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Julie Chen Moonves, 53, Shares Her Plastic Surgery Journey: ‘I’m So Glad I Did It’

The longtime ‘Big Brother’ host and former moderator of ‘The Talk’ says taking care of her appearance is part of her job


spinner image "Big Brother" host Julie Chen Moonves
Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS

Celebrities and plastic surgery go hand in hand — with the former traditionally serving as walking advertisements for the latter. But Hollywood types have preferred not to blab about it publicly, for fear of upsetting the illusion that their youthful appearance is natural, regardless of their age.

That may be changing a bit, with at least two celebs — with polar positions — speaking out recently about getting work done. For one, it’s “Never!” For the other, it’s “No regrets!”

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Julie Chen Moonves, 53, the former news anchor-turned-TV personality as a cohost of the CBS reality show Big Brother for 23 years, is in the latter camp, as she explained in a recent interview with AARP.org.

Big Brother’s 25th season concluded in November, and a new spin-off series, Big Brother Reindeer Games, premieres on Monday, Dec. 11. Meanwhile, Chen Moonves has been making the media rounds to promote her audio memoir, But First, God, about how she found salvation through Christ during a period of professional and personal turmoil.

In interviews for the memoir, she has been reluctant to delve into some aspects of the unhappy past, when her husband, Les Moonves, 73, the former chief of CBS, was accused by multiple women in 2018 of sexual misconduct. Those cases were settled and no criminal charges were filed. Soon after, she was gone from her daytime job as a panelist on The Talk. She backed her husband (he denied the allegations) and showed her support by changing her professional name to Julie Chen Moonves.

And then she got a lower facelift, a less invasive procedure than a full facelift. During interviews for her audiobook, she joked that she had wanted a “revenge face” after the unpleasantness of exiting The Talk. (She now acknowledges she was fired.)

For an AARP exploration of aging and attitudes toward aging in Hollywood, Chen Moonves spoke frankly about her surgery, which occurred just before she turned 50, chatting openly about her delight at the results and offering advice to others considering it.

What was the reaction among family, friends and the public to your facelift?

The most important reactions to monitor, Chen Moonves says, are from “your mom, your husband, and your makeup artist. In that order. Actually, maybe makeup artist first,” she half-jokes. “And it was all amazing and positive — a lot of support before and after, no regrets. And the good news is the public reaction wasn’t, like, What happened, you look different! Because I did learn early on, you don’t want to look different. You want to look rested. So I think we achieved that.”

Any second thoughts?

“Oh, I’m so glad I did it. Not once did I ever think of backing out or regretting it. I was happier than I even expected to be. The results were better than I could have imagined.”

Did you get negative blowback after your earlier eyelift surgery?

“Yeah, I did,” admits Chen Moonves.

When she was an ambitious 25-year-old TV reporter of Chinese descent, she had a surgical procedure called a blepharoplasty. The procedure is sometimes medically required to correct obstructed vision, but critics claim some patients just want to look more Western. Chen Moonves said on The Talk in 2013 that she had sought a double-lid procedure to help her career, after her agent suggested it and her boss said her eyes made her look “disinterested” and “too Chinese.”

“I got some blowback within my own family before I had it. I had a sister who thought it was, you know, denying my heritage, and she thought it was ridiculous. And then people in the newsroom back then in Dayton, Ohio, they were just kind of baffled. Like they didn’t even understand what it was I was doing, trying to achieve or why.”

What explains the reaction back then?

“I think when people have a negative reaction, it is because they don’t understand. It’s kind of ignorance, right? They don’t know why you’re doing it. So I just say, you can’t judge, and you have to try to educate yourself on a topic before you form any kind of opinion. And how about just some quiet support?”

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Was your husband supportive of the facelift?

“Oh, totally. He was, like, ‘Whatever makes you happy. I don’t think you need it.’ I have girlfriends whose husbands were, like, ‘Please get a facelift.’ Like the wives didn’t want to do it, but the husbands were, like, ‘Please.’ A different generation, an older generation of Hollywood.”

spinner image Julie Chen on the "Big Brother" 25 finale
Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS

Did you feel empowered after surgeries? 

“I did feel empowered. I felt more confident, I felt more pleased when I looked at myself in the mirror. I also felt a little bit like, Oh, there’s a fine line. I could see why some people can go overboard. Because you feel so good about yourself, and you think you look so good that I think it can become a bad addiction.”

Is plastic surgery sort of a “gateway drug”? Do you feel pressure to do more?

“Oh, yeah. You’re like, What else can I fix? What else bothers me about my looks? That’s when you need your mom to be, like, ‘Enough!’ Someone who truly has your best interests in mind. And will be honest.”

Are you done with plastic surgery now?

“When I got the facelift, when I was 49, the doctor said, ‘You’re good for 10 years!’ and at that time, I’m, like, I’m good — period. I don’t really feel like going through this again. But then I have to tell you, in the last seven, eight months, I’m looking in the mirror again and I’m, like, hmm ... my face is a little starting to drop. Maybe I’m not going to wait 10 years. So I’m definitely not ruling it out.”

Meanwhile, she’s had microblading on her brows, a procedure in which fine lines are scratched into the surface of the skin beneath the brows and pigment is embedded. “You know,” Chen Moonves says, “as we get older our brows get more sparse. I’m, like, Hey, let’s microblade my scalp!”

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What do you say to women who are considering plastic surgery?

“I say, first, go with word of mouth. Talk to friends who have gone to doctors, and if you like what you see on your friends, do as many consults as you can. Get many, many opinions,” she advises. Also, be prepared to take plenty of time off.

“I don’t think enough people take off for the recovery process. They think they can bounce back and not get fully rested. If you’re going to spend the time and money to do it, you want to make sure it heals 1,000 percent the way it’s supposed to.”

Another tip: Don’t wait too long. “It’s best to get it done earlier than later, because you are not so much doing correction, you are trying to slow down the aging process. Yes, it can be too late. Be proactive, I would say.”

Don’t judge others’ decisions! Especially if you don’t know the pressures someone is feeling, as Chen Moonves was, working in TV and surrounded by people in their 20s on Big Brother.

“There’s more [internal] pressure because I work in front of a camera, and with high definition, those cameras can see almost every pore. Anyone who makes a living by being on television in front of any camera, it’s something to think about. It’s not for everybody, but it’s something.”

Still, Chen Moonves says she feels lucky to have escaped external pressure and judgment about her appearance from viewers and executives of Big Brother. “I also know that I’m blessed with genes — you know, I like to say: Asian don’t raisin.”

spinner image Julie Chen hosts "Big Brother"
Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS

What are the biggest challenges about aging in Hollywood?

Chen Moonves believes the challenges are especially hard for actresses worried about getting new roles as they age. “You know, suddenly you’re not the girlfriend, you’re playing the mom, so I think [the challenge] is fighting for roles and steady work.”

It’s different for a person with her kind of job, she says. “For what I do, luckily, I don’t think [aging] necessarily works against me, even on a show like Big Brother. What comes with it is a level of respect. I have longevity, and I’ve been at it constantly. So that’s been a plus.”

Besides, she considers taking care of her appearance to be a part of her job. “It’s a visual medium. I want people to look at me and be pleased: ‘Oh, she looks nice.’ Even down to what you wear, how you do your hair, how you do your makeup, you want to put your best foot forward and you want to feel good.”

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