5 Celebrity Careers Launched by Ethnic Makeovers
It's 2009, and race still matters. Especially if you're in front of the cameras and realize that in these enlightened times audiences like racial diversity as long as, you know, everyone looks sort of white.
Here are five celebrities who found fame and fortune thanks largely to an extensive ethnic makeover.
Cindy Margolis was born a gorgeous, brunette, Jewish girl. She continued being all three of those things in the 80s, when she was making okay money as a model. Her biggest credit was "Ribcage Girl" in a video called Shape up for Sensational Sex.
She needed to take that next step to stardom, and she knew that here in America we like a certain type of girl.
This type. This is the type.
A. Nose job. She had them thin the bridge of the nose. Now it makes us sound like dicks to say she did it to make herself look "less Jewish" but the truth is, the procedure is depressingly very common for that exact reason. The first nose job ever performed was on a Jewish patient, in an era when it wasn't done out of vanity, but because of the terrible things that tended to happen to Jews in those days. So our society has advanced, but only to the point that you still have to do the procedure if you want to sell a certain number of bikini posters.
B. Cheek implants. Fuller, higher cheeks give her a more "All-American" or Midwestern look.
C. Eye lift. Notice the complete re-sculpting of the area around her "ethnically" bushy eyebrows.
Umm, how about this for starters:
After making the change to wholesome blonde, Margolis's bikini pics became a sensation in 1995, on some newfangled device called "the World Wide Web." She soon became a modeling phenomenon, advertised as "The Sexiest Woman Online."
However, this life of extreme fame and fortune, just for laying around, is eclipsed by her greatest achievement: Her own reality show where douchebags line up to win her affections.
So surgery or not, that appears to be the ceiling for Cindy.
Jackie Chan and Lindsay Price
Jackie Chan has been doing action movies since before a lot of you were born; doing stunt work in the early 70s for action movies in Hong Kong, then becoming an international movie star in the late 70s and early 80s. He spent the next 30 years beating the shit out of hapless opponents in hilarious ways.
Lindsay Price, meanwhile, saw her career sputter after her role as Janet on 90210 was through. Her roles were limited to guest parts and horrible, tanking TV shows. Of course, tough times can usually be expected from someone whose mom and dad are adopted siblings.
A. Both Lindsay--whose father was Korean--and Jackie had blepharoplasty, more commonly known as an eyelid tuck. This is a hugely popular surgery among Asians, where the eyelids are given an extra forced fold to appear more open and "Western." Jackie Chan supposedly had his done back in 1976, knowing that being a movie star meant getting a foot in the door in Hollywood, where the attitude was that stars of kung fu movies should look Asian, but not that Asian.
B. Lindsay also had a chin implant, which gives the jaw a rounder, more Caucasian look. Interestingly, these implants are traditionally done with silicone, which explains the common desire to motorboat Lindsay's chin.
Lindsay Price's IMDB page says it all. Notice the distinctly Asian names of characters she plays until 2007:
Kimmy Kim, Dr. Honda, Michael Lai, the list goes on.
Then, in 2007, the character names distinctly change:
Joanna Frankel, Nikki Wickersham and the "big" role that's kept her paid: Victory Ford in Lipstick Jungle.
What's most intriguing is Lindsay's chameleon-like ability to flip on command:
Maybe we should just shut up about Ms. Price and her aggressive mutant powers.
One of the defining silver screen sex symbols, Rita Hayworth was born with the much less American-sounding name, Margarita Carmen Cansino.
She was raised in a Spanish dance family, and spent much of her childhood dancing in bars (see? It's totally a legitimate way to raise a kid.) After Hayworth, er, Cansino's father moved the family to Hollywood, the 16-year-old signed with Fox studios. She tried a few minor roles, but never got her big break. Fox studios decided not to renew her option.
Columbia Pictures came along and, not being much for political correctness, pretty much told Cansino that her lack of success was due to her being way too Spanish-y. So, Cansino agreed to go along with a few surgical processes, such as:
A. Painful Hairline Electrolysis
Cansino had a low hairline, which pegged her as a Latina. This is the same discrimination which kept Vega out of the World Warrior tournament, until he wore a mask to conceal his hairline.
Cansino submitted to getting electric shocks to kill her follicles and stop them from growing. Keep in mind this is the 1930s, when "anaesthesiology" usually meant "stroking your hand while you chugged from a flask of bourbon." Next time you have a hot hair curler or a live wire, poke yourself in the forehead with it several hundred times. Now you're as pretty as Rita Hayworth... well, not yet, you still need some...
