Full disclosure: a number of the interviewees were contacted with the help of MYA Cosmetic Surgery, which is why there are so many mentions of MYA Cosmetic Surgery. They're great, but there are obviously other places you can go to get cosmetic surgery. Still, thanks MYA!
Sheriffa Owusu, 25, @talldark_mya
VICE: What surgery have you had?
Sheriffa: I've had a breast augmentation. Most people will call it a boob job. I've had my breasts enlarged.
Can you describe the moment you decided to have the surgery?
I hated being flat chested. In my early teens I thought I would wait and let my body develop, but by the age of 21 I became interested in getting my breasts enlarged. It was only when I reached 25 that I began to think about it properly. I'd always made jokes about my flat chest, y'know? I would say all sorts of things, and it was genuinely funny to me, until one day a colleague made a "joke" about his chest being bigger than mine. That was the last straw. I'm really confident, I've always seen myself as a nine out of ten, but my chest was what made me a nine – I just needed that one more point to make me my own ten. So I thought, 'Why not?'
I started researching and decided to get in touch with a good friend of mine, who'd had her breasts enlarged by [cosmetic surgeons] MYA. I went around a lot of surgeries, but none of them seemed right for me – but when I visited MYA I was instantly put at ease and felt a part of something. It sounds so cheesy, but I really did – I felt supported. All of my negative thoughts about plastic surgery were wiped away in that one consultation.
After I had it done I was a bit in shock – I'd always had a negative perception of plastic surgery, the people who get it done and the reasons why they get it done. So, I mean, being in bed with my bandage on and the realisation that I had just gotten my breasts enlarged was an absolute shock to me. My arms were stiff because my muscles were in healing; I was uncomfortable and, at a point, I remember thinking, 'What have I done to myself?' But I finally did it! I wanted to see what it was going to look like, hoping nothing had gone wrong. All of these thoughts were running through my mind, but it came with a lot of excitement – the worst is over but the best is yet to come, as they say you see your final results from six to 12 months, and I'm currently on my fifth month.
What's your life been like since?
The confidence is amazing. I met my boyfriend a month after my surgery, and initially I thought I was going to be judged by him for it – I feared he would have my old perception of girls who get it done. But to accept myself, and also have someone else accept me and not look at it as anything, is great. That helped me figure out that it wasn't a big deal. My mother was super supportive and held my hand through my whole journey, and my favourite aunty loves that I was bold enough to get them done. My father and brother don't know yet. If they notice and say something about it then I'll happily talk about it, but, y'know, I'm not really going to be like, "Hey dad, guess what?" I'm 25 but it feels as if I've just hit puberty: I can put on a dress now and feel like the woman I wanted to be.
Edward Lemont, 33, @discerningman
What surgery have you had?
Edward: I've had a hair transplant, which is also known as an FUE transplant. It's a two-day operation. Generally, people have thicker hair at the back than the front because you're playing with it less, so this acts as the donor area. Basically, they moved 2,000 hairs – individual strands – from the back of my head to the front. We would spend four hours taking them all out individually and then, after a short break, spend four hours putting them all back in. It's amazing that they can just move hairs from one area of the head to the other. Essentially, you get to redesign your hairline.
When was the moment you decided to have it done?
For me, hair loss happened very rapidly. I was OK for years and had a few areas that I would say were a bit see through, but then I started to lose quite a lot of hair in a horseshoe shape at the front of my head, leaving a tuft of hair, so there was no hiding it. It got to a point where I was very self conscious – especially as a male blogger. It all started about six months after I started blogging; I realised that I needed to be in front of a camera for my followers to be able to relate to me. I started taking street style photography with some friends and other bloggers, and I'd be horrified afterwards at what my hair looked like in the photos. There was no way I could disguise it. It was something that I immediately thought was a solution, and I randomly was followed by Harley Street Hair Clinic on Twitter one day. I asked them if they work with bloggers, and luckily they'd just finished working with another blogger, so they worked out a procedure plan with me.
How has your life changed since?
I would say that my confidence has completely grown. I'm able to do hairstyles that I've always wanted to do. I'm not as insecure, I don't edit photos as much and I'm just able to embrace who I am and what I look like. What I didn't think would happen would be the amount of messages and emails I get a day – people are googling about the treatments and, for the first time, they're not just seeing doctored images of what it could look like, but they're seeing mine and other people's experiences. I didn't realise that I would become almost an ambassador for hair transplants! But I'm very happy to wear that crown.
