A woman is suing ABC's reality show "Extreme Makeover" for unspecified damages, alleging its decision to cancel her appearance contributed to her sister's suicide.
In a lawsuit filed Sept. 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Deleese Williams, 30, of Conroe, Texas, claimed the producers subjected her to needless humiliation and goaded her sister, Kellie McGee, into insulting her appearance.
Williams says a psychologist and numerous doctors told her she needed an "eye lift, ears pulled back, chin implant and breast implants."
She was also told she needed dental surgery to break and reset her jaw for a successful "makeover," the lawsuit said.
Just hours before the dental surgery was to take place, Williams was told she was being dropped from the show because the recovery time wouldn't fit into the schedule, the lawsuit said.
Williams said she returned to Texas devastated. Four months later, her sister killed herself.
"She knew that they could drop her at anytime, but she didn't believe they would," Williams' Houston-based lawyer, Wesley Cordova, said Tuesday.
The lawsuit said McGee suffered from bipolar disorder, but Cordova said the show drove Williams' sister to kill herself.
Williams is suing ABC and its parent company, The Walt Disney Co., for alleged breach of contract, willful infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
"The most tragic part is that Deleese is now too ashamed to even go out in public," Cordova said.
ABC said Tuesday that all participants know in advance 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."
Williams said she applied to "Extreme Makeover" in December 2003 and was selected to meet with producers in Los Angeles.
There, Williams was videotaped recounting the ridicule she suffered as a child and her years in an abusive marriage to an ex-husband. Her lawsuit alleges that her husband and sisters were also interviewed and encouraged to make disparaging comments about her looks.
Last month, five orphaned siblings who appeared on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" also sued ABC, accusing the network of fraud and breach of contract. The siblings said the family that took them in after their parents died later drove them out of the nine-bedroom mansion that was built for them. ABC and the family have declined to comment on that lawsuit.