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Features

Searching for Barbie in Iran

August 1, 2017
Arash Azizi
5 min read
Rodrigo Alves in Kish
Rodrigo Alves in Kish
Alves during a visit to Dubai
Alves during a visit to Dubai
Alves in Tehran
Alves in Tehran

Rodrigo Alves is well-off and has travelled the world. So when he was deciding where to go for his 34th birthday, he could have picked anywhere. The reality star, who owns property around the world, is known for his relentless love for plastic surgery. So far this has led him to splash close to $400,000 on more than 150 surgeries and cosmetic procedures, and earned him the nickname “The Human Ken Doll.” To tabloid readers, the London-based Brazilian is known for partying with the likes of the Playboy model Chloe Khan, whose struggles with a nose job gone wrong have recently made the news.

Intent on an ambitious series of surgeries including work on his nose, teeth and eyes (to make them look feline by elongation), he picked a coral island with awesome beaches, but one not exactly on the path treaded by party-goers: Kish, an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf, only a nautical mile or two from the world-famous resorts of Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates. 

“According to my research, because people perform a lot of nose jobs there, Iran is the number one country in the world for rhinoplasty [nose jobs],” Mr Alves told IranWire in a phone interview from his hotel in Tehran, where he had flew with Mahan Air from Kish for the rest of his surgeries. 

“My doctor performs six nose jobs a day from Monday to Friday,” he added. “No one else does that! Most doctors I know do it two or three times a week. As a result, he is very experienced.”

Alves' operations in Iran were “life saving” according to some reports, as they fixed some breathing problems he had from previous operations. 

Alves wanted to go somewhere “exotic” and this is what brought him to Persian Beauty, a clinic that specializes in surgery tourism to Iran. It offers packages to tourists that cover the costs of surgery, accommodation and all other travel needs. 

“Iran is one of the best in the world when it comes to plastic surgery, especially rhinoplasty,” Dr Sadr, Persian Beauty’s CEO, told IranWire in a phone conversation. “The costs are also much lower than Europe and this is a motivator.” 

Persian Beauty has customers from the US and many European countries, including the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Eastern European countries, Dr Sadr said. They come for the surgery, but usually stay for an extended period to visit the country. 

The clinic has used the visa-free status of Kish Island to lure potential customers. Kish boasts an excellent hospital and is also where the tough Islamic rules governing daily life in Iran are the most relaxed, a fact that has led to public objections by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself. 

Rodrigo Alves has noticed the limitations of course, but he is okay with them. 

“I like i here very much,” he says. “I don’t understand why people say Iran is not safe. It is the safest place on earth. I like the culture, people are very polite and the food is fantastic. People are very welcoming. My fans here sent me flowers and cakes on my birthday to my hotel.”

“I have traveled the world and know how to adapt myself to any culture and customs,” he adds. “I have an understanding about Islamic laws and I just have to respect them.” 

Alves acknowledges that, due to Iranian laws, there can be “no drinking, no kissing, no touching” in public. He also says he wouldn’t “be able to live in a place like this,” but adds that “it is great for a vacation.” 

While Persian Beauty wouldn’t divulge the cost of Rodrigo Alves' trip, some media outlets estimate it to be close to $40,000. This will include work on his nose, chin, teeth, eyes and eyebrows. He also seems to be enjoying a very luxurious stay, including accommodation at Kish’s famously posh Dariush Hotel, appropriately named after a major king of the Achaemenid Dynasty from the 5th-century BC. On his Kish-Tehran flight, accompanied by Dr Sadr, he was taken to the plane’s cockpit. 

Rodrigo Alves seems to have really enjoyed his stay in Iran despite the obvious limitations, from the seaside in Kish to the “Tehran shops where you can buy shirts and blazers made by Iranian designers who are very, very talented.” 

Wherever his life takes him, he is sure to return to Iran, he says. 

Originally hailing from Sao Paulo, his parents are Europeans who immigrated to Brazil in the 1940s to start a farming business. While he speaks English with somewhat of a non-native accent, he also holds British nationality. 

The family business has left Alves with several properties in Puerto Banus on Spanish Andalucia’s famed Costa del Sol, and a generous monthly stipend from his grandparents. As he lives between London, Los Angeles and Marbella, he is also trying to settle on a career. Ever since getting his first nose job at 19, he has clearly been obsessed with surgery, but does occasionally talk about quitting the successive surgeries and focusing on more of a fitness role. Currently, he is reportedly filming his own reality TV show in the UK and, as he told IranWire, is getting ready to launch a designer label during London Fashion Week 2018. 

The beauty tourism business remains strong in Iran but, according to Dr Sadr, the country faces tough competition from regional neighbors like Turkey, which wants a piece of the health and beauty tourism business. Celebrities can help bring a lot of attention to Iran's corner of the market, and this has certainly happened with Rodrigo Alves' posts on his Instagram page. But some of the attention may not be all that welcome. Previously, news of a porn star traveling to Iran for a nose job had made the headlines. 

“We don’t specifically try to target celebrities and bring them to Iran, but they are as welcome as anyone else,” Sadr says.  

 

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