As with an October 2015 article from the same media company involving a woman named Jewel Shuping‘s quest to become purposely blind, the content was long on claims and short on credible evidence. Pixee Fox’s story also bore some resemblance to a 2014 media frenzy over Jasmine Tridevil (Alicia Hessler), a woman who claimed she cosmetically added a third breast. Tridevil/Hessler’s story was widely reported, and was later revealed as a publicity hoax.
The date of the surgery was provided simply as “October” (presumably in 2015), and Fox’s surgeon was identified as Dr. Barry Eppley. On 30 November 2015, Eppley referenced a “case study” for rib removal:
Case Study – Waistline Narrowing by Rib Removal Surgery https://t.co/dRMWL3lR0B
— Dr Barry Eppley (@drbarryeppley) November 30, 2015
On 28 November 2015, Eppley linked to a separate piece on the rare procedure:
The page linked on 30 November 2015 read:
This 30 year female wanted to have a more narrow waistline. She was very thin and had a very low percentage of body fat. She had previously been through a tummy tuck to help narrow her waistline which did not have the desired effect. She now wanted to seek rib removal surgery to achieve a more narrow waistline. She had a prior history of spinal fusion surgery with a well healed midline scar down the lower half of her back … While undergoing other body contouring procedures under general anesthesia, she was placed in the prone position for the rib removal surgery. A 5 cm incision was placed in an oblique orientation over the midportion of the 10 rib. Ribs #11 and #12 were completely removed while rib #10 had a 2 cm portion of bone removed from its midportion. This allowed the remaining distal portion of the10th rib to be passively moved inward.
Eppley didn’t mention the “case study” (presumably Pixee Fox) in a 9 November 2015 post published after the purported October 2015 surgery, nor in a 23 October 2015 post. The former stated:
Waistline narrowing by rib removal is almost an urban myth. There is a lot of internet chatter and interest in the procedure but it is hard to actually find a surgeon who does it or a patient who has had it. In reality, it is a plastic surgery procedure that is done but only by those few surgeons who feel comfortable working around the rib structures and can do it with small incisions and a low risk of any serious complications. (e.g., pneumothorax)
As Eppley indicated, rib removal has indeed remained in the realm of urban legend for quite some time. In 2014 pop star Thalia claimed she removed a rib for cosmetic reasons, but later admitted she was pulling her fans’ legs.
Fox herself was similarly quiet about the purported rare surgery; few results appeared in Google for her name in mid-November 2015. Content linked to her involved multiple mentions of a Brazilian butt lift, but only “fantasizing” about rib removal surgery. An Instagram account on which she claimed to have a large following was set to private, a curious choice for a publicity-seeking model.
If Fox had a large social media following prior to her claim about rib removal surgery, it didn’t extend to Twitter. The first mention of Fox occurred on 9 November 2015, though she might have gone by a different name before claiming to have had a rare cosmetic procedure. One such link led to a 16 November 2015 Tumblr post (which contains partial nudity) that depicted Fox’s torso but only described “waist training” with a corset, not rib removal.
On 25 November 2015, Fox wrote a Tumblr post claiming that her rib removal story was published and then retracted by the Daily Mail because of low weekend traffic:
My barcraft story came out in daily mail today but was taken down after 1h because they want it out in the weekend when there is more traffic.
Fox published a 5 November 2015 post stating that the entire story was hatched on 4 November 2015, and quickly cobbled together:
Today @ruaridhconnellan from barcraft media was back. We had so fun, was a great day. Thank you Ruari! Filmning and shooting all day. A bit crazy because all this was decided from no where yesterday!
Fox’s contact with Barcroft.tv occurred one day after a 3 November 2015 article on the British tabloid web site Closer, titled “Aspiring model Pixee Fox: ‘I’ve had 6 ribs removed to look like a living doll.'” That article provided no details about Fox’s purported surgery. A 22 October 2015 post on her Facebook page referenced a surgery that day:
On 16 October 2015, Fox tagged Barcroft Media in a post:
On 20 October 2015, Fox shared a purported pre-surgical image to Tumblr:
A 14 October 2015 post didn’t mention the surgery; Fox claimed to be preparing for a shoot of some description:
Ultimately, it’s possible Pixie Fox and Dr. Eppley genuinely participated in an extremely rare cosmetic rib removal surgery on 22 October 2015 (but equally possible the claim is a publicity stunt.)
Fox began referencing the story a few weeks earlier, but up to that point primarily spoke of a “Brazilian Butt Lift” procedure. Given rib removal is virtually unheard of for cosmetic reasons, it’s difficult to say how long recovery might take; Fox was wearing tight-laced corsets within a few days.
Eppley’s comment outside Barcroft.tv appears to be largely search engine optimization based, and doesn’t involve direct interaction (simply peppering social media and the internet with common plastic surgery terms.)
Fallacious claims of “extreme plastic surgery” are not uncommon, and the outlet “exclusively” promoting Fox’s tale fronted a very likely faked story of Jewel Shuping’s elective blindness in October 2015. Like Shuping, Pixee Fox appeared from the ether in November 2015 with an extraordinary claim and largely went unquestioned in the media.