In May, after her solo in the High School Musical tour in Argentina, Ashley Tisdale gasped for air: "I started hyperventilating." Given oxygen by a tour doctor, she finished the show. But it was a wake-up call. "For years I've had a deviated septum," a condition in which the cartilage separating the nostrils blocks an airway. Tisdale, 22, saw Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Raj Kanodia, whose clients include Jennifer Aniston
and Ashlee Simpson
. On Nov. 30 Kanodia fixed her septum and nasal bones that had been fractured in a 2001 car accident and, later, a dancing mishap. Admitting that "I was about to back out," Tisdale clutched a stuffed Happy Feet
penguin in the operating room. After five hours she was done (doctors bandaged the penguin's beak, too). Having surgery, says Tisdale, who showed off her new profile Dec. 15 in New York City, "is scary and hurts. People take it so lightly, especially in Hollywood." Later in the week she canceled shows and wrote on her Web site, "I'm so sorry ... I haven't fully recovered." But she is happy with the change. "It's still me."