A Model's Face-Lift Diary

Janice Dickinson, a judge on the UPN hit America’s Next Top Model and a former top model herself, wants the world to know: It isn’t just genes and Pilates that keep the stars looking eerily flawless. “People are completely oblivious to how common cosmetic surgery is in Hollywood,” Dickinson says. So when the mother of two opted for a few nips and tucks before going out to promote her second memoir, Everything About Me Is Fake…and I’m Perfect!, she let PEOPLE tag along—and shared her thoughts with staff correspondent Ulrica Wihlborg.

I believe that cosmetic surgery is like upscale makeup. I’m here to demystify it. I’m not doing anything that most people in the entertainment industry aren’t doing. I’m just talking about it. People wonder, Why can’t I look like that celebrity? This is why.

I just turned 49. I believe that I still feel good about myself because I had work done before. I had a tummy tuck and breast implants right after my first child was born in 1987. Since then I’ve had a second breast-enhancement surgery—I decided to pump up the volume. I also have porcelain veneers, as well as Botox every six months since it became available. I was the first in line. If it meant keeping me young, I was the first to sign up. I live for Botox.

This time, my surgery is more of a tune-up, like having a trim. I’m getting a brow-lift, a mini face-lift, fat grafting to my cheeks, and a chemical peel. That’s it. I don’t want to look like I got caught in a wind tunnel. I just want to look like I’m not tired all the time. I felt I needed help.

On the morning of March 11, Dickinson arrives at Dr. Frank H. Ryan’s Beverly Hills surgery clinic, where she is to be operated on.

I am so nervous. I really want to get this over with. All I will allow myself to think about is how good I will look on Top Model [in the fall] and how I’m going to appear to my children in the future. I want them to be proud of their mom. Dr. Ryan is the Bentley of plastic surgeons, so I’m in good hands. The first thing I had to do today was sign a really long form that stated everything that can possibly go wrong. Hair loss? Dry eyes? Scarring? Allergic reactions? Am I allergic to anything? Delayed healing? What does that mean? This is too scary. It’s too much information.

My last meal was a T-bone steak for dinner with my boyfriend. So I’m hungry. All I want is a bacon-and-egg sandwich. And for the anesthesia to begin.

At 9:10 a.m., with Dickinson under general anesthesia, Dr. Ryan begins the brow-lift, followed by the eye-lift, the mini face-lift—after which he takes a lunch break in his office—and the suctioning of 25 cc. of fat from her stomach and inner thighs, which he injects into her cheeks. By 3:30 Dickinson is groggily awake and chanting, “Pain, pain.” She is moved to Serenity, a Santa Monica recovery center, where she will spend five nights.

When I woke up, I was pretty much out of it. I had a big bandage around my head and my eyes were swollen and I was woozy. I looked like a Q-Tip. I was out of it for three days. First I had a morphine drip and a little bit of psychosis: I kept seeing my Labradors in the room, and I thought [former fling] Mick Jagger was an orderly. Then I had painkillers [Percocet] for a few days. I had a catheter draining the urine from my bladder. I had hurled after anesthesia and started eating about two days after surgery—some pasta. They had balanced low-carb meals, and I was like, “Bring me macaroni and cheese!”

I didn’t allow my children to visit me. I didn’t want Savannah, 10, and Nathan, 16, to see me in bandages and stitches. That would’ve been too scary for them. The one thing I regret about this experience is that I didn’t discuss the ramifications of what I was going to look like with my children. I was frightening to look at. When I got home, Savvy didn’t want to look at me. But now that I don’t look like Joan Crawford on crack, it’s a lot better. My daughter still can’t get over the change from wrinkly, saggy, haggard-looking Mommy to the younger version. It feels really great. I’m in heaven.

I also wish I had taken it a little bit easier after the surgery. I wish I hadn’t done so much work, the soccer games, my son’s basketball game, the PTA meeting, walking the dogs, answering the telephones. It’s really hard for me not to. I’m a single mother. But I know that in order to be a better parent, I have to take care of myself first. And this surgery is going to help me stay beautiful in front of the camera a little bit longer.

Twelve days after my surgery, I went to the America’s Next Top Model party. I looked great, even though I had tape to cover the stitches on my chin and my hair curled to cover the stitches over my ears. My best friend Jon Lovitz was there. I still had metal staples in my head, and he was joking that he hoped there wasn’t a metal detector at the front door!

I went with my children and Dr. Ryan. I was wearing 7-in. heels, and if I fell, I knew he was the right person to catch me! Just kidding. I wanted him to be there. I wore Dolce & Gabbana head to toe, a dress that was cut on Miss Naomi Campbell, who is a friend. I’m amazed that at 49, I can borrow a size-4 couture dress. Through proper diet, yoga, spinning, meditation, running after my children and Labradors, and cosmetic surgery, I seem to be working it right. People kept saying, “You look amazing!” Someone asked if I would advocate plastic surgery for the girls on America’s Next Top Model. Absolutely not! It’s the Michael Jackson syndrome. You don’t operate on someone who doesn’t need it. At one point all the models were on the runway. I had to do one strut for my kids. But I was home by 11. I’m not a party animal anymore.

Two days later I had the last stitches and the staples in my head removed. I felt like the Bride of Frankenstein! That was the only drawback: the slight pinching of the staples. It didn’t hurt to have them removed. There were so many, I could set up shop at Staples.

Right now I’m euphoric. The swelling has gone down, and I feel rejuvenated. My face was saggy, haggard and tired. Having had this surgery is like coming up for air after you’ve been under the water. I feel I’m able to breathe again.

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