The Untold Truth Of Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty, the controversial reality-competition show that you may or may not remember, was ripped back into the headlines this week with the terrible news of the savage murder of one of its best and most beloved one-time contestants. Lisa Marie Naegle, who appeared on the show during its only season in 2010, was found dead on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016, apparently the victim of foul play. Back in the spotlight after years out of production, the heavily criticized show is now being scrutinized more closely than ever. Let's remember Lisa, and try to make sense of what might have led to this week's horrifying and tragic loss.

Lisa goes missing

On early Sunday morning, on the tail end of a late night out, Lisa Marie Naegle was making her way home from a party in Torrance, California, at around 2:30 am. She called her husband, telling him that she would be home soon and that she just needed to grab a snack first. Sadly,she never made it home. Her whereabouts unknown for about two terrible days, until police located her body buried under a shallow grave in her alleged killer's backyard.

She was a striver

Lisa scored a spot on the new show Bridalplasty in 2010. Lisa went far in the competition, reaching fourth in a field of 12 competitors, and was just barely edged out of the top three by low votes from her competition after a particularly difficult challenge involving designing a piece for the perfect wedding day. Still, she hung on for seven weeks—that's nothing to pinch your nose at.

A terrible discovery

Police identified a suspect, who friends and family of the missing 36-year old found evasive when questioned about his whereabouts that night, and denied being with her, despite video evidence that they had left a party together in the suspect's car. After detaining the suspect for questioning, police entered the backyard of the suspect, where her body was eventually located. They were able to determine that Lisa had been brutally killed by her assailant, struck seven times with a hammer until dead, before being buried in a hastily-dug grave.

Jackie Jerome Rogers

From the first moments she went missing, all eyes were on one suspect: Jackie Jerome Rogers, who was last seen leaving the birthday party they both had been attending that evening at the Alpine Village restaurant. After hanging up on her husband following her final phone call at around 2:30am, she was never heard from again.

Rogers was subsequently arrested for her murder, and police and paparazzi swarmed the home of the suspect like bees. Shortly after, he reportedly confessed to the murder of Lisa Marie Naegle.

The first of its kind

In 2010, when Lisa was selected for the cast of Bridalplasty, she was signing up for a show the likes of which the entertainment world had never seen before. Although shows about plastic surgery were common, shows in which contestants competed for plastic surgery operations of their own was something entirely new. Naturally, this started a lot of pretty heated conversation.

Controversy abounds and doubles over

From even before the show debuted, Bridalplasty was a lightning rod for controversy. It was described early on by ABC News as "pushing the limits of medical ethics"; Dr. Garry Brody, professor emeritus of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California, called it "a bad idea on two counts." "One," he said, "they're rushing a surgery, which is dangerous. And more importantly, it's totally unethical to offer plastic surgery as the result of winning a contest," These contentions, of course, roiled on top of the already very vibrant debate that already goes on over the ethics of plastic surgery in society itself.

The programming was salacious

And it wasn't just the concept of Bridalplasty that made onlookers leery. No, what made jaws truly drop was was the show's many bizarre and uncomfortable-to-watch mini-challenges. Take, for example, the injection party, in which women, after completing a puzzle in the shape of their "perfect self," raced each other down the stairs in brutal competition to win Botox and a face mask. Even after all these years later, the mere spectacle of watching grown women running down stairs, pulling at each others limbs, all in an effort to get Botox, brings a chill to the heart.

The hosts seemed fine with it

Some of the criticism of Bridalplasty was levied at host Shanna Moakler for being so on board with the whole enterprise. For her part, Shanna, an actress and model herself, always tried to make it clear that contestants coming on the show had realistic expectations, and knew what they were getting into. "They all have really relatable stories," Moakler said at the time, during an interview with Zap2It. "Stories that I think people are going to kind of shocked at." In other words, garish or not, the spectacle is part of the point. "You know, this is supposed to be fun," she added to CBS News, in response to criticisms in 2010. "We're not supposed to be getting, like, a scope onto society from the reality television we're watching."

The Dubrow connection

The surgeries on the show were performed by Dr. Kenny Dubrow, a familiar face for these sorts of programs. Dr. Dubrow is the Newport Beach plastic surgeon who's also appeared on Botched, Good Work, The Swan, and The Real Housewives of Orange County, plying his trade and showing off his lavish life. He's no stranger to these programs, and some may ask where this sort of work puts him, ethically.

Based on his comments on the subject, this question don't appear to concern him. "Who doesn't want to look their best when getting married?", he asked when confronted with the complaints by CBS News in 2010. "It's very common and it's been very common for over a decade." For Dr. Dubrow's part, he swears that prior to every procedure that he conducts on contestants in these programs, he makes sure they can be conducted under the American Society for Plastic Surgeons' code of ethics. In other words: this doctor tries to keep things on the up-and-up.

A bitter finale but a happy ending

Athough the show was controversial throughout its first-season run, it was the finale that really stuck the knife in, bringing defeated contestants back to levy the final judgments against the last contestants standing, Allyson Donovan and Jenessa Wainwright. Being forced to give a speech about what makes them such a perfect bride is hard enough, but pitching yourself to people you did everything you could do backstab and defeat was awkward high drama. "Karma is a bitch, and so are you," one contestant quipped before casting her vote for Allyson, the eventual winner. As prizes go, the winning bounty was pretty comprehensive—seven surgeries, bank-breaking selections of flowers, cake, rings and a dress, a cliffside ceremony in Malibu, and all of it broadcast on TV. Was all of the bitterness worth it? In the end, it seems that way, with the Bridalplasty champion's marriage having endured the test of time.

...But no one really watched it, anyway.

While Bridalplasty was mired in controversy, the most puzzling thing is that for all of the noise, no one was really watching it when it was on, with people seeming more actively disgusted with the show as a concept than as an actual piece of entertainment. Were audiences just scared off? Today, the series' sole winner blasts the media establishment for burying the show beneath all of the criticism. "At that hour, plastic surgery was frowned upon," she wrote on Twitter in December 2016. "But fast forward years later and [the Kardashians] love it and flaunt it so now it's cool." She also reserves rage at E! for not publicizing Lisa Marie Naegle's disappearance from the start. "This is a human being who was missing," she writes, disappointed in the lack of publicity that may have been there had the show been watched more avidly.

Life after reality TV

At the time of her death, Lisa Marie Naegle was working as a nurse in California, with her own nursing students to be responsible for in a high-stress job. The drama of reality TV, it seemed, was behind her, replaced with the real stakes of real life. She was out with friends on a Saturday night, relaxing, celebrating and taking photos. Saturday turned into Sunday, and Lisa's killer, one of her own nursing students, offered her a ride, if she would take it. They left together at 2:18 am. Their departure was caught on video. And in one of the last photos that Lisa Marie Naegle would ever take, she's smiling, side-by-side with her killer, and happy to be alive.