Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Linda Li, M.D., was taking a leisurely stroll in Malibu with her husband and son when they spotted a well-known celebrity. "...my husband said [to the celebrity], 'We love you on your show.' She looked at us and said, 'I really love you on yours, too,'" Dr. Li says. "To have someone who is a true Hollywood celebrity recognize us is a kick." Dr. Li is among the plastic surgeon stars on the hit reality TV show Dr. 90210 on E! Network television.
The brainchild of Robert Rey, M.D., Dr. 90210 has a cult-like following. "The show is now starting its sixth season. It is one of the highest rated shows in the history of E!. We are in 173 countries. We are watched by 44 million Americans. The number that is staggering is the number we get worldwide: per night, we are watched by one-third of a billion people," Dr. Rey says. "We get e-mails from soldiers on the field in Iraq, telling us they watched us on satellite television." The doctors on the show, named after the Beverly Hills zip code, have become an international phenomenon. "When we get e-mails from Ghana, South Africa, Singapore...it always amazes me that people are out there watching us," Dr. Li says.
BUSINESS BOOST, EDUCATIONAL PLATFORM The doctors say that, while they were busy before the show, the exposure from it has been a boon to business. "I have a practice that I never would have expected at my age. I am 37, and I am as busy as I want to be," Dr. Li relates.Dr. Rey gets 50,000 inquiries a month, including phone calls, e-mails and letters. "We get several bags full of letters every day. We turn down 99 percent of the patients who come to the office," Dr. Rey says. "I cannot say the show made me a busy practitioner. We were always very busy, but it gave me a platform."
Dr. 90210 is a platform as well for Dr. Rey's personal interest in medical missions. At age 11, Dr. Rey was adopted by Christian missionaries, who plucked him from the crime-ridden streets of Brazil and brought him to the U.S. to be raised in Utah. Today, Dr. Rey devotes episodes of the show to covering his medical missions to Brazil, Venezuela, Africa and other areas of the world.
"It is a little bit of a strain [to do a reality show] but the beautiful thing is, it gives us a platform to do these humanitarian missions," Dr. Rey says. "Toward the end of my life, I will do it full time."
TV-DRIVEN EXPECTATIONS The doctors claim that even patients who are die-hard reality show viewers, for the most part, have realistic expectations about cosmetic surgery. Dr. Li says, however, that she has noticed that many patients have a hard time understanding how long it takes to recover from plastic surgery. "On TV, it's like, one hour, and everything's great," Dr. Li says. Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon and Dr. 90210 star Jason Brett Diamond, M.D., adds that since being on the show, he has noticed an upswing in patients who expect the extremes.
"Every now and then I get somebody who expects an extreme kind of change or a magic show, which not only am I not capable of, but nobody is," Dr. Diamond says. "I try to let them know that what they're asking for is unrealistic. I probably see one or two people more a month in that regard." Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Gary Alter, M.D., who specializes in genital plastics, says the show has had a positive impact on the patients who come to see him.