If you’ve been a fan of reality television shows, you’ve probably heard of the show The Swan. It was Extreme Makeover meets a bad version of Cinderella and it ran from 2004 until 2005. It was two seasons of some of the most insane transformations on television.
Women from across North America applied for a chance to be poked and prodded by some of the premier doctors and plastic surgeons in the country, all so they could go from “Ugly Ducklings” to” Swans” and some of the transformations were dramatic.
In many cases, women received close to half a million dollars in treatments all for the sake of changing as much as possible and setting these contestants to look like a model or famous celebrity-type, all while using the excuse that these women would, in turn, feel better about themselves. The network regretfully pulled the plug when the ratings crashed and while it was on the air, the show was highly criticized for sending the message that women should not love who they are and should change their outward appearance to become “better versions of themselves.”
What the show didn’t want you to know was what happened to these women during and after shooting. We’ve made a list of 15 Behind The Scenes Secrets Producers Of The Swan Don’t Want You To Know. It makes the show even more disturbing now than when it aired over a decade ago.
From mental breakdowns to sneaky underhanded tricks to get these women to produce higher ratings, the producers of The Swan were among the lowest of the low. Here’s to hoping a show like this never makes the airways again.
15. Reoccurring Problems For Contestants After Show Ended
People getting a ridiculous amount of surgery and physically strenuous work done is not terribly good for the body. And to say body, we don’t mean the outer image portion of the body which gave this show life in the first place. We’re referring to the inside working parts of the body that keep human beings healthy. A number of contestants of The Swan walked away with all sorts of internal issues and health concerns as their bodies couldn’t handle the stress of such drastic changes.
The idea of the show was to produce a dramatic change in a short period of time. When the change that is produced is not accomplished by hard work and the body is not allowed to adapt along with the cause for change, it reacts in funny ways.
14. Show Was Considered Most Sadistic Reality Show Of The Decade
The show debuted at the height of the reality television boom. Anything and everything reality show was being green-lit by the studios and some of the most insane ideas found a home on network stations. The Swan was by far considered the most sadistic show of any ever to get the go-ahead.
Some called the show hurtful and repellent. Others labeled it sadistic and cruel. And pretty much everyone understood that “correcting” these women’s issues on the outside wouldn’t correct what was wrong on the inside. Meanwhile, everyone understood the whole idea of the show was to prove women weren’t naturally beautiful and that the fake standard of beauty set models and actresses was the ideal look. It was shallow and the show left permanent scars on its stars.
13. Was Supposed To Be A 3rd Season But Got Cancelled
The fact the show got two full seasons is a testament to how much society was willing to watch the equivalent of a human train wreck. The series was actually supposed to host another season, but due to plummeting ratings, the show was canceled.
Nobody had regret, nobody said, ‘hey maybe we shouldn’t do this’. It was only discontinued because the network wasn’t getting the audience they once were and the loss of a potential profit far outweighed anyone’s guilty conscience. Through all attempts at making the show a success, it was being critically slammed for asking women to judge their self-worth on only their appearance. Maybe the audience finally started to feel turned off by the idea? Or, maybe it just got boring. Either way, the show would have gone on if there was an audience for it. Not everyone suffered from the cancellation. The former host Amanda Byram, did okay for herself.
12. Contestants Received Over $4 Million Worth Of Treatments
In a mere two seasons worth of the show, the contestants received a combined total of more than $4 million worth of treatments. From cosmetic surgery to dental work and corrective solutions, there wasn’t a single area that was out of bounds for the show’s creators and producers.
It was an extremely high budget for the work that contestants required. That’s somewhere in the ballpark of $125,000 per contestant. When you think that the average breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, facelift, and liposuction procedures total together not much more than $25,000, people were getting crazy amounts of work done. This could have been as high as 20 different procedures for one contestant.
11. The Women Wound Up More Self-Conscious Than Ever
The reason these women went on the show in the first place was that they felt like “ugly ducklings.” They were self-conscious about their looks, were having issues with image and confidence and needed something drastic done to rejuvenate their lives. Foolishly, they believed it was only about their appearance. Of the many contestants that went in feeling low self-esteem, almost as many, if not more, came out with as many or more issues.
Wives felt their husbands now only loved them for their new looks, people treated them differently because they weren’t the same people they were before they went in and contestants began to wonder if the new attention they were getting was solely due to their appearances and not their personalities. They got false adoration instead of being ok with who they really were.
10. Contestants Became The Focus Of Ridicule And Bullying
Many of the women on the show discussed how after the show ended, they went home to people who treated them differently. Their close friends judged them for what they had done and strangers who recognized them from the show made comments about their vanity and willingness to be so shallow.
While some got attention for their looks from people who had no idea of the history of how those looks came to be, people who recognized them on the show were either looking for a quick 15-minutes of fame or to make fun and talk down to the women who wanted to feel better about themselves. Had a number of these women understood that the reactions to their involvement in the show would have been so hostile, they never would have gotten involved.
9. Led To Marital Problems For Contestants
Many of the contestants joined the show as a way to jumpstart their marriages. Feeling like their significant others had lost interest or thinking that perhaps their loved ones were being unfaithful, some of the women believed that by coming back a new, sexy and confident person, their husbands would come around.
