The Little Baby Face Foundation (LBFF) is an NYC-based nonprofit with a noble mission and a great deal of controversy.
Founded by Dr. Thomas Romo and Lauralouise Duffy Blatt in 2002, LBFF provides free plastic surgery for children born with facial deformities, both here in the U.S. and around the world. Applicants seeking surgery with the foundation are evaluated on the basis of financial need and the severity of the deformity.
The controversy arises, however, when you consider the reasons some American teens are applying for surgery with LBFF. Many have been teased for their looks in the past and are looking to plastic surgery as an escape — a response many critics find problematic.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” New York psychologist Diller asked in an interview with NBC News. “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
An eye-opening report that aired on last Sunday night’s edition of “Dateline” profiled four teens going through the application process with the Little Baby Face Foundation. There was an Illinois 16-year-old named Connor whose friends called him “Toucan” because of his large nose, a girl named Cheyenne who was born with a condition that resulted in smaller than average eyes, and Donovan, a 16-year-old who had been told to commit suicide because of his looks at school.
Another one of the teens was Renata, a 15-year-old from South Carolina who competed in beauty pageants when she was younger. She sought help from LBFF when taunting about her appearance got so bad she decided to stop going to school altogether, opting for a home-school program instead.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
So she applied to LBFF for a rhinoplasty procedure, and was ultimately accepted.
To some, cosmetic surgery is the same as correcting any other medical problem, like getting braces. Romo — who in addition to being the co-founder of LBFF works as the director of facial, plastic, and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital — says that altering someone’s appearance helps to empower them.
“You take a child, and you change the way they look. To anybody who sees them, they’re good-looking,” Romo said in the “Dateline” segment. “That gives the child strength. We can’t go after the bully. But we can try and empower the children.”
A few months after her nose job surgery, Renata says she feels better now than ever before.
“I feel happy and I feel confident, and I feel like I don’t have to hide myself anymore,” she said.