Francoise Rabin came to Beverly Hills several years ago from her home in London for an "extreme makeover," including a complete nose reshaping, upper and lower eyelid reconstruction, a mini-face lift, chin implant, fat repositioning and liposuction.
And that wasn't all. Once outside the operating room, she opted for dental work, spa treatments, a hair and makeup overhaul, a manicure and pedicure and a new wardrobe selected from the racks of Rodeo Drive.
The middle-aged schoolteacher was part of a British television show called "Brand New You," which aired on BBC America.
"As I was walking down Rodeo Drive or the beach and I was being filmed, people were looking to see who it was, and it was me," she said. "I felt like a queen."
Lured in part by similar extreme makeover TV shows such as E Entertainment's "Dr. 90210" and Fox's "The Swan," an increasing number of people from across the globe are making their way to Beverly Hills for cosmetic surgery.
But for many of those visitors, the personal reinvention goes well beyond the work done on the operating table. In Beverly Hills, which may boast more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S., a cottage industry has formed that provides packages of far less radical elective procedures like clothes shopping sprees, facials or spa treatments for out-of-towners bent on enjoying the celebrity makeover experience to the hilt.
And it's not just patients who are lucky enough to be featured on extreme makeover shows, where their costs are sometimes handled by production companies.
"People travel here because Beverly Hills is a plastic surgery mecca, even more than New York and Brazil, and they want new clothes, a new hairdo, the whole kit and caboodle," said Dr. Paul S. Nassif, who performed Nassif's procedure and is the primary plastic surgeon at Spalding Drive Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology in Beverly Hills near Rodeo Drive.
Nassif, who has been featured on several extreme makeover series, says his practice in particular gets a lot of people from outside the area because of his reputation as a rhinoplasty specialist and his exposure in the media.
About 70 percent of his business comes from people that are more than an hour outside of Los Angeles and some much more. He sees customers from as far away as Sweden and Kuwait. "The media is a huge market that drives people to Beverly Hills," he said.
That's particularly true if a business takes full advantage of its options; Spalding Drive Plastic Surgery is in the midst of linking its Web site with a travel agent that will help patients set up air, car, and hotel reservations in the area.
Down the street, Lloyd Krieger, the founder and medical director of Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery, estimates that 25 percent of his patients come from destinations more than two hours away. He's had patients from New Zealand, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia.
"It is not something that was premeditated on our part," said Krieger of the increase in travelers visiting his 3-year-old clinic. "It just developed pretty spontaneously. As we saw it happening, we built infrastructure to support it. We basically just got better at accommodating people and making the trips easy, convenient, and safe."
Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery now offers a "transformation vacation," which the clinic helps organize for its patients without collecting money from third parties. A staff member is assigned to help set patients up at high-end hotels including the Tower Beverly Hills and the Beverly Wilshire for extended stays during their recovery. And some hotels around the city even offer discounts for patients that are getting plastic surgery through the clinic.
Plastic surgery patients from around Beverly Hills can also elect to stay at "cosmetic surgery retreats," which can be separate establishments or part of existing hotels. They typically include 24-hour nursing services and other amenities and costs as much as $1,200 a night.
One such location, Tranquility Respite Care in Beverly Hills, offers massages, acupuncture and access to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, thought by some to reduce scars and speed healing. Tranquility plans diets for each guest around their favorite foods for their stay, transports them to and from doctor's appointments and takes them on day trips to local destinations. It also sets up salon appointments and personal shoppers.
"A lot of women that come here are going through a mid-life crisis or divorce. Most people in their mid-life have let themselves go," said Caroline Shrednick, the founder of Tranquility Respite. "We come up with something to make them look great. After surgery, we say. 'Pull up your big girl panties, we're going to get your hair and makeup done.'"
Through the "transformation vacation" at Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery patients can get many of the same services. The plastic surgery office can arrange for clients to meet with personal shoppers along Rodeo Drive and set up appointments at hair and makeup salons.
New face or chest
Mauro Hair Studio handles about 20 plastic surgery patients per month from Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery and several other clinics around Los Angeles. For $125 patrons can buy a consultation on what hairstyle will look best with their new face or chest, and for another $100, they can get a hair cut. There are additional charges for dyeing and products.
"Say you have a facelift and you feel 10 years younger. Your hair needs to be updated too," said salon owner Mauro Spina. "You shouldn't have a facelift and keep a 1990s hair style."
Often, women who receive breast augmentation are searching for a new hairstyle as well. "They feel better about themselves, more confident. Maybe they are swinging their hair more. They were using a lot of hair spray before and now they don't have to," Spina said. "We make the hairstyle to move with the body much nicer."
One woman from North Carolina who asked not to be named came to Beverly Hills for a nose job from Dr. Nassif at Spalding Drive Cosmetic Surgery last year. She decided to partake of some of the extras Beverly Hills offers, including hair styling, while she was here.
"I asked the plastic surgery office for a referral for a salon, and they recommended B2B," she said. "My daughter lives in the area and she goes there now."
In total, the woman estimates that she spent about $24,000 on her trip.
Krieger, of Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery, uses his position at the center of one of the most well known shopping locales in the world as a selling point for his business.
"I wanted to make the plastic surgery experience akin to shopping at a high-end boutique," said Krieger, whose clinic is decorated with fine art including several original Andy Warhol paintings. "Even though it is surgery, people aren't engaging in it for the same reason they are doing a liver transplant or tumor removal."
Krieger even offers surgical procedures designed to create a body shape suited for wearing clothing well. The "Rodeo Drive Couture Breast Augmentation," as the clinic calls the procedure, makes women's breasts the shape and size that looks best in up-to-date styles.
"If we are obsessed with just making the breasts bigger, they could come out top heavy and not have an appropriate fit for clothes. Sometimes it means going smaller than people initially wanted," he said.
Krieger maintains relationships with retailers along Rodeo Drive who inform him about the latest style trends and what's coming through the pipeline, he said. He also reads fashion magazines.
"Almost invariably people coming from out of town want the whole Beverly Hills package," he said of his patients. "Virtually every time I see a patient in follow-up, they are carrying a bag from a store along Rodeo Drive."
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