,000-3,000 new followers a day thanks to the show.)

Dr Nazarian is also a Persian Jew who fled Iran at the age of 6, smuggled out of a bazaar alongside her mother and sister in the deserts of Pakistan, hiding in a van full of But. His family left the country only after a tip from his lab technician – a man whom his father, a pathologist at the Shah’s Heart Hospital, had treated for an eye parasite that had nearly robbed him of his vision. . Tech alerted his father that he was on a government target list and ordered him to flee. “You saved my eyes,” he told his father. “Now I want to save your life.”

The Nazarians met in Vienna, where her father was awaiting their visa approvals. From there they moved briefly to New York before finally settling in Los Angeles when Dr. Nazarian was 7 years old. In her new life as Angeleno, she was a self-proclaimed nerd with excellent grades but insecurities about not fitting in. She wanted to be a blonde with a slicked back ponytail instead of frizzy “rhinoceros-like” hair. She went east for college in Colombia before years of graduate medical school and a plastic surgery residency at USC, during which she was often one of the few women in the room. .

Dr. Nazarian’s immigration campaign has taken her to the pinnacle of an aesthetic empire that includes not only a surgical practice in Beverly Hills, but also a medical spa and medical-grade skincare line. There’s also the Nazarian Institute, which offers a mix of business and medical courses ranging from lessons on how to make a viral video to an immersive course on “Awake Vaginal Rejuvenation.” She has three children, all born during her residency.

Reflecting on her successes, she stresses the value of hard work, education, and a fierce inner purpose she calls “lioness energy.” She also reflects on how lucky she was growing up as an American. Dr. Nazarian is unabashedly proud of the United States and grateful for its freedoms, especially after being shaped by a childhood in a country where “if you expressed what you wanted, you disappear”. She could be forgiven for thinking that she would never live in fear again.

In May, when Hamas rockets slammed into Tel Aviv and Dua Lipa began posting Instagram posts accusing Israel of human rights abuses, Dr Nazarian found herself having unwanted flashbacks about a life she thought she had safely left behind. She was appalled by a mass social media campaign that was ill-informed at best and grossly anti-Semitic at worst. The tenor of this campaign was something she recognized. “It smelled of Iran,” she recalls. “You say what you think and they make you disappear. It’s the trauma. »

Early in her career, she had been reluctant to publish about her Judaism, worrying about saying Shabbat Shalom and debating with her family about whether to put a mezuzah on her office door. Starting about six months before the Gaza conflict, she had made a few attempts at foraying into Instagram activism, mostly on anti-Semitism, after reading too many stories about hostility to people’s expressions. Jewish in colleges and realized with concern that her eldest daughter was only a few years away from campus herself.

Today, watching fellow doctors and other largely ignorant influencers accuse Israel of apartheid and its advocates of virulent racism and even genocide, Dr Nazarian knew she had to use her platform on a much larger scale. big. As she said, “OK, you’ve got 100,000 subscribers – well I’ve got 500,000 subscribers, so watch out, ’cause I’m about to go shit.”

Most of Dr. Nazarian’s audience existed outside of any pro-Israel echo chamber; they were just fans of skin decision. So she started posting, demystifying widely circulated infographics and directing people to educational resources. She wished her Jewish online subscribers strength, peace and Shabbat Shalom.

Nothing about this activism seemed easy – she felt terribly exposed and emotionally and even physically at risk. She now spent eight and a half hours a day posting from her phone in addition to her regular job, waking up with terrible anxiety and responding to the invectives of online trolls (one day she sat down and blocked more than 2 000 accounts). She cried for the first time in almost 10 years. But the experiences that made speaking anxiety-inducing also gave it an orienting sense of perspective. “I am in America; I shouldn’t have to block out what I think,” she says. “It was Iran.”

Part of the lioness energy is standing up for what you believe in, even (or especially) if it scares you. These days, you’re just as likely to see a post mocking socialism or a story criticizing child mask mandates on Dr. Nazarian’s Instagram as you are to see a photo of her at Louboutins or in the operating room. (though you can still find plenty of glamorous outfits on her recently verified TikTok account). She describes last year’s Gaza conflict as “her first foray into finding her voice”, a formative time that gave her the courage to speak her mind, even if it means upsetting a few people. That said, she now has private security at her home and office and owns three guns. She also encourages other Jews to arm themselves to protect themselves.

Dr. Nazarian has broadened the reach of her activism, tackling issues in her home state of California, where she is fed up with rising crime, draconian COVID policies and their damaging effects on children. She stepped into the ring at her children’s school, pushing back against unscientific pandemic measures like an outdoor mask mandate imposed by activists. There, she takes a more behind-the-scenes approach, making her point by sending recent studies and statistics to the school’s medical board, an approach that ultimately worked; the school canceled the warrant just a few days ago.

It’s victories like these – tangible things that make a significant difference to his children and their quality of life – that excites him the most. Dr. Nazarian wants to set an example for his children with his activism, showing them how to be brave, ask tough questions, and speak their truth even when it’s terrifying to do so. She speaks out her beliefs because she wants to change hearts and minds and hopefully leave a better world behind.

“I’m a doctor,” she said. “If we want to solve a problem, we have to make the right diagnosis so that we can apply the right treatment. I’m willing to talk about what we need to talk about, because I’m not afraid to diagnose what I see.

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