On the latest season of Bravo TV’s “Newlyweds: The First Year”, viewers saw celebrity hair stylist Brandon Liberati and his husband, fitness expert/author Craig Ramsay, deal with Brandon’s gynecomastia surgery. Caused by an estrogen and testosterone hormonal imbalance, gynecomastia (the swelling of the breast tissue in boys and men) affects up to 65% of middle-aged and older men. Zwivel’s Susan Hornik talked to Brandon about his decision to undergo surgery and what it entailed.
SH: Take me through the whole experience.
BL: My procedure was a little more extensive than most. Along with my gynecomastia surgery, I chose to have liposuction of the lower stomach and flanks, and a fat transfer to my face. I extensively researched doctors that were known for doing gynecomastia surgery, and came across some really bad ones. I wanted the best if I was going to have this done!
There were only two doctors that I found that had before and after photos, and testimonials that resonated with what I was looking for. One doctor was on the East Coast and Dr. Cruise was in Newport Beach, so I called his office and booked a consultation. His staff was so gentle and kind with me from the very beginning. Dr. Cruise told me what kind of results I could realistically expect. I was filming a hit reality show on Bravo at the time, and he answered every concern I had about the surgery and healing process. Right away I knew he was the doctor for me.
I scheduled the surgery that day and had the operation done a couple months later. I had to have my surgery at his surgical center under general anaesthesia, but most surgeries are done in his office with local anaesthesia. It all happened exactly the way Dr. Cruise had described it. I did everything he and his nurses instructed me to do regarding post care and healed quickly, without any scarring. The results are beyond my expectations, it truly changed my life.
SH: How long did it take to recover?
BL: Recovery was much faster than I expected. My case was more extensive due to lack of skin elasticity and my age, so it took a little longer than a more common case, but I was back in the gym after four weeks and fully recovered after twelve weeks.
SH: Why did you decide to get it done?
BL: Gynecomastia was something that had tormented me since I was a kid. I was teased constantly about it growing up. As an adult, I learned to live with it by limiting my social experiences and concealed my condition by only wearing clothes of a certain cut or fabric. I have even gone as far as taping my chest down.
It was when I found lumps in my chest that my body image insecurities became a greater concern over potential health risks. In my family we have a long history of double mastectomies and breast cancer, including male breast cancer. My lumps were only fibrous and my pathology reports were benign, but that’s what actually made me seek out solutions.
SH. How were you impacted by your other male family members’ diagnosis?
BL: When my male cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was a shock to me and my family. Unfortunately, we were accustomed to the women being diagnosed with it, but a man… nobody talks about male breast cancer. When I found the lumps in my chest, my cousin’s experience made me aware that this could become something more serious than just a mentally and emotionally-plaguing body image issue.
SH: How do you feel about the stigma of plastic surgery in general and gynecomastia in particular?
BL: People should feel great about themselves. As long as you are getting surgery to better your self image and be the best version of you, and not because you want to be someone or something else, I’m all for it. It’s the same reasons that drive us to cut and color our hair, or go to the gym.
As for gynecomastia, it’s interesting that for the most part women can talk openly and honestly about breast surgery, but when it comes to men, there is so much judgement around it. Most people don’t realize how deep the emotional and mental impact is on men with these issues. This condition will not go away, no matter how much you diet or work out. It will just get worse with age if left untreated – that’s a fact.
And yet, the solution is so simple. If more men knew that, the topic wouldn’t be so shameful or taboo. I will never have to worry about breast cancer or gynecomastia again and I feel so much better about myself and my body!
SH: What’s next for you?
BL: We are releasing “Workout’s A Drag,” a new workout DVD featuring Pandora Boxx from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” this spring.