Ever since the Salt Lake City version of the “Real Housewives” franchise debuted last year, the show has not been popular with some members of the Mormon community. Many Mormon influencers did not appreciate the way the show portrayed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In particular, they did not like the recurring theme of plastic surgery in this edition of the show as well as the cast members describing their culture as being one that emphasizes perfection on social media platforms such as Instagram. Members of the church disagree when the cast refers to cultural pressure tied to their religion as one of the main reasons they spend money on cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentation and Botox.
Some of the stars of the show have discussed plastic surgery and the Mormon culture in the past:
It seems safe to say that the beauty business is popular in Salt Lake City. Billboards line the highway throughout the state advertising the services of plastic surgeons that offer to give patients larger breasts and a flatter stomach.
In addition, a study in 2017 by Utah Valley University revealed that Salt Lake City had a larger number of surgeons per capita than Los Angeles.
Lisa Barlow, one of the Real Housewives cast members, once said on the show that the culture makes people think they need to look “tight and right”. In an on-air confessional on the show, Barlow said “There’s never more beautiful people than when you step into the Salt Lake airport. People take really good care of themselves. It’s not about money; it’s about integrity. One prophet said keep your barn painted – like literally, make yourself look your best.”
One of the reasons there are so many plastic surgeons in Salt Lake City is that the University of Utah’s School of Medicine is located in Salt Lake City. The school offers residencies in both plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Jana Riess, a member of the church, argues against the idea of Mormon women being obsessed with plastic surgery. Riess says that, even though Salt Lake City has a higher than average number of plastic surgeons per capita, plastic surgery rates among Mormon women was more in line with the overall general population (according to a Pew survey from 2016).
In addition, Salt Lake City is a popular destination for patients willing to travel for plastic surgery procedures. They enjoy being able to choose from the large number of plastic surgeons and they enjoy spending time at the resorts located in the city. The cost of Salt Lake City plastic surgery is also considered to be more affordable than in larger cities such as Los Angeles and New York City.
Charlie Scott, an influencer and blogger that writes about beauty and her Mormon faith, says she has never felt any pressure to have plastic surgery where she lives in Louisville, KY. She feels Mormon women in Salt Lake City do have a “very polished” look that includes “long, gorgeous hair, lash extensions, etc. But I don’t feel pressured to look like them.” She does agree she might have a different opinion if she actually lived in Salt Lake City where there might be greater pressure to look a certain way.
In addition to the influence of Mormon culture, the popularity of plastic surgery in Salt Lake City might also come from the growth of social media influencers, the normalization of cosmetic surgery in the eyes of the public and changing beauty standards across the country.
It has also been speculated that the large number of plastic surgeons, combined with the growing number of Mormon influencers, have combined to help define Salt Lake City as a plastic surgery destination. One doctor even said, “When you grow up, even if you’re not part of a certain religion, it’s part of the culture in the area.”
Scott believes that, in general, the current openness of society also plays a part in the demand for cosmetic surgery (beyond Salt Lake City). “I believe it’s just the time we’re in. I’ve had filler and Botox, but at the end of the day it’s for myself more than anyone – and especially not for my church. I personally think women/men should do whatever makes them happy.”