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A woman watches plastic surgery series Beauty and the Beach and feels bad about it

Are you in the market for sun, sand and a designer vagina? Alex Casey watches TV One’s new plastic surgery in paradise reality show, Beauty and the Beach.

The unexpected utterance of “nice little nipples” let me know I had arrived in the plastic surgery paradise that is TV One’s Beauty and the Beach. Following women from Australia and New Zealand embarking on plastic surgery retreats in Thailand, we are invited to watch, mouths agape, as they undergo various procedures in order to “turn back the clock and release their inner beauty.” Frankly, I wish I could turn the clock back to earlier this week when I hadn’t watched the show. I’ve seen things that cannot be unseen.

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Beauty and the Beach is fascinating in a twisted, here’s-a-pound-of-flesh-in-a-plastic-bag kind of way. I’ve been living in this weird world for a few days now – on Wednesday my colleague Madeleine and I listened while the show’s producer called plastic surgery “retarded” at its bizarre launch. But make no mistake, while presented as a new TV show, this is basically a one-hour-a-week advertorial for the company Gorgeous Getaways, thinly disguised as reality television. All the hallmarks are there: the dramatic back story, the before and after, the client testimonials and a word from the founders. A lot of the time I wouldn’t have blinked if Shane Warne popped up exclaiming that he couldn’t believe how old he looked before he had his hair replaced strand by strand, or if Suzanne Paul had zoomed past on a Roomba whilst applying Natural Glow.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condemn any of the subjects involved for taking whatever steps they need to feel comfortable in a world that demands their breasts exist in zero gravity and their skin shows no hint of of The Thing That Shall Not Be Named (their age). Having seen the first episode, and the highlights of the series in the finale, many of their stories are genuinely inspiring and heartwarming. Like Roni, who suffered through a childhood abuse resulting in her adult obesity, and subsequent weight loss, removing the excess skin and baggage of her past. Or Nikki Lee, formerly Nik Carlson of NZ Idol, finally waking up in the right body.

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But the series also features more run-of-the-mill procedures, like the middle-aged mother getting a facelift with her 21 year-old daughter having a breast augmentation next to her, or the numerous toe-curling vaginal tightenings and labiaplasties. In these instances, particularly as a woman, it’s impossible not to crunch some numbers and take stock of yourself. If Beauty and the Beach is anything to go by, I’ve probably got 15 good years left if I’m lucky – provided I don’t have too many kids, stay out of the sun, or smile with my eyes. It’s the Smeagol life for me.

At the very least, the series doesn’t shy away from the reality of these procedures. The scenes don’t cut when the operating room door closes, if anything the camera becomes more intrusive showing us the blood, guts and tears that come in the pursuit of perfection. Roni groans as the doctors pull draining tubes from inside her abdomen, Kelly walks around doubled over like a little old lady in the aftermath of her new “designer vagina”. Roni cries when the doctor tells her a 400cc implant won’t fit and she has to downgrade to 200cc.

(Another hazard of the industry: if you google Gorgeous Getaways, prepare for your targeted ads on Facebook to become flooded with bouyant breasts and trim tummies goading you to drop a couple thou on a new twin set and abs.)

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Anyway – the pain is soon forgotten as the women relax in their plush hotel rooms and enjoy the pristine beaches of Phuket – both big selling points of the Gorgeous Getaways package. “I would recommend this, it’s an absolute dream,” Roni beams. “I have uplifted spirits and no regrets,” says Kelly, also beaming. If you cross your eyes and look at the screen like a magic eye, you can almost see an 0800 number. The programme is book-ended with advisory warnings, but I still can’t help but wonder if it’s not just adding more rubbish to the already spewing landfill of media products telling women they aren’t good enough just as they are.


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