Plastic surgery, a 1950s curiosity, today is an obsession. How was it transformed? Who triggered its mania? Can it return to its roots: treating the disfigured and burned?

Brazil’s Ivo Pitanguy led plastic surgery from obscurity and ridicule to prominence and praise. He created its first dedicated hospital, founded by far its largest postgraduate school and charity, invented key operations for the head and body, and made Rio de Janeiro the planet’s beauty surgery capital.

The press reported his operations on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Persian Empress Farah Diba, French president François Mitterrand, and Frank Sinatra. A jet-setting Renaissance man who speaks six languages, Ivo has been friends with Salvador Dalí, Audrey Hepburn, and Michael Caine. He built a fantasy lifestyle–circulating among a Rio mansion, a private Brazilian island, the Gstaad slopes, and Paris salons.

His expansive media exposure provoked a backlash that reverberated for a decade. Yet afterward he emerged as one of the profession’s most admired senior statesmen.

Pitanguy regrets the overuse of cosmetic surgery, counsels how to avoid mishaps, and cheers the incredible reconstructive breakthroughs in the offing.

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