‘I was the uglier sister’: Bella Hadid’s nose job at 14 speaks to a much wider problem
The supermodel recently admitted that she had a nose job at 14, which just speaks to the intense pressure women are under and the toll it can take on a person's mental health.
Earlier this year, two celebrities – Bella Hadid and actress Kirsten Dunst – opened up about their mental health struggles. Almost 15 years apart, their stories have many threads in common, though it’s their differences that are probably most striking. Struggling with the stigma around mental health yet still able to maintain some level of privacy, Dunst admitted that she had sat in her feelings for too long before eventually seeking help for depression at a rehab centre in 2008. For Hadid, a child of the internet, such seclusion wasn’t an option, and she’s been suffering in plain sight for much of her life.
While our understanding of mental health has greatly evolved in the intervening decade, so much of that has been undone by the new technologies we surround ourselves with… and Hadid’s crying selfies hint that we’ve only found new ways to censure mental struggles, especially where celebrities are concerned.
We’ll come to Hadid in a moment, but first, let us discuss Kirsten Dunst. Busy promoting her new movie – Power of the Dog – towards the latter end of last year, Dunst spoke candidly about how Hollywood and her old coping mechanisms took their toll on her mental health.
Revisiting that period in her life for an interview with The Sunday Times, the Golden Globe nominee admitted that her twenties were some of the hardest years of her life… an admission that will probably come as a surprise to some. Establishing herself as one to watch amongst the Hollywood elite, Dunst was thriving professionally, but her personal struggles made it difficult for her to enjoy such newfound success.
“I feel like for most people, around 27, the sh*t hits the fan,” she said. “Whatever is working in your brain, you can’t live like that anymore mentally. I feel like I was angry. You don’t know that you are repressing all this anger, it wasn’t a conscious thing,” she pointed out.
Already with a reputation for enjoying the partying side of things, that wasn’t necessarily a helpful coping mechanism either and Dunst conceded that “it’s hard to talk about such a personal thing”. “But it is important to share too. All I’ll say is that medication is a great thing and can really help you come out of something. I was afraid to take something and so I sat in it for too long. I would recommend getting help when you need it.”
It may have taken her “too long” to speak up and get help, but the actress finally did and was prompted to seek treatment for depression at a Utah rehabilitation centre in 2008. Prioritising herself and working on her mental health was a transformative experience for Dunst who noted, “you become a different person; you grow up”. This isn’t the first time that she’s opened up about her past demons either.
Previously touching on the subject in an interview with New York Magazine back in 2010, Dunst said that she doesn’t think her story is unique. “I think most people in their twenties go through some sort of depression,” she confessed at the time. “If you’re successful at a young age, no matter the profession, there has to come a time when you reevaluate everything, what it means to you. Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
According to the article, things began to unravel for her after the critical pasting received by Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. “I loved doing it, but it came with weird, hurtful criticism as well. And I took it to heart.” Hollywood can be quite tough on a person, that’s just the nature of her work, Dunst noted, before adding, “you grow up in a business where there’s a lot of people-pleasing. It’s hard to be firm in your own ground and not be afraid to rock the boat. I was swallowing a lot of stuff… in my relationships and personal life I absorbed things from other people, and then because of what I do for a living, I had to keep giving. It can dissolve you.”
“Kirsten definitely had OD’d on Hollywood and needed to get away,” her former co-star Ryan Gosling said. Get away she did, and thankfully it was something that Dunst was able to do privately (or as privately as is possible given who she is). Social media wasn’t really a thing back in 2008 and while there were paparazzi and tabloids to avoid, she could still get her affairs in order without them playing out under Instagram’s microscopic lens.
Social media scrutiny
This has not been the case for supermodel Bella Hadid, who has been very forthcoming about her own struggles recently. The daughter of Yolanda and Mohammed Hadid, Bella has been in the limelight pretty much from the word go and was already a natural in front of the camera by the time she had reached her teens. While Dunst also had her start at a very young age, what sets the two apart is that Bella was brought up on social media. Unlike Dunst, who could hide herself away to a certain extent, Bella has spent much of her twenties compiling a highly curated highlight reel of her life – one that is based completely on falsities though, and it’s the duality of such platforms that has made her experience arguably even more traumatic.
Ironically detailing her struggle on the very place that she blames for having created such a toxic situation in the first place, Bella let fans in on her truth back in November when she shared a clip of friend Willow Smith discussing how she often doesn’t feel “good enough”. Accompanying the post with a lengthy caption about how everything is not always as it seems, the youngest Hadid sister also uploaded several photos of herself crying alone in her room, admitting that sadly, this has been her reality “every day, every night for a few years now”.
Appearance vs. reality
Explaining her decision to share those same selfies with her band of 48 million followers, Hadid said that it was the only way she knew how to feel less alone. “I would have really depressive episodes and my mom or my doctor would ask how I was and instead of having to respond in text, I would just send them a photo. It was the easiest thing for me to do at the time because I was never able to explain how I was feeling. I would just be in excruciating and debilitating mental and physical pain, and I didn’t know why. That was over the past three years,” she told The Wall Street Journal.
“[When I posted them] it was to make sure that anybody that was feeling that way knew it was ok to feel that way. Even though on Instagram things look so beautiful, at the end of the day, we are all cut from the same cloth. I felt like it was just good for me to be able to speak my truth and at some point, I wasn’t able to post nice pretty pictures anymore. I was over it.”
Some days are better than others – the brain fog lifts and, for a moment, she feels like all is well. But life is unpredictable and tomorrow could be very different. “That’s why I get so overwhelmed,” she admitted, though it does help knowing she’s not the only one to feel that way. “Walking outside, being able to remember there are so many people going through things and have similar patterns to me, it makes me feel better.”
Body image pressures
Then, in April, the model spoke to Vogue about her decision to have a nose job at the tender age of 14. “Every famous person has a game face,” the article notes, “But for Bella Hadid, who at 25 is a bona fide supermodel in the full flush of her fame, the chasm between public persona and private self feels uncommonly wide.”
But her “shield and armour” – the shiny exterior she presents to the world – came at a price and it’s “nothing but a steel dam against a rising floodwater of tears”. Up until very recently, the model had never addressed rumours that she’d had work done. Critics were quick to lay out the comparison photos but without her distinct confirmation, it was still all just hearsay. 11 years later and she’s finally ready to talk about it, telling Vogue that it all stemmed from childhood.
“I was the uglier sister. I was the brunette. I wasn’t as cool as Gigi, not as outgoing. That’s really what people said about me. And unfortunately, when you get told things so many times, you do just believe it. I always ask myself, how did a girl with incredible insecurities, anxiety, depression, body-image issues, eating issues, who hates to be touched, who has intense social anxiety – what was I doing getting into this business? But over the years I became a good actress,” she admitted.
On the aforementioned nose job, Bella says that she definitely regrets it. “I wish I had kept the nose of my ancestors,” she says. “I think I would have grown into it.” Over the years, Hadid has been accused of visiting a plastic surgeon with photographs of Carla Bruni, the supermodel and former French first lady to whom she has often been compared. She’s also been accused of getting her eyes lifted, her jaw shaved, her lips filled. None of that is true, she says.
“People think I fully f*cked with my face because of one picture of me as a teenager looking puffy. I’m pretty sure you don’t look the same now as you did at 13, right? I have never used filler. Let’s just put an end to that. I have no issue with it, but it’s not for me. Whoever thinks I’ve gotten my eyes lifted or whatever it’s called –it’s face tape! The oldest trick in the book. I’ve had this impostor syndrome where people made me feel like I didn’t deserve any of this. People always have something to say, but what I have to say is, I’ve always been misunderstood in my industry and by the people around me.”
Well-versed in hiding her inner turmoil behind a smiley, superficial surface, Bella said that she always felt like she had something to prove – as she puts it, “When you give other people room to have opinions on things that are so personal to you, it poisons it.”
Kirsten and Bella’s experiences are different, but also… kind of the same. Both uber-successful women in their fields, it would be easy to look at their fame, accomplishments, and supposed happiness and be envious. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of thinking they have it all, marvelling at how they manage to hold it all together and look so effortless in doing so too. 13 years have passed since Dunst sought help to cope with her depression and though social media wasn’t a contributing factor, the stresses of modern life were – much as they now are for Hadid.
Behind the scenes, both women were hiding their innermost feelings from the world. To movie aficionados, Kirsten Dunst was an up-and-coming actress with Hollywood at her feet. To the TikTok generation, Bella Hadid is one of the most beautiful women in the world with a wardrobe to kill for. But stardom and affluence don’t make you unsusceptible to the pitfalls of mental health – that is an unfortunate part of the human condition and one only open, honest conversation can really help destigmatise.
Those conversations have thankfully become a much more prominent part of daily life but there’s still a long way to go. According to a recent internal Facebook (now Meta) leak, the tech company has long been aware of the harmful effects its sister site Instagram has on teenage girls… and yet, absolutely nothing has been done. The blasé attitude of those in power – the ones who pull the strings and could really make a difference in how social media platforms are run – is a pointed reminder that mental health is still a taboo few are willing to tackle with gusto.