The definitive ranking of early 00s makeover shows

The era of ridiculous styling interventions, plastic surgery overhauls and unrecognisable transformations made for TV gold.

Just because you wear a dog collar during the day, doesn’t give you the excuse to look like a dog’s dinner at night!” says TV presenter Susannah Constantine, introducing her latest victim: a vicar. The year is 2003 and getting wrecked on prime time telly for your appearance means you’ll receive a stunning makeover — what a fabulous deal! 

Makeover TV programmes brought everyone together in the noughties. Against the backdrop of a comfortable economy, the internet age birthed a new kind of narcissism with online profiles and a glitzy genre of Z list celebs from reality TV, making bleached veneers, blow dries and cartoon cleavages all the rage. With this new exposure, everyone strived to clone conventional beauty standards. Enter, makeover shows.

No transformation was too much, 60-year-old single mums got sliced open and pumped with collagen to look 10 years younger, and fluorescent cyberpunks got given beige make-unders to look more snoggable. The whole thing makes for mesmerising TV in its surreal, shallow vulgarity, and with 2019 eyes, it’s also fucking weird.

Despite diversity now trending worldwide, we’ve apparently not moved on as Channel 4 recently announced The Surjury, where judges will choose who to gift cosmetic enhancements, for FREE!

It’s rejigging our memory of outdated noughties television. So here’s The Face’s definitive ranking from the worst to still pretty bad makeover TV shows…

1. THE SWAN

Let’s get the sick stuff out of the way first: American show The Swan (aired on Fox, obvs). Women arrived as ugly ducklings” and were given extreme surgical makeovers to become society’s swan, or in other words, a squeaky clean Real Housewives clone.

The perfect participant? A vulnerable, distressed woman with crippling self-esteem. And what better way to solve mental health problems than three months of excruciating plastic surgery! One contestant Lorrie Arias underwent a ghastly total of eleven cosmetic procedures on the show. 

Once everything healed, they were finally allowed to look in the mirror at their unrecognisable reflection – a Miley Cyrus to Hannah Montana vibe, if she changed her whole face – complete with a cookie cutter nose, shiny blow dry and a sexy lil dress to reveal that expensive new cleavage and tummy tuck.

That’s not all, the two swans each episode would then compete to enter a pageant in the season finale. This shitshow managed two seasons before the producers had a reality check. Good riddance.

2. 10 YEARS YOUNGER

Even though it’s lowkey twisted in retrospect, 10 Years Younger was a household guilty pleasure for Brits in the early 2000s. Episodes began with 100 members of the public guessing a contestant’s age, who would then endure a severe going-over by presenter Nicky Hambleton-Jones for their aged appearance. They’d then have a big fat makeover to be judged again in the hope of looking younger, because aging is so unfashionable.

From Hambelton-Jones tormenting poor peoples’ wardrobes, to the tragic OTT styling choices she would then dress them in, it did bring bants we can’t lie. But in terms of cosmetic surgery, nipping and tucking someone’s whole body and face just so strangers think they look younger is sadistic – this smacks of ageism hurt. One woman called Julie Davis says she was forced to have her teeth done, leaving her in agony. Moral of the story: stick with those laughter lines.

3. WHAT NOT TO WEAR

What Not to Wear gifted the nation a Marks & Spencers Absolutely Fabulous: Trinny and Susannah. Between 2001 and 2005, these two posh ladies reigned on prime time critiquing the dress sense of their nominated contestants – selected by friends who secretly filmed them. Whether everyone remained on good terms after is the real tea.

T&S were notorious for grabbing a bosom or two as the participant analysed her problem areas” facing a 360 degree mirror in her underwear. Then would come the Trinny and Susannah wardrobe overhaul which involved shopping with their unwavering advice: cinch the waist with a belt and glorify those assets with a v‑neck.

We’re kind of here for their ridiculously dated, QVC-remiscient styling advice, and women loved their new wardrobes. The body-shaming wouldn’t fit the 2019 bill though. Trinny can stick to her new Instagram venture of jolly fashion vids, you do you honey.

4. SNOG MARRY AVOID

Kicking off a bit later in 2008, Snog Marry Avoid was a make-under show, transforming quirky glamazons into drab and dreary plain Janes. The programme’s POD (Personal Overhaul Device) was another reckless judge with a sharp tongue, criticising – always totally unphased –gothic punks, gyaru girls and gorgeously tangerine Jodie Marsh lookalikes, as the big question of snog, marry or avoid was put to the public.

Every time, the surveys said avoid, obvs intimidated by all the strong lewks. But once made-under with POD’s help, exposing what lies beneath the artistic aesthetics, the public all wanted to marry or snog them, basically implying only natural beauties get laid.

It wasn’t all that bad, as almost all the contestants would return back a few weeks later parading their original get-ups, laughing off POD’s bitchiness and waving farewell to conforming. We salute you.

5. HOW TO LOOK GOOD NAKED

Ending on a positive, Gok Wan a.k.a. your fairy Gokmother proved personal improvement doesn’t mean changing what you look like. From 2006 – 2010, How to Look Good Naked helped plus-sized, middle-aged women strip off in front of the nation for a naked photo shoot and a catwalk in either sexy underwear or entirely nude. Family and friends sat front row. Not cringey at all.

The whole body confidence being about strutting naked and wearing saucy underwear is funny but forgiveable, unlike Gok’s lowkey problematic street surveys asking men what they want in a woman. Millennialism aside, the show did say fuck you to conventional beauty standards with some self love, and got middle-aged women feelin’ sexy and free, so we’re into it.

How to Look Good Naked is actually returning for Spring 2020, let’s hope it’s woke and brings positive vibes only. Love to our Lewisham queen Gok.


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