The Swan (TV series)

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The Swan
Developed byFremantleMedia
Presented byAmanda Byram
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes18
Executive producersArthur Smith
Nely Galán
Running time45–50 minutes
Production companiesA. Smith & Co. Productions
George Paige Associates Inc.
Galan Entertainment
FremantleMedia North America
Original networkFOX
Original releaseApril 7 –
December 20, 2004 (2004-12-20)

The Swan is an American reality television program broadcast on Fox in 2004, in which women who were judged to be ugly were given "extreme makeovers" that included several forms of plastic surgery. The title of the series refers to the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling, in which a homely bird matures into a swan.

Each contestant was assigned a panel of specialists – a coach, therapist, trainer, cosmetic surgeons, and a dentist – who together designed a program of total transformation. The contestants' work ethic, growth, and achievement was monitored over the course of three months. Each week, two women were featured, and at the episode's conclusion, one went home while another was selected to move to compete in the Swan pageant at the end of the season for a chance to be deemed The Swan.

The first two seasons both aired in 2004. A third season was tipped to happen, but the show was cancelled in early 2005 after ratings continued to drop.[citation needed] The show has received universally negative reviews, for encouraging women to base their self-worth on their appearance, and conveying plastic surgery as a necessity.

The surgeons who performed the operations for both seasons of the show were Terry Dubrow and Randal Haworth, both board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Series overview[edit]

Season 1 (2004)[edit]

The Swan debuted on April 7, 2004.

EP Contestant #1 Contestant #2
1 Kelly Alemi Rachel Love-Fraser
2 Kristy Garza Christina Tyree
3 Cindy Ingle Tawnya C.
4 Beth Lay Kathy Rickers
5 Andrea Morris Belinda Bessant
6 Sarina Voight Kelly Becker
7 Marnie Rygiewicz Dawn Goad
8 Tanya Slovich Merline Norman
  Through to the pageant
  Contestant Tanya dropped out of the show (on her own accord) after being caught with a mirror (which is against the rules of appearing on the series), so Merline was automatically in the swan pageant.

Swan pageant[edit]

At the show the judges would score in every category with the swan contestants competing, eventually being whittled down to three finalists. The judges at the show were:

The winner received a modeling contract, and various premiums by corporate sponsors.

Final competition scores[edit]

After 9 episodes and 16 makeovers it was announced that Rachel Love-Fraser had won the swan pageant. Beth placed runner-up, with Cindy second runner-up.

Season 2 (2004)[edit]

Season two debuted on October 27, 2004. Kari and Gina B. from episode 4 were sisters.

EP Contestant #1 Contestant #2
1 Jennifer Patten Kim Wilburn
2 Gina Davis Lorrie Arias
3 Christina Ozuna Erica Moore
4 Gina Bravata Kari Bravata
5 Cinnamon Smith Patti Chedohan
6 DeLisa Styles Lorraine Norris
7 Marsha Meddleburg Sylvia Cruz
8 Amy Williams Dore Weber
  Through to the pageant

Swan pageant[edit]

At the show the judges scored the swan contestants in several categories, whittling them down to three finalists. The judges at the show were:

The winner was awarded a contract as a spokesperson, and various premiums by corporate sponsors.

Final competition scores[edit]

After 9 episodes and 16 makeovers it was announced that DeLisa Styles had won the swan pageant. Gina B. placed runner-up, with Erica second runner-up.

Reception and criticism[edit]

Robert Bianco of USA Today called The Swan "hurtful and repellent even by reality's constantly plummeting standards".[1] Journalist Jennifer Pozner, in her book Reality Bites Back, calls The Swan "the most sadistic reality series of the decade".[2] Journalist Chris Hedges also criticized the show in his 2009 book Empire of Illusion, writing "The Swan's transparent message is that once these women have been surgically 'corrected' to resemble mainstream celebrity beauty as closely as possible, their problems will be solved".[3] Feminist scholar Susan J. Douglas criticized the show in her book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism for its continuation of a negative female body image, claiming that "it made all too explicit the narrow physical standards to which women are expected to conform, the sad degree to which women internalize these standards, the lengths needed to get there, and the impossibility for most of us to meet the bar without, well, taking a box cutter to our faces and bodies".[4]

Author Alice Marwick believes that this program is an example of "body culture media", which she describes as "a genre of popular culture which positions work on the body as a morally correct solution to personal problems".[5] Marwick also suggests that cosmetic reality television encourages viewers to frame their family, financial, or social problems in bodily terms, and portrays surgical procedures as an everyday and normal solution. The Swan draws from cultural discourses of plastic surgery and self-improvement culture to frame cosmetic surgery as "a morally appropriate means to achieving an authentic self".[5] The Swan portrays cosmetic surgery as an empowered, feminist practice. However the tension between the empowerment, and feminism of cosmetic surgery, and a confining, compulsory model of what that subject should look like reveals the limitations of the ‘‘you go, girl’’ notion of consumer choice.[5]

The Swan attracted further criticism internationally as British comedian and writer Charlie Brooker launched attacks on it during his Channel 4 show You Have Been Watching, where guest Josie Long suggested the show be renamed "The bullies were right".

In 2013, second-season contestant Lorrie Arias spoke publicly about problems she attributed to her participation in The Swan, including unresolved surgery complications and mental health problems she says were exacerbated by her appearance on the program.[6]

In 2010, Entertainment Weekly ranked the program the worst reality television show ever produced.[7]


  1. ^ Bianco, Robert (April 12, 2004). " There is nothing beautiful about the swan". USA Today. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  2. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (May 9, 2011). "New Yorker The Reality Principle". New Yorker. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Hedges, Chris (2009). Empire of Illusion. New York, NY: Nation Books. p. 25. ISBN 978-1568586137
  4. ^ Douglas, Susan J. (2010). The Rise of Enlightened Sexism. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-312-67392-5
  5. ^ a b c Marwick, Alice (2010). "There's a Beautiful Girl Under All of This: Performing Hegemonic Femininity in Reality Television". Critical Studies in Media Communication.
  6. ^ Daly, Sean (February 20, 2013). "Rearview mirror: The 'most sadistic reality series of the decade' is back". The New York Post. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  7. ^ "10 Worst Reality-TV Shows Ever". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2016.

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