Last year, Australian-born girl Shimali De Silva won the Hong-Kong leg of the Korean pop talent show Star Hunt.
De Silva, 14, was sent with 15 other finalists to Seoul, Korea for the final rounds of the competition. Upon their arrival, De Silva and the other contestants were told they’d been “awarded” an appointment with a plastic surgeon.
When De Silva met with the surgeon, she said the surgeon told her she needed major changes in her appearance if she wished to win the competition.
"The doctor brought out this terrible mugshot and said to me, 'You're 14, but you look 30'. He pointed out the curvature of my forehead, the ratio of my nose to my chin, all this stuff that I hadn't even thought about,” De Silva said.
"I was trying not to be affected by it, but as a 14-year-old, people tell you that the way you look is important if you want to break into this industry; that sunk in and I started tearing up."
De Silva’s mother recalls the terrible feeling she felt when her daughter told her about her appointment with the surgeon.
"I felt devastated, violated and helpless, so I took a flight the next day to get her back from Korea," her mother, Ruanthi De Silva, said.
"We teach our children to be proud of who they are, that they should be judged not by the colour of their skin but by their good actions. Suddenly, my daughter was told that her skin, her nose, her face are not right; my heart was breaking."
De Silva was refused the surgery. She was eliminated in the next round of the competition, but she does not believe her surgery decision is to blame for it.
"She has put it behind her now, and it was a learning experience. The organizers didn't mean to harm the contestants; they thought they were doing them a favor," her mother said.
Regardless of the intent of the organizers, De Silva’s story is a bleak glimpse into the looks-obsessed pop culture industry.
In case you were curious, here is De Silva’s original audition video. She’s awesome.