My first book, Nine Digits, is a comic novel for young adults. Nine Digits tells the story of a dysfunctional family chosen to compete on a reality TV show in which the winner will receive a prize of $100 million. The show’s producer shamelessly manipulates and humiliates the contestants in pursuit of higher ratings and the advertising dollars that those ratings bring. The book follows the family as they try to win a hopelessly rigged competition.
After creating the television contest in Nine Digits, a contest as outrageous as I could conceive, I was humbled when I stumbled upon a reality television program far more outrageous than mine. In this program young women competed to win a “celebrity-style, dream wedding”. While I found it disappointing that some people see a celebrity-style, dream wedding as the ultimate prize in life, that wasn’t new news and I would not have paid the show any attention but for the show’s name: Bridalplasty. What kind of a name is that? Bridal, fine, but plasty? What the hell is that? Were they going to sculpt their wedding cakes?
I decided to do a little research. Turned out that Bridalplasty was an actual thing, a real reality TV contest that enjoyed a real life two-month run on E! Entertainment at the end of 2010. Twelve young women – all engaged or already married – competed, not just for a celebrity-style, dream wedding, but also to obtain her personal wishlist of surgical procedures. The winner would be entitled to all those cosmetic surgeries that make the difference between an ordinary life and, well, a celebrity-style, dream life.
Along the way to the dream wedding, there were 10 contests among the brides-to-be. To create additional tension each week, the winner of each stage was entitled to pick a surgical selection from their wishlist and have it performed by the show’s resident doctor, a plastic surgeon who was, in real life, a plastic surgeon to celebrities! Thus in the second week of the contest, Cheyenne received a rhinoplasty. The following week saw the Top Bride, Kristen, experience the full joy of breast implants. The surgical largess obtained by successful contestants en route to the finale included liposuction, tooth veneers, and a procedure to remove that flabby dangling fat that takes residence on the underside of the upper arm. In fact, at the conclusion of one particularly joyous episode, all the brides who completed that day’s challenge received coveted Botox injections.
The weekly chance to win surgical procedures did not provide the only drama. Each week a bride – the Bottom Bride, as it were – was eliminated from the show amidst much weeping and remonstration. Thus as the field shrank and the surgeries multiplied – I swear to God, brides competed with their noses criss-crossed by surgical tape – the stage was set for the final episode.
That episode pitted Allyson, a heavy set 32-year old blonde from Crestwood, Illinois, against Jenessa, a skinny, sharp-elbowed, hustler from Wayne, New Jersey who had earned a reputation for her feral scheming and maneuvering. (Jenessa might have been devious but she won my heart when she pointed out that Allyson might play the victim, but “after she got the lipo she went back in the kitchen and ate hot pockets every night.” That was a good line.)
Jenessa received a disappointing surprise when the judging panel for the final contest was revealed: it was the very brides who had been eliminated!! With those judges, Jenessa didn’t have a chance. They didn’t even finish polling the judges before it was clear that Jenessa was going home without all the surgical procedures that separated her from a celebrity-style life. But if the drama of a close vote was denied to us, we were treated to one splendid moment when Alexandra White of Atlanta Georgia rendered the vote that put Allyson over the top. Alexandra had been given a chance to address the finalists – the Final Brides! – and personally deliver her RSVP. Alexandra used her time in the spotlight to give Jenessa this nugget of ancient wisdom:
Karma is a bitch and so are you!!
I could not resist doing a little research on Alexandra. I was quickly rewarded to learn that Alexandra had previously been a contestant on the Biggest Loser reality television program. She had not won Biggest Loser – and indeed her girth during Bridalplasty suggested that she liked a good hot pocket too – but she had scored a bigger prize: it had been on that program that she had met and become engaged to her fiancé. And so in that perfect karmic confluence that favors television shows devoted to the pursuit of deep meaning, Alexandra was competing on Bridalplasty to become the Perfect Bride for the very hubs with whom she shared the limelight on Biggest Loser. How big was that! What a moment! Made in heaven!
The dramatic piece de resistance of Bridalplasty sprang from a brilliant and carefully wrought plot device: once the contest began, the fiancé did not actually see the winning bride until after her surgical wishlist had been completely fulfilled. This paved the way for one of those magic television moments – a moment so profound that the full possibilities of the medium will never again be doubted – the moment when Allyson was revealed to her fiancé in her new and improved format. Allyson 2.0.
The big reveal, the magic moment, occurred during – yes, you guessed it – their very own celebrity style, dream wedding! At the alter! Picture this scene: Allyson in front of the preacher, her soon-to-be husband facing her. She was swaddled in veils and lace, utterly hidden from the eyes of her wedding party and the dozens of guests in attendance. No one could tell who she had become until the final instant before the vows, when the veil was lifted and Allyson, radiant goddess, was revealed to the oohs and ohmygods and yougottabekiddings from the wedding crowd – a crowd that included the very brides who she had bested along the way. Allyson! With the glam complexion and the golden hair, with a smile as white as the ceramic of a new toilet. Allyson with the cute nose and so many improvements that I cannot even list them here, all revealed to her lucky fiancé in that one unforgettable instant. Boom!
One might be sad that Bridalplasty lasted only that one incredible season, but fortunately for all of us who write, that magic final episode will live on forever on YouTube, an enduring reminder that no matter how outrageous a situation a writer may create in a novel, real life will go one step lower…
Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. His novel, Nine Digits, will be published by Second Wind Publishing this Spring. And for those who want to see it first hand, the final episode of Bridalplasty can be see here.