“Terrifying realizations”: Jenke on beauty experiment


Updated November 30, 2020, 9:55 a.m.

  • Jenke von Wilmsdorff is known for his relentless experiments.
  • His beauty experiment can be seen on Monday in his new show at ProSieben.
  • In the interview, the 55-year-old reveals what awaited him there and what the audience should take away from his experiments.

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Mr. von Wilmsdorff, what particularly impressed you in your beauty experiment, what stuck for you?

Jenke von Wilmsdorff: The special thing about this beauty experiment is that I have divided my face in order to be able to compare the possibilities of cosmetics and cosmetic surgery at the same time in only one, namely my face. I only used cosmetic products on the left to see how far I can be rejuvenated and reserved the right half of my face for the plastic surgeon.

It will be a race and comparison with the exciting question of what can rejuvenate me by how many years and how far I go. The exciting thing about the experiment is: When does the addiction take effect? When will botox and hyaluronic acid become so natural that I always want more? But when do I stop looking like me? This journey leads to terrifying realizations.

How do you come up with the topics for your experiments?

We, my closest team and I have the topic ideas. We regularly come together to brainstorm and discuss the social issues of our time and thus collect ideas for other formats as well.

How much work is there in a documentary before it appears on television?

That is different. The filming of the beauty experiment took three months. Research for a topic begins four to six weeks in advance. With research, an experiment usually lasts four and a half months, but that is not possible. Post-production then takes another four to six weeks for a two-hour documentary before the work can be seen on television, but it runs parallel to the shooting.

Have there been any subjects for experiments in the past that you declined?

There are different reasons to reject something. Of course, if it’s impossible or doesn’t make sense as an experiment, we all decide against it. An experiment has to meet different requirements. It has to be a socially relevant topic, the experiment has to allow an inside view.

There was once an experiment on the subject of death that I had been struggling with for two years. My fear of contact was too great. After all, I moved to a hospice for two weeks and lived next door to people who didn’t have much life left. I talked and cried a lot with them. It became my most emotional experiment.

Many of your experiments were very extreme – how do you deal with these experiences?

All the experiments were extreme. Every single one. Some experiments challenge my body more, others my psyche. I’ve been telling extreme stories on television for 20 years, long before the experiments, and I’ve learned how to deal with them. After an experiment, I first take a break of three to four weeks to clear my head and do a lot of good for my body.

Have you ever looked for professional help?

Up until now it wasn’t necessary to see a psychologist because I couldn’t process something on my own. But I’m a big fan of psychology and talk therapy, and I find that people do this far too seldom and far too late. Just like body hygiene, there is also soul hygiene. I am very interested in this area and recognize signals in myself that other people may not be able to assign directly.

How have your experiments affected your personal life? Did you draw conclusions from your experience?

Every experiment naturally leaves its mark on me. After the meat experiment, I stopped eating meat and continue to do so today. After the plastic experiment, I avoided a lot of plastic. Back then I disposed of a lot of plastic from my kitchen and bought glass containers. Unfortunately, due to the corona, the focus on our plastic waste has been lost a bit. There are again insane amounts of plastic waste.

Ultimately, I’ve taken something from all 21 experiments so far. A change of consciousness, a different view of society and also of my responsibility in this society. I’ve always changed a bit, even improved.

Which experiments or self-experiments would you like to do?

There are still so many topics that I would like to do, other formats and programs too. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. That was one of the reasons why I switched to ProSieben. We will do a lot of new programs together over the next few years. From now on there is also my new podcast about the experiments – “Jenke. The Podcast” on FYEO.

There are still so many things that I find exciting that I don’t worry that I will run out of topics at some point. The right topic for an experiment always knocks on my journalist’s door to a certain extent. Ten years ago it was still inconceivable to do an experiment on the subject of beauty, but now cosmetic surgery has become a big topic even with young people and we find big lips and small noses on many a Christmas wish list.

Have you ever thought about how long you want to continue doing the experiments?

I’ll still be doing experiments when I’m 80 or 90 years old. But then maybe no longer for television. And when I do, I won’t jump out of a burning helicopter anymore. But wait a minute, why not? For me, that’s not a job, it’s a passion. And it is very fortunate that I am allowed to do this job. That I always get to know new stories, topics and people. You think differently than someone who retires at the age of 67 and is happy to finally be able to take care of other things. I take care of different and new things every day.

What would you like to achieve with the audience with your experiments?

I want people to open up to a topic that they think they already know everything about. When it comes to cosmetic surgery, everyone thinks they know everything if you ask people on the street. But I am of the opinion that we do not know everything yet. So I ask myself: How can I provide more information? How can I dispel prejudices?

For me, this works best in the way I design my documentaries. In addition to the classic report, I also go into an experiment and provide an inside view: How does it feel to drink, to sit in prison or to go to the cosmetic surgeon? This additional information then opens up the viewer again to a topic about which they believe they have known everything. My aim is for people to think a little longer and be better informed before forming an opinion. In times like these in particular, we have to obtain detailed and complex information. And the experiment is a wonderful way of doing just that.

About the interview partner: Jenke von Wilmsdorff is known for his self-experiments, which he initially carried out as part of the RTL magazine “Extra” and later in his own documentaries. The 55-year-old now works at ProSieben and is devoting his first experiment to beauty there (Monday, November 30th, 8:15 pm).

Anyone who thinks that the “crime scene” always goes to plan is wrong: The gallery shows the 15 craziest experiments of the last 50 years.

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