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Even a Free Makeover Exacts Its Price

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Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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At age 45, Susan Robinson never had a manicure, rarely wore makeup and even dyed her own hair at home.

Her face had begun to reflect more than just her age, she said. She had spent 20 years working as a social worker. She felt run down and had lost her self-esteem, and sometimes turned down invitations because she felt she didn't look good.

But at the urging at her teenage daughter Molly, Robinson applied for and won a free "ultimate makeover."

The makeover was sponsored by the Advanced Aesthetics Institute of Palm Beach, Fla., which offers everything from manicures and make-up to haircuts and plastic surgery, beneath one roof. They held the contest to showcase their services.

"I had never really up to that point thought of any kind of surgery," Robinson recalls. "The most I was really thinking about is I'd sure like to have a new image. I'd love to get a nice hairstyle and to move up, you know, into where we are."

It was the start of a Cinderella story - of sorts. With the help of a personal "makeover manager," Robinson would go from dowdy to glamorous in just weeks. But she would also learn that even a makeover - even if it's free - can come with a price.

Read through to see how Robinson's "ultimate makeover" turned out.

Laundry List

At the clinic, Robinson described what she would like to have done. For someone who says she's not big on change, she identified plenty of problem areas: sagging eyelids and breasts; not-quite-white teeth; fine, limp hair; some cellulite in her thighs.

There's only one area she was certain she didn't want changed: "My dad always told me I had a perfect nose, so I don't want anything done to my nose," she told AAI technicians.

The AAI used technology to figure out what needed correcting. Using software that they say calculates a person's facial symmetry, the clinic's technicians drew up a picture of what would be a "perfect" version of Robinson.

For her head and face, becoming "perfect" would involve:

A brow lift and eye job A chin implant and liposuction Cosmetic dental veneers Botox, to take away wrinkles and facial lines Permanent color on her eyebrows lips A new hair cut, with hair extensions and highlights

For her body:

A breast lift and augmentation A partial tummy tuck Liposuction 

Robinson was excited about the prospect of being made over, but she was a little slow to tell her husband, Guido Mayorga. The couple had planned a three-week trip to visit his parents in his native Ecuador, and the surgery meant Mayorga would have to go alone. "That leaves me with that little sick feeling in my stomach," Robinson told Primetime's Elizabeth Vargas. Mayorga, 54, had more reasons for discomfort. He has a ruggedly, lined face with long, dark hair in a pony tail, and he is in good shape, but he said he was afraid he might be intimidated by his wife's change.

"Her looks changes and therefore her state of mind might change," he said. "Our relationship might change."

And he had another reason to be concerned: Years ago, his ex-wife had had plastic surgery in the Dominican Republic - and there were major complications.

"What about if something goes wrong?" he asked. "The fear is still the same."

Attitude Change

After Robinson's first surgery, a five-hour brow lift, the changes started to take place - not just externally.

"This is the boldest thing I've ever done," she said in a conversation with her mother. "To take a chance like that ... I feel that's so exciting.

"I feel already it's changed somewhat about my personality, because I do feel more confident."

A few days later, she had an operation to reshape her breasts, as well as a partial tummy tuck and liposuction. An AAI representative came to Robinson afterwards to tell her, "Your body and face is definitely a 10."

"That's cool," Robinson said from her hospital bed. "I'm so anxious to see my husband."

She also said she had begun to notice people treating her differently. "This is the first time in Florida that I'm meeting people that are really my friends, cause they're so nice and they're interested in me as a person."

Down to the Core

When Mayorga returned from his three-week trip and saw his wife for the first time after her change, he told her she looked good. In fact, Robinson's face was swollen from the surgery. Mayorga knew the swelling was part of her recovery from surgery, but he was a little mystified.

"I left her in good physical condition and come back to this," he told Primetime after seeing Robinson.

A few days later, Robinson told Primetime her husband was coming around. But there were plenty more painful procedures to get through: work on her face and smile - involving Botox injections; hours in the dentist's chair for permanent veneers; and tattoos on her lips for permanent color and on her eyebrows, to give an illusion of more fullness.

After a new hairdo from the AAI stylist, Robinson was almost done. The only thing left was to give her new self a new style.

AAI staff took her on a shopping spree, and a "style consultant" taught her how to walk and stand with better posture.

The Big Debut

When all the work on Robinson was completed, the AAI staff arranged for a big debut at a hotel, with all the anticipation of a wedding. They invited her co-workers, as well as three surprises: her brother David Boline, her step-daughter Heather Germann, and her friend Monique Kruis, who she hasn't seen in 11 years.

Though her family had seen her daily throughout her transformation, Robinson, in full make-up and a long black dress, made an entrance not quite like anything they had seen before. The crowd clapped. Her daughter Molly cried.

"I really didn't think that she required anything like that," Boline said. "She had always been conscious about her health and taking good care of herself. But I have to admit after seeing her today - it's quite a transformation."

Heather said: "She finally sees herself the way that we've always seen her, as both beautiful inside as well as on the outside."

Robinson told Primetime she was 100 percent happy with what had been done.

In a separate interview, her husband said he liked what he saw. "She's got a youthful look basically."

But he also said he wished she hadn't done it. As he had feared, he felt a little intimidated by his new, "perfect" wife. "I don't know if that's going to have a later effect," he worried. He admitted he was afraid she looked too good.

A New Day Dawns

Now, just over two months after her transformation, Robinson is finding that her husband is sometimes standoffish, unsure of how to hug her or touch her.

Susan Robinson's husband was skeptical about her makeover. But he has become more hopeful. (ABCNEWS)

In interviews with Primetime, each half of the couple acknowledged that after almost four years of happy marriage they are beginning to see subtle changes in their relationship.

Mayorga said he sometimes misses the old Susan, the one he married. "Her expressions and her face has changed. I used to see her mother in her face. Now she's not there anymore," he said.

"I think we are still fine," Robinson said. "I mean, we know we love each other."

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Copyright 2004 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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