Famed for its cutting-edge technology and affordable prices, Brazil has long been known as the plastic surgery capital of the world. For years now, Rio de Janeiro (a city where appearances matter enormously) has been a mecca for celebrities from around Brazil and the world in search of a little nip or tuck, not to mention “cosmetic vacationers” who combine going under the scalpel with post-op trips to beach and mountain retreats.
However, it’s not uncommon for top Brazilian plastic surgeons to perform house calls as well. Dr. Lyacir Ribeiro found himself making an unexpected one following a 1994 conference he attended in Tripoli, where he spoke about his specialty; breast surgery. After his presentation, a Libyan official approached Ribeiro and requested he come and meet someone special. Viewed his area of expertise, Ribeiro assumed it was the official’s wife. Instead it turned out to be none other than Libya’s notorious leader, Muammar Gaddafi.Concerned that a facelift would be too radical, Gaddafi opted for more subtle interventions: such as hair plugs and having fat removed from his belly and injected into his wrinkled face.
Speaking flawless English, the “extremely polite” and “soft-spoken” dictator got straight to the point: having been in power for 25 years, he didn’t want young Libyans to perceive him as an old man (at the time he was 53, but Ribeiro recalls that heavy lines and wrinkles gave him the appearance of a 60-something year-old).
Concerned that a facelift would be too radical, Gaddafi opted for more subtle interventions: such as hair plugs and having fat removed from his belly and injected into his wrinkled face. The top-secret 4-hour procedure was carried out in early 1995 at a private operating room located in one of Gaddafi’s underground bunkers. Because he didn’t want to lose consciousness, the Libyan leader passed on the local anesthetic. Moreover, two hours into the operation, afflicted with a sudden 2 a.m.-case of the munchies, the hungry dictator called a time-out and ordered hamburgers for himself and all the team.
Ribeiro recalled that in the aftermath of the procedure, the dictator appeared to have shed 10 years. Despite Gaddafi’s predilection for distinctly unstodgy fashion choices (see video above), the Brazilian surgeon warned him that as time passed he’d need some retouching if he was going to maintain his youthful aura. The Libyan leader actually called Ribeiro a few years ago to schedule another intervention but, at the time, the surgeon had another obligation. He never again heard back from his former patient.
Ribeiro claims that he’s only spilling his secret now in order to provide some small insight into the enigmatic figure that is suddenly a global news headliner. It’s certainly not to brag about his prowess as a cosmetic surgeon. Indeed, as Ribeiro told the Associated Press last week, “Gaddafi is not looking very good these days. To let potential patients know that I operated on him would be counterproductive.”