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The Swan (TV series)

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The Swan
GenreReality television
Presented byAmanda Byram
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes18
Executive producers
Running time45–50 minutes
Production companyFremantleMedia North America
Original release
ReleaseApril 7 (2004-04-07) –
December 20, 2004 (2004-12-20)

The Swan is an American reality television series broadcast by the Fox Broadcasting Company (Fox). It premiered on April 7, 2004, while its eighteenth and final episode aired on December 20, 2004. The series was hosted by Irish television presenter Amanda Byram.

Each episode of the series followed two self-proclaimed "ugly ducklings" who, over the course of a three-month period, experienced an extreme makeover from a team that included a personal trainer, therapist, dentist, and cosmetic surgeons. Whichever woman was deemed more attractive at the end of the three months would move forward to compete in a beauty pageant held at the end of the season. Following the pageant, whichever contestant received the most votes for the greatest transformation would be given the title "The Swan".

The Swan has garnered negative reception from critics and audiences. Criticism of the series often focused on the promotion of a negative body image for women. Despite the negative reception, The Swan premiered to high ratings and averaged around 9 million viewers over the course of its first season. Since its airing, several of the contestants have voiced either satisfaction or regret over their participation in the series. Additionally, several producers have defended The Swan, in which they claimed its purpose was to increase the self-esteem of its contestants. In 2013, Fox announced plans to revive the series as a two-hour television special titled Celebrity Swan, but as of 2018 it was no longer in development.[1][2]


In 2005, Rebecca Hertz, a writer of the series, admitted that the series' staff manufactured dialogue and situations throughout the editing process. Hertz claimed that she falsely made it appear as though contestant Rachel Love-Fraser's husband was unhappily married to her, stating, "In a pre-interview, I led her husband to say Rachel looks average, but he thought she looked beautiful. I cut it down to him saying she looks average, so he sounded like a mean, horrible a–hole. He was furious when he saw the show".[3]

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 Cristina 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.


Robert Bianco of USA Today called The Swan "hurtful and repellent even by reality's constantly plummeting standards".[4] Journalist Jennifer Pozner, in her book Reality Bites Back, calls The Swan "the most sadistic reality series of the decade".[5] 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".[6] 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".[7]

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".[8] 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".[8] 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.[8]

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.[9]

In 2010, Entertainment Weekly ranked the program the worst reality television show ever produced.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ West, Lindy (February 20, 2013). "Celebrity Swan is the Most Depressing Television Program Ever Conceived". Jezebel. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  2. ^ White, Adam (2018-06-14). "When makeovers go wrong: why The Swan is one of the most horrific TV shows ever made". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2024-02-07.
  3. ^ Ryan, Amy (June 30, 2005). "Reality TV: More proof that it ain't so real". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 22, 2022. Retrieved June 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Bianco, Robert (April 12, 2004). "USAToday.com There is nothing beautiful about the swan". USA Today. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  5. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (May 9, 2011). "The Reality Principle". New Yorker. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  6. ^ Hedges, Chris (2009). Empire of Illusion. New York, NY: Nation Books. p. 25. ISBN 978-1568586137
  7. ^ Douglas, Susan J. (2010). The Rise of Enlightened Sexism. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-312-67392-5
  8. ^ 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. 27 (3): 251–266. doi:10.1080/15295030903583515. S2CID 145271445.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "10 Worst Reality-TV Shows Ever". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2016.

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