My Secret Plastic Surgery and How I Risked Losing My Voice

© Simon Pauly

Let me begin by sharing my reasons for opening up about one of the riskiest decisions of my life. It’s not something I’m proud of and I feel quite a bit of shame admitting my truth. The lesson behind the story is what’s most important and I hope it will inspire others to not put themselves at risk as I did.

A few years ago, I realized my weight was preventing me from achieving my greatest artistic goals. This was what I heard from people in the business — movers and shakers who were honest enough with me to tell me why I wasn’t chosen to sing certain roles. But I didn’t need to hear this from them — I saw it happening.

I adopted a healthier diet and lifestyle and lost a good amount of pounds as a result. Despite these changes, I still wasn’t happy when I’d watch videos of my performances.

While I’m highly critical of my voice, I do enjoy my own sound, so that’s not the issue here at all. Something about my physical appearance prevented me from enjoying videos of myself singing, regardless of how good I sounded.

I know I shouldn’t believe the voice in my head — the critical one that judges harshly and puts me down. But the pressures opera singers face these days are immense and seemingly insurmountable. It’s unrealistic to expect us to be unaffected by comments from casting directors, colleagues, or negative social media comments.

In response to these pressures, I resorted to altering my body through plastic surgery.

I underwent chin liposuction. This procedure removed excess fat from my neck area and was guaranteed to not interfere with my vocal tract.

After months of doing my research, I still felt strongly about the procedure. I told no one besides my wife, who was with me at the hospital and during recovery.

Immediately after the surgery, my neck was burning in pain. I applied cool pads to my sutures and wore a brace. I could barely speak. The horror that I possibly harmed my voice for such a superficial reason overtook my thoughts.

Only then did I realize how flippant and foolish my decision was. I undertook a risky surgery that could have taken away the most precious thing in my life.

Lying there in the hospital bed with my neck burning in pain I asked myself, “What have I done?”. This was the wake-up call I needed.

Thankfully, I fully recovered. The procedure made little difference to my physical appearance (even over time). But the thought that I could have lost something so dear to me (my voice) has remained with me since.

I underwent surgery to benefit my career. Why? I believed my physical appearance wasn’t good enough, so I tried to change myself to get more opportunities for baritone roles. I let the industry get under my skin, literally.

My story is just one of many. A casting choice can have a significant psychological impact on an opera singer. And I’d like to see more positive tools in the community for addressing and overcoming the hardships we face.

I’m embracing my truth and hope my story will inspire other singers to recognize that WE ARE ENOUGH. Our unique voices are to be celebrated and we don’t need to alter ourselves for the sake of subjective appearances.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

3 thoughts on “My Secret Plastic Surgery and How I Risked Losing My Voice

  1. I’m very happy that you’re raising your voice here, but the morale of your story is not yet clear to me. Apparently, it’s not that you’re not enough for cast directors, but rather the opposite is true: you’re too much. That’s why they want you to be less; they expect you to show that you’re disciplined enough to restrain yourself until your looks become more marketable, so that your image can be better capitalized on. Unfortunately, your image will never be marketable _enough_ and so there will always be something more that will be wanted from you…
    What happens when you decide to undergo surgery to get more work is that you’ve actually internalized those opinions in such a way that you can’t critique them because you came to believe them – you’ve believed that the problem was you. Most singers I know are going through something similar but they naturalize it (probably because they don’t see a way out other than being unemployed). And to be clear, I don’t blame them really – though I do feel sorry for them. The question is, who can be held accountable for the discrimination and bigotry that is at play? It’s hard bc the status quo is an anonymous force. But there’s always someone calling the shots, right? Maybe, if we could name these people and call on them to be accountable for their decisions, then they will start checking themselves. But who’s going to call on them if singers are too afraid to loose their jobs? Well, I think it’s necessary that we unite with others who are willing to call on discrimination, fatphobia and bigotry, with others who are going or have gone through similar types of injustice.
    Thanks for your post, Lucas Meachem. We met many years ago in Amsterdam, outside het Concertgebouw after a Iolanta. I’m a big fan and I’m happy to know that you’re well.


  2. Honest evaluation and reflection is ofttimes the most challenging aspect of humanity. It is indeed rare to learn of its practice in others as it is to embrace for oneself. Competition within the industry is ofttimes pinnacle upon appearance more than it is quality of exercise of talent. The rigors of discipline necessary simply to maintain status quo cannot be fathomed, until one is immersed in the daily battle of the industry trade. Respect for your post, sacrifices and courage. The engine of life is love-it’s fuel, our souls. Opera is love. You are loved by your family, your cohorts, your craft and your constituency. Peace.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s