Celebrity Biometrics: Norms, New Materialism, and the Agentic Body in Cosmetic Surgery Photography

by Luciana Ugrina


This article offers a critical reading of celebrity media to examine new understandings of the body. Reviewing before-and-after cosmetic surgery images, I argue that celebrity photography surfaces a dual tendency. The body of cosmetic surgery is often conceived as inert raw material, the passive recipient of technological modification. On the other hand, the body is also seen as active and unpredictable, in ways that correspond to new materialist understandings of the body. These understandings take shape alongside a biometric dynamic that has made its way into celebrity media as well, one that promises to decode the surgically transformed body. Acknowledging that the body is agentic—lively and willful in its own right, and thus subject to change in ways that both sustain and destabilize normative standards—opens out new perspectives on cosmetic surgery and other body modification practices.

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