Jodie Tuck, 27, @j4y_uk
What surgery have you had?
Jodie: I had a breast enlargement with MYA. Pretty standard procedure nowadays.
Can you tell me about the moment you decided to have it?
It was always on my mind – for quite a few years it niggled in the back of my head, a bit of an insecurity for me. I have two children, a six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. I breastfed them both. They don't tell you that, when you breastfeed, you risk loosing your breast volume. So it was the moment after I'd finished breastfeeding my son that I decided I was going to get it done.
What was your life like before the surgery?
I wouldn't have said there was much of a difference. I've changed career paths and now gone down a modelling route, so you could say that it's improved my options. I also feel much more confident in myself.
Sarah Addison, 32
What surgery have you had?
Sarah: I had a breast reduction. I was originally a G cup – huge – and I went down to a D cup.
Can you tell me about the moment you decided to have it done?
I wanted it done for years, absolutely years. I just never had the money. Then my husband and I had to remortgage the house, and he basically asked me if I wanted to have it done. I wanted it done for so long, so I said yes! I'd gone through a lot of pain – people don't realise what being big-chested does to you. The back ache and the neck ache, and also the confidence. I'd lost my confidence completely. I had to wear clothes that were a lot bigger for me, so I looked huge. I had back ache, neck ache, a sweat rash underneath. They were big and very uncomfortable.
How has it changed your life since?
It's really boosted my confidence. I now let my husband see me, put it that way. I used to hide away from him because they were that disgusting. I was under 30 when I had the procedure, and to be that age with breasts like that is horrible; you expect to be a granny. I've been losing weight as well since then, so I'm now buying clothes that I look and feel great in. They're all my own size instead of being too big – hanging on me and making me look vile. I like to go out now, and it's amazing how the way I dress now has changed.
What surgery have you had?
Fox: I had a double incision top surgery with free nipple grafts. This means any breast tissue was removed and my nipples were resized and repositioned. This left two long scars running horizontally on my chest. I've had tattoos to cover part of the scars
That was about five years ago, but I knew I wanted top surgery a long time before that. For much of my life I walked the line of gender. This feeling of having the wrong body mapping, despite years of soul searching, was growing more and more intense. I started exploring my gender presentation through "drag kinging". I began packing – with a sock or a cock – binding my chest, and had facial hair – my own hair cut into bits of stubble and glued on my face with spirit gum. After attending events as Fox L’amore, I didn't want to take my costume off.
I began experiencing panic attacks and knew I needed to drum up the courage to tell someone, who would listen, that I was trans. By coming out, I felt like I was betraying woman-hood. I had – and still have – a lot of trouble with toxic masculinity and the way men treat women, so it was difficult taking the steps to become more masculine. I was getting older and was worried I’d missed the boat. It felt like a do or die situation. I had worried I’d go through all this effort changing my name, taking hormones and having surgeries and still feel uncomfortable in my own skin.
Waiting times on the NHS are extremely high and you don't always get your choice of surgeon, so I went privately, because waiting longer would have impacted my mental health. This was just after I took part in a mainstream documentary called My Transexual Summer. I was wearing a binder for most of the day, for four years. Binders are restricting and horrible to wear; it's like you're suffocating the entire time, and you sweat too much and get a sore back. But the alternative of not wearing a binder is even worse. You're between a rock and a hard place with that. That's what made me realise that I wanted to have surgery.
My mum hadn’t understood my transition up until that point, but finally got on board to support me. The surgery was about £6,000, by Dr Garramone in Florida. He does consistent results, really great chests. I thought, 'Why not get a designer chest if I'm going to go through all this effort?'
After I recovered I felt like I had a new lease of life. Just to be able to pull a T-shirt on every single day feels amazing. I know that's just an everyday thing for most – but, for me, I just love it and that I don't have to wear a restricting binder anymore. I had perfectly wonderful breasts, but they weren’t mine. They made me feel very dysphoric and bad about myself.
Going under the knife is obviously a huge deal, but I’ve never once regretted having that surgery because it really makes me who I am. When I look in the mirror I can recognise myself, instead of covering up my chest and imagining what I would be like without it. It's been massively life changing and has given me the best quality of life for day-to-day reasons. I’ve learnt to appreciate my scars more and more. I know that my body will never conform to society's standards, but I no longer care. I’m happy and comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life.