RealSelf is partnering with Susan Lieu as she hosts her one-woman show, 140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother, on February 9. This is Susan’s story, and why she performs, in her own words.

I’ve never actively hid it, but I have a shameful secret about me. It usually comes up when meeting two people who want to move from acquaintances to friends:

New Person: So where do your parents live?
Me: My dad is in Houston and my mom passed away.
New Person: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! Of what, do you mind me asking?
Me: Plastic surgery malpractice.

The conversation then goes two ways: they run and completely change the topic, or they dig.

My mother died when I was just 11 years old — she was 38. On the morning she passed away, she went in for a tummy tuck, the narrowing of her nostrils, and a chin implant with a San Francisco plastic surgeon. She didn’t know he had 24 lawsuits against him, had been sanctioned by the Medical Board twice, operated in an unaccredited facility, and didn’t carry malpractice insurance.  I later found out the last company to insure him was an offshore scam company. All of this was revealed years later as I read through the Medical Board decision and the depositions from my family’s lawsuit against him. And he got away with all of this never paying my family a dime.

She had no idea what she was walking in to.

Growing up, I didn’t know too much about the details of my mother’s death besides the fact that she had a tummy tuck. It wasn’t until I was in grad school, that I learned about the plastic surgeon’s negligent background and decided to do something about it.

When people have medical procedures, elective or not, they need to understand the background of their doctor and go in with their eyes wide open about what can happen. While there are public databases for doctor credentials and board certifications, they’re not particularly user-friendly and have limited information, rather than textured and descriptive stories from past patients. Sites like RealSelf give prospective cosmetic surgery patients another data point to make informed decisions from real consumers including doctor reviews, benefits, risks from each procedure, and what the recovery might be like.

When you think about how much time people spend researching a new car, home or even restaurant, and compare that to how much faith people have in the medical system to not research their doctor, it’s bewildering. Your body is yours and you need to protect it.

By doing my one-woman show about my mother’s death, I hope to create a society where there is accountability in the medical system and awareness among patients to use tools to make wise decisions.

When new friends express condolences on my mother’s death, I let them know the shame I feel isn’t about the plastic surgery — it’s about the malpractice. I staunchly believe in a person’s right to choose what happens to their body on every level. Only the individual knows in their heart what they need, whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual, to feel enough. It’s not my place to judge. Everyone is on their own path.

However, no one deserves to be harmed by bad apples. Everyone needs to be equipped with tools to make educated decisions and not die a senseless death like my mother.

That’s why I perform onstage.

To learn more about Susan’s work go to or follow her on instagram @susanlieu.