When your 15 minutes of fame is from the operating table, you are in a fairly vulnerable state. Alicia Jenkins, who many may remember as “uni-boob” from the premiere episode of the hit show Botched, was already dealing with one bad experience when she stepped in front of the cameras. What would make somebody once bitten by plastic surgery able to try again with the world as a witness? For this hard working California mom it was a calling to be an example, and the ability to put her trust in the right doctor…
TBB: Tell those who didn’t watch your episode about your initial plastic surgery experience…
AJ: Here is what I felt the show left out; I had a D cup and after breastfeeding my son my right breast shrunk to a B. I couldn’t even wear a bra because I would have had to stuff one side. All I wanted was to be what I was before I had my son. When I went to look for a plastic surgeon I went to the first one that popped into my mind. I’d seen him in magazines and on billboards. I thought, “If he could afford all this advertising he must be good.” I asked for 500 cc implants because that would fill up the laxity in my skin, I ended up with 600 cc implants. I was in pain immediately. At my 24 hour follow up I noticed I had a double bubble on my left breast, I could see my implant hanging out the bottom. (The surgeon) said with time the implants would settle and I trusted his word. Days later the bubble hadn’t changed so he put me in a compression band to push the implants down. I wore it religiously but going into the second week (post-op) my breasts were getting closer to each other. When the doctor saw them he said, “How long were you wearing that? We need to get you in a compression bra ASAP.” Now I knew that something was wrong. I was really freaked out and in a lot of pain. I started Googling what the results should look like at realself.com and started posting photos of my before and after at 4 months. I learned from other surgeons that I had symmastia. I told my doctor, but he wouldn’t acknowledge there was a problem and said that I had picked an implant size that was too big. I hadn’t picked that size. At that point I realized he had no compassion. I felt that he didn’t give a shit about what was happening to me and wanted me to live with those results.
TBB: So here you are with what you now know is plastic surgery gone wrong. How much time has passed when you hear about Botched?
AJ: A couple of months.
TBB: You are still healing and dealing with this awful personal experience, and now enter Reality TV. What is the allure of having something as personal as plastic surgery done on television?
AJ: Honestly, before I saw the casting of the show I had a consult with a symmastia specialist, but he wanted $20,000 and we didn’t have that kind of money, especially since I had just paid $8,100 for the first surgery. Then I saw Tamra (Judge) post the casting for Botched on her Facebook page. At the same time I had been starting to open up to people about what was going on with me. I found out that I was not the only person (my surgeon) had done this too. I knew I needed to share this story. Obviously being so vulnerable on TV is not something I ever imagined for my life. I never wanted to be in the spotlight, but I thought maybe sharing my story would make someone else think a little bit harder about surgery and choosing a doctor than I did. Things happen and we don’t come out perfect every time.
TBB: I just want to clarify something that I’m sure many viewers already suspect; when you are on one of these shows you do not pay for your surgery correct?
AJ: If it wasn’t for the show I may not have gotten this fixed. $20,000 just wasn’t something that could ever make sense for (my family) to spend on this. It’s the trade off for going public with your surgery.
TBB: Plastic surgery centered shows are very different than Reality series like Housewives. Explain the casting process for a show like Botched.
AJ: I sent (the producers) my email and my pictures and then I went to Evolution Media, who does Housewife casting, and had an on camera interview. A couple of months later I got a call from Dr. (Terry) Dubrow‘s office. He wanted to speak to me and find out my medical history to make sure I was healthy enough to go through another surgery. You actually saw the first I met him face to face on the show. I met Dr. Dubrow and Dr. (Paul) Nassif on camera and you saw my actual consultation.
TBB: Did having a camera crew present for exams create any extra anxiety for you as a patient?
