Beach body Babylon: Cosmetic surgery on the Queensland coast

Australians are flocking to the Queensland coast – not for the surf, but cosmetic surgery. Kathy Marks gets under the skin of the country's nip and tuck capital

Breast implants are arrayed in neat rows on top of a cabinet in Pamela Noon's sun-drenched office on Australia's Gold Coast. She picks up two and weighs them, one in each hand, like a market trader showing off a couple of ripe melons. One, now obsolete, contains saline liquid; the other, a contemporary model, is filled with silicone gel.

Breasts are big business on the Gold Coast, a 21-mile beach strip in southern Queensland where sun worshippers and hedonists live out the Australian dream. Here, appearances are everything, and perfection has a price tag. Want a sculpted physique? Book yourself in for a "workout waistline" – liposuction and an abdominal tuck, costing about £7,000.

Noon, who is based near the holiday mecca of Surfers Paradise, is an enthusiastic proponent of the body beautiful; in fact, it is in no small measure thanks to her efforts that the Gold Coast has become Australia's nip and tuck capital. A walking advertisement for the industry, having gone under the knife no fewer than 31 times, she has spent the past two decades promoting cosmetic surgery. A few weeks ago the 63-year-old underwent her 150th procedure: botox injections to eradicate lines around her mouth and eyes.

She laughs at the idea that some might judge this excessive. "I suppose it's a bit addictive," says Noon, a trim figure in a bright yellow suit, high heels and lashings of make-up.

The seeds of the addiction were sown when, aged 38, Noon invited a cosmetic surgeon onto a commercial TV programme she was presenting. "He said to me: 'Why don't you have your eyes done? You'd look better on camera'." She followed his advice.

In her late 40s, "when I was getting very tubby", Noon underwent liposuction to remove three litres of fat from thighs, hips, back and buttocks. Soon afterwards, she had a mini face-lift, followed by two neck-lifts, one "temporal lift" (the skin is pulled sideways at the temples) and, in 1999, a heavy-duty "four-dimensional" face-lift.

In between came scores of surgical and 'maintenance' procedures, including six transfers of fat from thighs to cheeks; 41 collagen treatments; upper and lower eyelid reshaping; 15 skin peels; a brow suspension (the skin is lifted at the forehead); liposuction on knees and chin; a lip-flip (the inside of the mouth is turned outside, creating fuller lips); a nose job; belly-button reshaping; and 28 botox treatments.

Noon had found her vocation: marketing an industry that has always suffered from what can only be described as an image problem. She set up an advisory and referral service, becoming a first port of call for people considering treatments. She produced videos and advertisements, becoming Australia's best- known cosmetic surgery advocate.

Now, thanks to reality TV programmes such as Extreme Makeover, the idea of surgically improving what nature gave you has become almost respectable. On the Gold Coast, the recession has brought no fall in demand. Young girls, mothers in quest of their pre-baby figures and older women make up the bulk of her clients. Men account for 10 per cent.

The increasing popularity of cosmetic surgery among teenagers and young women has been well documented, but some of the stories Noon recounts make your hair curl.

One 17-year-old was brought in by her parents, who felt she was too introverted and bigger breasts might help. Another was promised a "breast augmentation", as it is politely called, by her mother for her 18th birthday. When the pair learnt that new laws had outlawed surgery for under-18s, they were furious. "She wanted them done in time for the party," says Noon. Not surprisingly, Noon declines to pass judgement. She shrugs, saying: "It's such an appearance-conscious society here. That's just the way it is."

For breast enhancements – the most common operation – the trend is towards ever bigger cup sizes. As Noon explains: "The girls here spend a lot of time in bikinis. It's about the perceived body shape, and certainly in Queensland that means larger breasts." Sitting opposite Noon, it is difficult to resist scrutinising her appearance. While she doesn't have that tell-tale stretched look, the total absence of facial lines is unnerving and her cheeks seem unnaturally plump. It's hard to say how old she looks, but the years show in the usual places, such as hands and cleavage. The overall impression is of an attractive older woman.

Noon, who recently divorced her second husband, opens a scrapbook and flicks through photos of herself before and after surgery. "People always say: 'Why not grow old gracefully?'" she remarks. "But there's nothing graceful about looking aged. I'm a very positive, happy person, and I'm very confident with my appearance. Most people want to look good, whether in their grooming or make-up or hair-do. Cosmetic surgery is just taking it a little bit further."

What about the cost, which in her case adds up to nearly £100,000? (That is based on past prices; the figure in real terms today would be much higher.) Another shrug. "I get my hair done twice a week, and coloured every third week. I've spent more on my hair over the same period of time."

Not much shocks Noon, but she admits to being "floored" recently when a woman came to see her about a breast job, accompanied by her husband. On realising that the surgery would cost more than they had budgeted for, the man turned to his wife and said: "Don't worry, we'll send you out stripping." Noon laughed, but at the end of their meeting the woman declared: "You're right, you know. Once I've had the surgery, I'll be able to make up the money in no time."

For older women, cosmetic surgery is not just about regaining lost youth. Carmel Shortland, a media strategist in her early 60s, had a face-lift 10 years ago. Without it, she believes, she could not have carried on working. "In the marketing and advertising world, when you're going into meetings with young, trendy graduates and you look old enough to be their mother, they think you don't know what you're talking about. My face-lift has probably given me another 15 years in the workforce."

Noon is disarmingly frank about the industry. "We're in 'appearance medicine'," she says. "No one goes into this business to save lives. They go into it for the money."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

    Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

    £30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

    C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution