Pret-a-Reporter

How to Prevent Loser Face at the Oscars With the New "Happy Lift"

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Worried cameras will catch that moment of defeat? Meme-proofing cosmetic procedures can head off scowls, sad countenances and other betraying expressions of awards-show disappointment.

RBF ("resting bitch face") is so 2016. Hollywood's latest craze is the "happy lift," a combination of mini procedures that leave one's countenance subtly smiling and agreeable. The reason for the happy lift, says A-list dermatologist Harold Lancer, is that no matter how talented the actor, "you can't always hide disappointment when you've been nominated and you're sitting in the audience but you're not the winner."

Those awkward, memeworthy moments inevitably happen when the camera pans to a nominee scowling after losing (see Kristen Wiig at the 2016 SAG Awards — or, most famously, Samuel L. Jackson, when he lost the Oscar for best supporting actor to Martin Landau in 1995) or when a politically charged acceptance speech surprises (hello, Winona Ryder). Denzel Washington's default expression could be characterized as pensive. And Rihanna was caught on camera at the Feb. 12 Grammys brandishing a flask and mouthing, "I think it's time for another shot," through Beyonce's win — oh wait, there's no plastic surgery for manners.

Otherwise, "with a little thread or drop of Restylane, you can pretend — win or lose — that you don't care. Obviously, everyone cares a great deal about winning, but at least one's expression can say, 'I'm OK,' " Lancer says. Think of it as meme-proofing oneself. For more severe cases of a sad, drooping mouth, the Beverly Hills dermatologist uses PDO threads, or teeny-tiny micro threads, along the upper and lower outer lip to lift the angle of the mouth into a V, or a smile — "it's a bit like puppet strings" — whereas moderate droop can be adjusted with a shot of Restylane, with "one drop on the very outer corner of the mouth." Both procedures can be done a week before the Oscars (starting at $300 per thread, with an average of about three on each side; $600 per unit of Restylane with 1 to 1.5 units per side for injections). Adds David Colbert of the New York Dermatology Group, whose fans include Naomi Watts and Outlander's Caitriona Balfe, "injecting Botox into the muscles in combination with a Sublime infrared jaw-lifting procedure, followed by a microcurrent facial" can achieve the same happy-looking results. Colbert's combo has no downtime, and its effect lingers for four months (Botox fees are about $1,200; Sublime procedure, $1,500; microcurrent facial, $1,200).

Alternatively, Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon Garth Fisher (responsible for Kris Jenner's face-lift) suggests taking a small wedge of tissue out from the corners where your lip goes from downturned to turned up. A corner lip-lift costs about $5,000 to $7,000, including operating-room costs with five to seven days of downtime. "It gives you more of a happy smile, but it's for people whose mouths really turn down," says Fisher. "We take out that little bit of skin and lift the corners up, not so much that you look like the Joker but so that you look a lot less disapproving."

Fisher stresses that it's less about a permanently affixed expression and more about looking pleasant overall: "I would never want somebody to have a contrived look on their face. It's like taking a dog's tail away — you never know whether he is happy or sad; next thing you know he's biting you."

Lancer, who counted 30 of his patients on the SAG Awards red carpet, notes that the appearance of being a gracious loser can help when it comes to landing your next gig. "It's all about appearances," he says. "The nomination is what counts, that's true, but if you look happy even though you lost, chances are you're going to get another job anyway." And the award for best "losing face" goes to … nobody who's had a happy lift, it seems.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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