China's "Michael Jackson" a cut ahead in surgery

Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:01am EST
 
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By Vivi Lin

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - The woman known as China's answer to Michael Jackson for her love of plastic surgery believes she's been under the knife 40 or 50 times since 1985 -- it's been so often, that she doesn't really remember.

Shi Sanba, 55 and herself a plastic surgeon, has had operations to smooth wrinkles, fold her eyelids, raise her nose, shape her chin, firm her chest, flatten her belly -- and more.

"I liked being pretty from childhood," Shi told Reuters.

She eagerly pointed out the improvements to her appearance in before and after photos from a pink gator-skin album, and offered to show suitcases more from home.

But Shi has faced the knife for more than physical perfection. The chain-smoking former Chinese opera performer has earned a fortune -- and renown -- running her own cosmetic surgery clinic in Beijing, with nearly 80 doctors and nurses.

"Since I am in this business, I have to continue to try different, new materials for plastic surgery so I can tell my clients first-hand information, such as how I feel when I have them inside my body," Shi said.

About 1 million people get cosmetic operations each year in China, most commonly eye and nose modifications, according to Chinese media. Official figures estimate the industry's value at $2.4 billion annually, and it's growing.

Thousands of plastic surgery clinics have mushroomed across China with the rise of an urban middle class on the back of booming economic growth, but Shi's profile and charisma has shot hers to the front.   Continued...

 
<p>Shi Sanba smiles in Beijing November 15, 2008. REUTERS/Christina Hu</p>