B. Skin Lightening
Now that you've got fresh shock marks on your forehead, scrub them with this bleach solution. That's exactly what Cansino did, all over her entire body. Skin lightening is a dangerously unregulated practice even now, but it was significantly worse 70 years ago. But, Cansino wasn't done yet, before she signed with Columbia, she also had to have a...
C. Hair Color and Name Change
Carmen Cansino became Rita Hayworth. Her dark hair was died auburn. The transformation complete, Rita Hayworth now looked Saltine enough for Columbia:
Not five years before, the young immigrant's daughter was dancing in smoky bars for coins. After her "honky-fication," she became the hottest thing in sanctioned Armed Forces self-pleasure. A picture of her kneeling on a bed in a nightgown sold 5 million copies. Her likeness was fashioned on the side of atomic bombs.
Columbia starred Hayworth in many successful pictures, most notably, Gilda. Rita Hayworth found herself dancing with stars like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Eventually, she settled down and married a prince.
The next time somebody tells you the path to success is "just be yourself," tell them Rita's inspirational story. It's all about skin-bleaching.
Well, not always...
So let's say it's 1990 and you're a white Vietnam War veteran with several communications degrees and some seriously aggressive social skills. You also, somehow, need to land a job.
Instead of buying a fake wheelchair, tucking his arms into his coat, and begging for money on the street, Ward Churchill did the only-slightly-less-questionable move of pretending he was American Indian to get a job as a professor.
In terms of flipping race for profit, every single celebrity we've listed makes Ward Churchill look lazy. Churchill's solution to changing his honky heritage was to put on a pair of sunglasses.
Native American. The glasses add persecution.
When questioned about his heritage, Churchill mentions he was a member of a tribe called the United Keetoowah Band. It turns out this a tribe who gives out cards to many non-native celebs, including Bill Clinton.
The University of Colorado, where Churchill taught, found itself in a bind. The hiring of Ward based on Indian heritage was hush-hush, so firing him for not being American Indian posed many problems. In fact, they bypassed the usual six-year probationary period and Ph.D. requirement in order to "snap up" Churchill, making them look like fast-acting idiots.
Then, things began looking extra grim for the university when Churchill published a paper comparing 2001 WTC employees to the orchestrators of the Holocaust.
Ward Churchill was paid nearly $100,000 every year for 17 years, mostly to spout off aggressive rhetoric about "his" people, the Native Americans.
And even that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if it hadn't come out that most of it wasn't true. By the time anyone figured it out, Ward had published 14 books on the subject.
Notice his glasses are on. He's in full Indian mode.
In the end, Churchill was canned. He sued the school for wrongful termination. The court agreed with Churchill, but also agreed that he was a complete douchesack, awarding him the jerk-anointing sum of $1.
Iron Eyes Cody
Everyone who grew up in the 80s remembers the series of PSAs starring "Chief" Iron Eyes Cody. Your trashing of the environment brought a sad tear to the old chief's eyes, as you white kids were destroying the very land his noble people had held stewardship over for eons.
Now let's talk about a man by the name of Espera de Corti, the son of Sicilian immigrants. Trying his hand at acting, Corti got a few bit parts, but couldn't break onto the big screen. Showing the blind faith seen in most A-List Hollywood talent, Corty moved to Hollywood anyway.
Eschewing plastic surgery in favor of balls-out bullshitting, Espera changed his name to Tony Cody, and claimed he was an American Indian (or Injun, as they would have said back then). After this began landing him a few paying roles, Tony said "fuck it," changed his name to Iron Eyes Cody, and completely denied his Sicilian heritage.
Iron Eyes married an American Indian woman and adopted two American Indian sons. Cody stuck by his lie, even when a New Orleans newspaper ran a full story exposing his non-native background.
He actually just stole those feathers from a pillow.
Cody played an "Indian" in over 200 films.
But his most notable spot was in the aforementioned "Crying Indian" anti-litter commercials. Nothing says, "Hey, please pick up that Funyuns wrapper" like "Hey, you raped our ancestors."
Cody passed away in 1999, but not before a life-capping performance in Ernest Goes to Camp. His people would be proud.
For more humble celebrity beginnings, check out 6 Inspiring Rags to Riches Stories (That Are Bullshit) and 7 Celebrity Careers That Launched by Accident.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see how we used to be a gay porn site (it's how we discovered Swaim and Bucholz).