Julie Chen: I Had Plastic Surgery to Make My Eyes Look Bigger
09/13/2013 AT 12:15 PM EDT
This week, Sharon Osbourne revealed her long-ago fling with Jay Leno, Aisha Tyler opened up about her infertility struggle and Sara Gilbert said she realized she was gay while dating her Roseanne costar Johnny Galecki.
On Wednesday's show, Julie Chen, 43, said that racist remarks from a former news director led her to undergo plastic surgery to make her eyes look bigger.
"When I was 25, I was working as a local news reporter in Dayton, Ohio. I asked my news director if I could fill in [for vacationing reporters over the holidays]," Chen, 43, revealed on the show. "He said, 'You will never be on this anchor desk, because you're Chinese.' "
Chen's boss went on to say, "Because of your Asian eyes, I've noticed that when you're on camera, you look disinterested and bored."
His remarks shocked Chen and caused her to begin meeting with agents for career advice.
"This one big-time agent basically told me the same thing," Chen recalled. "He said, 'I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look bigger.' "
Worried her appearance might stall her career, Chen discussed the surgery with her parents. After garnering their support, she opted to go under the knife.
Headshots of Chen, taken before and after her surgery, show how the procedure changed her appearance.
"My eyes are bigger, I look more alert ... more expressive," she said. "After I had it done, the ball did roll for me. I wondered, did I give in to the man?"
Chen's co-host, Sheryl Underwood, refuted that question, heartily supporting her colleague.
"You made a choice that was good for you, and you have represented – I'm gonna say it – your people ... your race ... women and your colleagues," Underwood said. "Don't look back."
Chen said she hasn't.
"I have to live with every decision that I've made. And I'm not going to look back," she said. "I don't like to live with regrets. No one's more proud of being Chinese than I am."