AJ: That’s a good question. I’ll say it didn’t because the events you see on camera are often things I’d already discussed with (Dr. Dubrow). We started this process in November so I had my first surgery in December and my second in January. The final filming was in March. This was months of my life condensed into 15 minutes. I had many appointments between the ones you see on the show. The hardest part for me was that most of those appointments were after my first surgery. It was a really really hard surgery and because the two procedures were only 5 weeks apart I was filming in a lot of pain. Every time they filmed I had a migraine. If you go back and watch the episode again knowing that, you can see it in my face. My biggest concern with filming was I did not want to get my IV on camera and start saying all kinds of loopy stuff. I also wanted to be sure they wouldn’t get me after surgery looking like a crazy person (laughs). Every time I woke up (in recovery) there were three camera women standing in front of me.
TBB: What were your initial impressions of Dr. Dubrow and Dr. Nassif?
AJ: I was trying not to get caught up in an initial impression because I’d already been there with my first surgeon. I almost felt like I couldn’t trust my own judgment. As soon as Dr. Dubrow said, “We don’t want to be part of your bad experience, ” I began to trust him. I thought, ‘ He wouldn’t do this on TV if he didn’t think he could fix it.’
TBB: Your correction had to be performed in not one, but two separate procedures. Was there a point in which you considered not going through with the surgery?
AJ: As a mom and business owner I have to plan for food for my family, a sitter while my husband is at work, and arrangements for my business while I’m recovering. I had planned for 6 weeks, and to get there and have him say it was now two surgeries and 3 months really changed everything. However, at that point I’d already had several appointments with Dr. Dubrow and trusted that he knew best, especially since the rate for these repairs coming apart is common.
TBB: You said before your first surgeon “had no compassion”. What would you say about Dr. Dubrow?
AJ: He’s amazing! I had his cell number and he answered any question I had whenever I needed him. I live two hours from his office yet he would have seen me any time, day or night. He really is that amazing! I was texting him after the first surgery thanking him profusely for what he’d done for me. I could already breathe better after having those implants out. He changed my life.
TBB: After finally experiencing plastic surgery gone right, did you seek legal action against your initial doctor?
AJ: I’m in the process now.
TBB: What is your advice to women who have had children and are now unhappy with their bodies as a result?
AJ: If you don’t like something about yourself that much then change it. Go for it! You are the one that has to live with yourself, but make a well educated informed decision about it and don’t expect it to be a miracle. Things can (go wrong) as you saw from my story.
TBB: I agree and I’m such an advocate for moms feeling sexy. Speaking of which, tell us about Dirt Dames…
AJ: My husband does off road racing and I go to all of his races so I had the idea, because Housewives is my favorite show, ‘What if we had this little club where the wives can all hang out and have something to do while our husbands raced?’ In the beginning it was a joke to make it like the Real Housewives of Off Road. I made some t shirts but it never really went anywhere. Then there was a bathing suit I wanted to buy but had to buy multiples of so I posted it on my website dirtdames.com and it went like crazy. I’ve always loved swimsuits so I felt maybe this is what I should be doing. After I got my implants I had the problem of tops not fitting so it became my mission to work with designers that make tops that cover my customers and specialize in custom orders for larger breasts.
TBB: Has being on Botched helped your business?
AJ: The show has made a difference. Now I get internet traffic from all over.
TBB: And you are also involved in charitable causes…
AJ: We shot my reveal photo shoot for Botched at our friend’s shop called War Fighter Made. They are retired military and they modify recreational vehicles for our wounded vets. One of the founders, Brian, lost a leg and parts of his arms in Afghanistan. War Fighter Made modified his Harley so he can ride his motorcycle and live a normal life. They have a race team that for each race takes a vet and gives them a little back of their life. We try to help out as often as we can, in whatever way we can. The last event we did was with the guys from The Devil’s Ride on Discovery Network raising money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
TBB: All amazing causes! Thank you for chatting with me and giving us a little behind the scenes of Botched and sharing your story. Is there anything else you would like people to know?
AJ: I definitely owe more thanks than I can ever give to John at E who does PR for the show and of course to Dr. Terry who went above and beyond. He’s still taking care of me as I’m still healing due to my own autoimmune issues that he knew about before taking on my case. I will be under his care for quite a while, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation! I have to thank my hubby for hanging tough through all of this craziness, and everyone at Evolution Media for telling our stories!
*For more from Alicia follow her on twitter @dirtdames