Instead, many of the men became jealous of their wives. They either believed the women were starving for attention and it was the only logical explanation for joining the show or the new attention they were getting was inappropriate and inconvenient. Some women were flirted with publicly and right in front of their spouses. In some cases, marriages ended because the men couldn’t handle the new wife they’d been delivered. It was not a side-effect the producers were looking for, but probably didn’t care too much that this was happening as they promoted some of these cases on their “Where Are They Now” show.
8. Contestants Couldn’t Afford To Maintain The Looks
A great deal of the women on the show led a simple life before becoming contestants. Their daily routine to get ready in the morning wasn’t glamorous nor did many of them keep a 3-5 day a week fitness routine at the local gym. But, like many contestants of weight-loss shows or body transformation programs, the significant weight changes came thanks to hours in the gym while on the show and diet routines these women just couldn’t afford to maintain.
Living healthy (going to the gym, eating well and looking beautiful with the right skin care and makeup products) isn’t inexpensive. Only the winner received $50,000 and the rest were left to fend for themselves taking only the minor knowledge they’d learned and almost no willpower.
7. Saw No Residuals From The Show
Even though producers of the show spent millions to turn ugly ducklings into swans, the contestants saw very little in the way of a return on their time. Many might argue that these women got a free makeover and to some degree that’s true. Many shows pay residuals to the talents and The Swan did not.
There were no royalties, no extra payments for good ratings and no bonuses of any kind. The women came on the show, got their work done and left with nothing. In a way, they were like Frankenstein monsters and ones who had almost no money to spend when all the experiments were done. For all the damage that was done to these women, you’d think the network would have given a little something to someone.
6. Contestant Lorrie Arias Became Bi-Polar And Depressed
Lorrie Arias was selected to be a contestant on Season 2 of The Swan. She had already lost 120 lbs on her own and because of the excess skin she had from the weight loss, she was looking for a tummy tuck. Meanwhile, her husband had passed away not long before she was selected for the show. She was having thoughts of suicide and was in no condition to undergo dramatic physical changes.
She had over $300,000 worth of work done. When she saw herself for the first time, she was shocked. It took everything she had to keep it together during filming, but as soon as the cameras stopped she panicked and ran off set. She demanded her face back! In 2008, four years after the show ended, Lorrie began to see a psychologist. She was diagnosed with social anxiety, deemed bipolar, had extreme depression and had a borderline personality disorder.
5. Contestants Immediately Regretted Their Decisions
Like Lorrie, who said she saw herself for the first time, lost control of her emotions, others regretted their decision to allow the show to do as many cosmetic surgeries to them as they did. Some contestants loved the work and in post-show interviews did not regret their involvement. Others don’t know who or what they are anymore.
The changes were so dramatic and the reactions so genuine that you’d think everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, the show never let people in on the women who asked for producers to undo what they’d done, were upset with the amount of work done and struggled to see themselves completely different than what they remembered. Like a bad episode of Freaky Friday, it was like their personalities were stuck looking at a person in the mirror who they didn’t recognize.
4. Producers Hoped Someone Would Get Caught Cheating
To avoid the contestants seeing themselves as the process was ongoing, producers outlawed mirrors, sprayed deodorant on the television sets and forced contestants to eat with plastic cutlery. They claimed it was to get honest reactions out of the contestants when their transformations were revealed.
Part of the reason was also to make the process more difficult in the hopes someone would crack under the pressure and get kicked off the show. It worked. Contestant Tanya, dropped out of the show after being caught with a mirror. The stress of not knowing what was going on during the process and understanding that producers were watching to ensure someone wasn’t caught cheating was extremely stressful on many of the women. It was one of the more underhanded things the show did.
3. Contestants Got Way More Work Done
Go back to Lorrie Arias for a second and realize she’s just one example of many of the women who went in thinking they’d just need one or two things done to feel better about themselves and ended up receiving over a dozen procedures. In general, women got way more work done than they’d ever imagined they’d need or asked for. And it wasn’t a choice.
Doctors and producers found all sorts of other ways to poke and change each contestant. Some of the women were pleased with the results and happily took the free surgeries, while others thought it was too much and by the time the show was complete, didn’t even recognize themselves. The idea was to feel better about themselves, not become completely different women.
2. Producers Didn’t Research The Fallout Of Too Much Surgery
The executives of the show will use the fact that part of the transformations included seeing an on-set psychologist as a reason to suggest they cared about the struggles of these contestants, but don’t let that fool you. There were no known cases of contestants being granted treatment after the show ended and it was clear that not enough research was done to deal with the fallout of what these women might struggle with once the work was done.
It’s hard enough for reality TV personalities to find a way back into the real world and not go off the deep end. You see the struggles in Hollywood all the time. But, when you add the fact that these women got their 15 minutes of fame, were no longer relevant in pop culture and were completely different people on the outside, things we bound to get ugly for them again (no pun intended).
1. Family Relationships Were Strained
There were so many things wrong with the show’s premise that you could stay here for days making a list of why this was a terrible thing for the contestants, the example it set for society and women as a gender in general, but perhaps the saddest part of the whole process was how it affected the families, namely the kids, of these women.
Imagine your mom going away for a while only to come back home and look nothing like your mom when she left? How do you deal with that? When you’re young, that sort of thing just doesn’t make sense to a child. Then imagine having to try and explain to your daughters or sons why you did what you did and that you felt the only way to be better was to become someone else. These women taught their children the opposite of what they should have been and the results were some very strained relationships.
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