Life After The Swan
updated 08/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
"He goes shopping with me. Most people cannot drag their husbands out," brags the pageant winner. Michael Fraser confirms it's true: "I'll go through the racks and I'll see something that I'll like. She feels so much more comfortable in her body now that she loves to go out and try things out." Though The Swan showed a frosty, dead-air phone conversation between the newlyweds during Rachel's four-month confinement, Michael, 34, a bathroom refinisher, says the experience brought her closer both to him and to his son from a previous marriage, Mitchell, 11, who lives with them in Sammamish, Wash. "The show," he says, "made our family stronger." And cozier all around: With the cushion of her $50,000 winnings, they may open a coffee house while she maps out a showbiz career. (She'll probably turn up on The Swan 2 in October.) One thing she won't do is go back under the knife. Rachel, who recently removed her hair extensions, plans to keep her size-8 figure through exercise (running) and diet ("not no carbs, but lower carbs"). "If I mess it up now, it's my own fault. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime."
Beth Lay, 25
Along with some residual numbness from her tummy tuck and liposuction, the customer-service rep from Milton, Wash., came home with a faint mental scar: "I'm afraid of the scale." She's up by 5:30 every day for an hour of cardio and is working with a nutritionist to reduce her body fat to 18 percent—and shrink her enlarged breasts. ("Maybe the surgery made her a little too self-conscious," says her husband, Dan, 29, a longshoreman.) With weekly date nights, she is working just as hard on her marriage, which had problems before The Swan. The couple are even thinking of having a second child (son Easton is 3). "I can't wait for every day with my husband," says Beth. "It's the best feeling."
Kelly Becker, 25
Surgery repaired the bump on her nose that she was teased for in school, but the Milwaukee customer-service rep says talking through her unhappy childhood with The Swan's therapist, Lynn Ianni, was more crucial. "Until the show, I never thought there was something like a doctor checkup for your feelings," she says. "I learned to let go of negative things that people say." These days, Becker—whose boyfriend Eathan Berdyck, 25, a recent college grad, proposed two weeks after she got back from the show—is dealing with different back talk: "There's all this cattiness and jealousy.... One girl called me 'Miss Fake.' " But she only cares what Berdyck says: "It's the same Kelly, just more perfect."
Kristy Garza, 23
The newly minted looker still can't get over having complete strangers flirt with her. And neither can her Marine husband, Jake Garza, 24, who had just returned from six months in Iraq when The Swan began. "I laugh because I'm embarrassed," she says, "but Jake thinks I'm laughing at him." Says Jake: "These men will do it right in front of me. I'm like, 'Hello, the husband is sitting right here.' " They both wish they could enter couples therapy—"I want us to figure out a way we can live together with the new body peacefully," she says—but can't afford it. She wishes, too, the show would translate into some greater payoff: "I've been on national TV," she jokes, "but I'm scrounging around for money to pay my light bill." She dreams of a career in Hollywood, maybe as a comic, but lately she has been waitressing in San Diego while studying to be a cop. "I'm very tough. Don't let the boobs fool you."
Andrea Morris, 29
Of all the Swans, the Lasik technician from Thornton, Colo., made the most dramatic move: In June she broke off her long-term and, she says, long-troubled relationship with the father of her 2-year-old son Zachery. "I came back a happy confident person, and he didn't change," she says. "In the past I may have felt devastated. Now it's like, 'Oh, okay, just another page in the chapter of my life.' " There have been stresses from the split—and, like other finalists, she wishes The Swan had provided more life coaching. Still, she's a realist. Even if a showbiz lifestyle would be fun, "I can't just go follow my dreams. I have to be a mommy." But she is pleased with the results of her surgeries, and she has started dating again. Says she: "If I get dressed up to go out, yeah, I have a good time."
Dawn Goad, 33
Life after The Swan is "pretty average, to be honest," says the homemaker and mother of three from Hobart, Ind. "Everybody's like, 'I saw you on TV,' but no one is like, 'Hey, I'll give you a $60,000 job.' " Her husband, Andy, 32, a truck driver, "is the envy of all his friends, and that makes me feel good," she says. Her biggest issue? "All my hair underneath the extensions is nappy and knotted. Oh my God, I'm going through some stuff with this hair!" Goad thinks the contestants could have used some career advice and better beauty tips from The Swan team. "They sent us home with an upkeep sheet, but I can't afford $40 bottles of shampoo."