February 2008

Nip, Tuck and Lift

Ramono Benavides was a seemingly ordinary 24-year old first generation Mexican American. She grew up speaking Spanish at her home (her parents are from Zacatecas), was close to her family, and worked in a doctor’s office in Beverly Hills. She was of average height and weight, with black hair and fair skin. Yet one thing always felt wrong. “I had that pouch that most women have,” she says, pointing to her stomach. “It wouldn’t go down by exercising, so I decided to go forward with a tummy tuck.”

Business-savvy doctors are reaching out to this burgeoning market by launching websites in Spanish, hiring Spanish-speaking office coordinators, and participating in Latino charities. Dr. Lloyd M. Krieger, whose elegant digs are just a few doors away from the Chanel boutique on Rodeo Drive, estimates Latinos make up more than 40 percent of his clientele. While he caters to the rich and famous, ordinary Latina moms represent the bulk of his practice. After all, Krieger says, “There are only so many movie stars and Saudi princesses.”

According to several doctors, Latino patients tend to be like Acevedo, Juliana, and Commesso in that we know exactly what we want to change. Unlike the Pamela Andersons and Michael Jacksons of the world, we are realistic about our goals and show up to consultations well prepared with examples of what we want done. “In general, Latino patients come in with the most precise reasons for having surgery,” Krieger says. “They say, ‘I had three kids, my tummy is flabby, and I want it flat’. It’s well thought- out. That makes it easier for me to meet their goals.” And while we seek out many of the same procedures as non-Latinos, we tend to get them done in different areas.

We also have no trouble coughing up the money to pay for procedures, which often are not covered by health insurance. “More than other groups, Latinos can afford plastic surgery because they have their social network they can draw on,” says Krieger, whose Rodeo Drive Mommy Makeover and all-in-one tummy tuck, breast lift, and breast augmentation that is popular with Latinas- ranges from $12,500 to $25,000. They finance less than other people and get more from turning to extended family.”

The procedures done do not erase ethnicity. “When somebody comes in and they have a bump on their nose, by smoothing out that bump we’re not erasing their ethnicity. We don’t put a button nose on a Hispanic woman. And I’m not finding that they’re asking for it,” Krieger says, adding that patients now are seeking more natural results and that their goal is to create a harmonious look that fits with the rest of the patient’s features.

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