The Swan: Is Reality TV Really Transforming Lives?

With the exception of politics and religion, there seem to be two topics that are always seem to be the spotlight of most heated debates; reality television and cosmetic surgery.  Put them all together is it is a virtual storm of conflict and controversy.

From Toddlers and Tiaras to The Swan, there is no shortage of ammunition for those forging the debate on the ridiculousness of this form of entertainment.  But is it really about entertainment at all?  Maybe, just maybe, it is about building self-confidence or helping inner beauty to shine bright by enhancing outer beauty.

Dr. Sherri Worth is no stranger to the controversy that surrounds this subject matter. With a very successful practice in Newport Beach, California; she is best known for her extraordinary work in cosmetic dentistry.  Dr. Worth has also participated in the Fox TV hit show, “The Swan”.  As part of the show, Dr. Worth is said to have helped over 40 women transform their smiles. Her perfect eye for aesthetics combined with her unending passion for creating beautiful smiles allows Dr. Worth to transform lives.

Her clientele is as diverse as the representatives from the United Nations.  Dr. Worth is involved with everything from charity work to aid children born with missing teeth or who suffer from a cleft palate, helping returning military veterans who are in need of her services due to accidents or trauma to Hollywood rock stars, actors and actresses.  Some of her most notable patients are actress Kelly Carlson, baseball greats Bobby Crosby & Mark McGwire and model-Victoria Stokes.  Farrah Fawcett contributed her brilliant smile to the work of Dr. Worth.

Young girl in living room with flat screen television and remote

With such an amazing career right at her finger tips, why would Dr. Worth expose herself to such highly publicized controversy?  During an interview with Larry King Live, Dr. Worth shares with us which procedures were performed to certain contestants of The Swan.  The extent of decay and other dental issues in the patients was astonishing.  Dr. Worth was able to take these dental nightmares and give the contestants the beautiful teeth (and smile) they had always dreamed of having.

However, many wonder if the show actually does increase self-confidence or if it is demoralizing and sadistic.  During its series premier in 2005, The Swan captivated a viewing audience of over 15 million.  Had the show been simply about helping others to look and feel there best than controversy may not have raged so out of control.  However, the true concept of the show is to offer the contestants extensive plastic surgery and then have them compete against each other in a televised beauty pageant.

The contestants are referred to as “ugly ducklings” which in itself ignites heated backlash. Although many of the contestants have reported positive transformations both physically and in their personal lives; others have claimed to have suffered greatly due to their decision to participate in the show.  Divorce, complications from the surgeries and agoraphobia are named as some of the obstacles that the shows contestants had to endure years after their participation.

One contestant felt the need to share her experiences with the world. Tawnya Cooke has written a tell-all book entitled, “The Swan Diaries: Dirt Behind The Scenes of Reality TV”.  Selected from over 250,000 applicants, Cooke kept a day to day diary during her stint on the show.  It is that reference that comprises the content of her book.  Calling reality television “un-reality” Cooke tells of plastic surgeons who often wanted to go beyond what was necessary by “flexing their Frankenstein muscles on her face and body”.  She also references the shows executive producers who, in her words, “had no boundaries”.

I think two things that we need to consider when looking at this controversy include facts that:

  • Dr. Sherry Worth has this enormous passion for cosmetic dentistry due to having suffered as a child.  Born with missing teeth and receiving the help of professions, Dr. Worth wanted to give that same life changing opportunity to others.
  • Contestants for these shows are not strong armed to apply.  If they are fortunate enough to receive an invitation to be on the show they can always decline the offer.

The controversy surrounding other shows, such as Toddler and Tiaras, fall into a different realm all together.  Many think that the children’s cosmetically enhanced smiles spray tans and salon bought hair is just a gateway to a life as an adult with low self-esteem who is addicted to plastic surgery.  Is that going to be the outcome for them or will they grow to be adults who are bursting with self-confidence and an appreciation for their own beauty that they otherwise may not have had?

Of course there is also great concern that the “contestants” on the show are minors with little or no say in their participation.  We will leave that for the topic of another post.

As expected, the debate still rages on and probably always will.  Just when you think you have a great reason to be against such “ridiculousness” as a television show that provides cosmetic surgery in order for a person to have a shot at winning a beauty pageant; you hear the story of a woman so profoundly changed by the assistance of Dr. Worth that she no longer feels helpless and ashamed.

There are two sides to every story and more than two sides to every controversy.  I highly recommend clicking the links provided in this article.  They include the Larry King Interview (4:16), the video story of some of the transformations of Dr. Worth’s patients and the website for Dr. Worth where you can learn more about her and the work that she does.  (Before you ask, NO I am not affiliated with Dr. Worth.  I just feel strongly that in spite of the controversy surrounding her participation in The Swan, her story is truly inspirational).

If the concept of The Swan is all new to you, don’t fret.  A new season aired again this summer and I bet you can still catch it in reruns or On Demand.