Deleese Williams, 30, of Conroe, Texas, has filed suit against the producers of the reality show, ABC and its parent company, The Walt Disney Co., alleging among other complaints that the abrupt cancellation of her appearance on the show directly contributed to her sister’s suicide.
Williams had been slated to appear on the surgical series to undergo numerous procedures doctors suggested, including an “eye lift, ears pulled back, chin implant and breast implants,” according to her lawsuit.
She was also allegedly told that she would need her jaw broken and reset to make her Cinderella story complete.
In preparation for the show, Williams was interviewed on the ridicule she experienced as a child, as well as the abuse she suffered in a prior marriage.
The producers also interviewed various members of Williams’ family, allegedly goading them into saying negative things about her appearance for the show, the suit alleges.
Among the choice remarks offered up was a cutting zinger made by Williams’ mother-in-law, who said she “never believed my son would marry such an ugly woman.”
Williams’ husband and her sister, Kellie McGee, also allegedly tore into Williams’ features–all in the name of good television, of course.
However, as Williams prepped for her surgery in a Los Angeles hotel room, shortly before her episode was due to begin taping, she received a visit from a producer who told her that she was being axed from the show due to the expected length of her recovery.
“You will not be getting an extreme makeover after all…Nothing. It doesn’t fit in our time frame. You will have to go back to Texas tomorrow,” Williams was told, per the suit.
A disheartened Williams returned to Texas, where she sank into a depression, too humiliated to leave her home.
“Through all this my friends and family, who have never said anything before, have said things that made me realize that, ‘Yes, I was right and everyone did think I looked like a freak,’” she states in her lawsuit.
Four months after her sister was slighted, McGee committed suicide, allegedly triggered in part by the guilt she felt over the disparaging remarks she made about her sister, according to the suit.
McGee, who suffered from bipolar disorder, ended her life on May 25, 2004 by overdosing on a mixture of cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs, according to the suit. Williams and her husband are now caring for McGee’s two children, along with two children of their own.
On Sept. 9, Williams filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking unspecified damages for alleged breach of contract, willful infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The 31-page complaint begins with the sentence, “Deleese Williams is considered ugly.”
According to ABC, all Extreme Makeover participants are made well-aware that their makeover may not happen.
“The ABC Television Network wishes to express its sincere condolences to Deleese Williams and her family for the loss of Kellie McGee,” the company said in a statement.
“In regards to Extreme Makeover, all participants are made aware that if doctors or producers have any concerns about a procedure, the makeover will not go forward. …The producers endeavor to handle each potential makeover participant with the utmost care.”
The would-be Makeover candidate isn’t the first person to sue the Extreme franchise.
Last month, five orphans sued the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, claiming they were exploited by, and for, the show and seeking unspecified damages for breach of contract and fraud.
ABC has not commented on that lawsuit.