Far from a stroke of luck, Dr. Vicki Belo proves that it takes grit and grace to lead a revolution, one that she has without a doubt done for the Philippine beauty industry for 31 years and counting.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” As typical as this question may be, one that hounds us from the discovery of the alphabet and the joy of mixing primary colors in our formative years all the way up to being able to strings words into opinions and slowly carve out an identity unique to oneself, the answer is never quite set in stone. Even much later in life, people continue to find struggle and success in the age-old confluence of passion, purpose, and productivity. While push and pull is part and parcel of everyone’s journey, there are those so sure of what they want to do very early on. One such persistent person is Dr. Vicki Belo.
“I remember being bullied by my classmates…that I was just given away. I’m not loved, because I’m fat, I’m ugly, whatever. Ganon pala ‘yon? My five-year old mind understood that when you’re fat and ugly, you’re not loved, so you were given away,” recalls Dr. Vicki Belo of how her journey in the field of dermatology and medical aesthetics. Having pioneered many beauty breakthroughs in the Philippines for 31 years and counting, one would assume that all this began from a point of confidence. On the contrary, however, it was rooted in defiance of what society accepted as beautiful, quote-unquote. “As I got through school, I would observe that the people who had good looks always got an advantage,” she shares. “Whether they would be teacher’s pet or admired by their friends, they would always be the It-girls. Sometimes, you know, they weren’t very nice.”
So, from wanting to treat and cure bad skin, including her own back then, Dr. Vicki Belo expanded her reason to make sure that all things were not only empowering but most importantly, fair—even in the highly subjective world of beauty.
Turning her trauma into her truth, Dr. Vicki Belo did the work, building psychology into a purpose before parlaying it into a practice. “I really wanted to figure out how people think, what makes them tick,” explains Dr. Vicki Belo, which is why for her pre-med course, she took up Psychology. “All my papers were all about the psychology of being beautiful.” Here, she would be profoundly influenced by Survival Of The Prettiest, the provocative book by Nancy Etcoff that asserted how the context of beauty is a learned behavior. “It really made me feel like I had to do something,” says the founder and medical director of Belo Medical Group, which celebrates 31 years of excellence in the field and then some.
“What kind of a doctor am I going to be if I can’t cure anyone?” ponders Dr. Vicki Belo when recounting the crossroads she faced early on in her career. The Belo Medical Group that we know of was not in her plans, because at that point, all she wanted to be was a dermatologist. “That was the most frustrating for me, I couldn’t do anything about it. I can make you feel better for a month, but if you eat something Malabo you’ll get it again,” she says of the problems and cases she’d encountered in her studies. “Luckily for me, I left and I went to Thailand. It was an eye-opener, because on my last day, they introduced lasers. There was not a single laser in the Philippines at that time. It was totally brand new as a technology.”
Naturally curious and characteristically fearless, Dr. Vicki Belo shifted her sights and wanted to be the “laser queen” of the Philippines, especially with her surprising knack for spotting good treatments and machines easily. “I needed to tell people about what a laser did. And the reason I love lasers is it cures. This one actually removes stuff—it would remove your moles, blood vessel tumors, and keloids. I was so excited, and my liposuction was just on the side,” she details, the excitement in her voice coloring every word she spoke with clarity and certainty. “My whole point there was to be a beauty clinic. I wanted to go back to my mission-vision at five years old to make everybody beautiful para pantay ang mundo.”
In All Things, Balance It Out
Looking back now where laser treatments are not only all the rage, but a preference for its efficiency and safety, Dr. Vicki Belo admits that perhaps she was 10 years too early to the game, likening it to shouting to a void with no one listening. So, this is where she adapted again, turning to the study of liposuction, which admittedly brought in the money. However, as its popularity would rise over the years, she is firm when she says that this isn’t a mere pursuit of perfection as dictated by everyone else, but rather an autonomous decision to make oneself feel better and confident one would see fit.
“I really feel bad when people say Belo is about vanity, because it’s not at all. It’s the last thing. You know, it’s really making things equal, making people feel confident,” she clarifies, underscoring that this is the reason she goes back to, which drives her each and everyday. Seeing people take charge and take control of their bodies for themselves is fulfilling for her. “When people are not self-conscious about what bothered them, they really just bloom,” Dr. Vicki Belo says, but not without leveling the conversation, warning that there should be a balance to it. “I see naman others who want to keep the beauty, but I can see the fear is too attached to the beauty. It’s too much.”
From starting with her first 44-sqm clinic in Medical Towers, Makati to branching out into many beauty clinics, as well as of becoming the first and only ambulatory clinic to be internationally accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers, Dr. Vicki Belo has become more than just the liposuctions, surgical and non-surgical procedures, and lasers. Now, she has become a standard of an industry that was once hush-hush, debunking and demystifying aesthetics as far removed from vanity as possible.
Sure, it adds up to the equation, but really, it is all about giving consideration to those people made to feel different and not deserving of attention comprehend that they too, even in this little safe space of self-care, are worthy of love. Taking the pain that her five-year old self carried, and ultimately turning into her commitment in life, the empire that she has tirelessly built has gone beyond just the surface-level. From the haven of trust that it has become to the lives it has helped in more ways than one, this is the beauty that the legacy of Dr. Vicki Belo continues to inspire with—one passion, one promise, and one purpose at a time.
The Belo Medical Group has something in store for you in its anniversary celebration. Hop on to their spiffy new site for more of their Belo 8.8 Anniversary offers.
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