Photo Credit: Oxygen Network
Guest Bag Lady Jessica Schiffman
As a San Diegan, I was eager to see how Oxygen’s newest reality T.V. series, Addicted to Beauty, portrayed La Jolla, a tiny upscale community in northern San Diego. But, like almost every aspect of the show itself, artificiality is in play. The spa’s location is reworked and enhanced to falsely appear as though it is in the heart of charming downtown La Jolla, when, in reality, it is less than ten minutes from my mundane, suburban, family-centered neighborhood of Carmel Valley.
Diane York-Goldman, a La Jolla socialite whose many enhancements have caused her to bear strong resemblance to Ursula from “The Little Mermaid,” has teamed up with plastic surgeon Gilbert Lee and his staff to run Changes Plastic Surgery and Medical Spa. In turn, Dr. Lee’s staff serves as Goldman’s entourage of flamboyant homosexuals and power-hungry female employees who struggle to man the front desk and accommodate clients. This proves to be no small feat. Gary, the “front desk liaison,” is frequently seen flat-ironing his hair or rearranging his MySpace page instead of answering phone calls, while Goldman’s personal assistant, Natasha, and Ronnie, the “front desk concierge,” perform their 10 AM teeth-whitening ritual.
Too distracted with their own appearances, Diane and her staff consistently fail to run the clinic efficiently. Much to this viewer’s entertainment, Diane decides to increase this distraction through individual meetings with staff, during which she critiques each on his or her “professional appearance.” With nothing left to inject, tighten or suck, Shannyn, the Spa Director, is forced to fix what Ronnie calls “those Chicklet teeth.” But even after all the effort, she admits it’s hard to see her perfect veneers hidden beneath her upper lip, which holds enough Botox to puff up a dozen Angelina Jolie smackers.
Natasha, who has dreams of one day starting her own medical spa, is the only levelheaded, capable person on Diane’s staff. Apart from her surgically enlarged breasts, her appearance does not show any signs of excessive enhancement. Furthermore, she has the rare gift of calming Gary down during his frequent emotional breakdowns. Despite this, it is impossible to run the spa alone, and without anyone following her advice and scheduled appointments, the chaos continues.
The show features few patients, mostly likely due to the fact that they do not want to appear on television. This leaves a series focused almost entirely on staff drama amidst a supposedly luxurious lifestyle, full of expensive boutique shopping in downtown La Jolla and grand-opening parties to promote the spa in Diane’s ocean-view residence.
Considering this show is parlayed as reality television, Addicted to Beauty portrays an environment that is far from real. As is seemingly common among so many reality shows, pseudo-reality prevails in the search for entertainment. You know you are watching some kind of alternate society play out on your screen when you hear Diane compare getting filler injections to taking vitamins, or Dr. Lee confidently exclaim that “Everyone gets Botox.”
The unhealthy, startling amount of unnecessary injections and alterations exposed on this show – Restylane in the balls of your feet to provide a cushion when you walk? Really? – leaves me desperate to watch CNN, Man vs. Wild or anything real by the end of the hour-long episode. If anything, the show provides some fine examples of plastic surgery gone wrong.