In 2004 the Fox TV network introduced a new concept in reality TV, one that involved extreme physical makeovers and intense rounds of plastic surgeries. Known as The Swan, after the story of The Ugly Duckling who transformed into a beautiful swan, the show took sixteen women who were self identified as “ugly ducklings” and assigned to them a team of medical and aesthetic professionals, including coaches, trainers, therapists, cosmetic surgeons and dentists. Together the woman and her team designed her perfect body and face over a three-month period of time. Two doctors were specifically chosen to participate in the pageant—Doctors Terry Dubrow and Randal Haworth—due to their abilities to create astounding transformations.
The Swan ran for two seasons and starred Amanda Byram, a former model and Irish television personality, as the host. The highly controversial program had a number of unique rules that each contestant had to abide by, including not being allowed to view themselves in mirrors for the entire three-month period. Each contestant was critiqued by a panel of judges that included former beauty pageant winners, model executives, fashion editors and photographers. The women were critiqued on qualities such as work ethic and personal growth.
Winners of the contest received a number of prizes in addition to a completely new face and body. Additional prizes included a modeling contract with a national modeling agency, a personalized designer wardrobe, a one-week all expenses paid vacation in Hawaii, a weekend publicity trip to Las Vegas, a $50,000 educational scholarship, $10,000 worth of life coaching, a new Jaguar and $50,000 in cash.
The Swan received major criticism from psychologists nationwide as a show that promoted plastic surgery and unrealistic perfection. Other critics believed the show preyed on insecure, emotionally unstable and vulnerable individuals who faced serious psychological disorders surrounding their physical appearances. Medical professionals claimed the show was unsafe due to the extreme number of plastic surgeries contestants were to undergo. Eventually the show was cancelled after two seasons.