LOS ANGELES - Deleese Williams believed her life would finally take a turn for the better when producers of ABC's reality show "Extreme Makeover" promised plastic surgery that would give her a "Cinderella-like" transformation.
Instead, Williams says, the producers ruined her life by building up her dreams, making her recall the most painful parts of her life and then axing her from the show the night before she was to go under the knife.
The show's producers subjected her to needless humiliation and drove her sister to suicide, according to a lawsuit she filed Sept. 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Williams, 30, of Conroe, Texas, is suing the network and its parent, The Walt Disney Co., for breach of contract, willful infliction of emotional distress and negligence. She is asking for unspecified damages.
Williams alleges that her sister, Kellie McGee, committed suicide over the guilt she felt after the show's producers goaded her into insulting Williams' appearance.
"The most tragic part is that Deleese is now too ashamed to even go out in public," her Houston-based attorney, Wesley Cordova, said Tuesday.
According to the suit, McGee, suffered from bipolar disorder, but Cordova said the show drove her to kill herself.
ABC issued a statement Tuesday, saying all participants on the show know in advance 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 its 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."
After a dental surgeon said he would have to break and reset her jaw for a successful "makeover," Williams said in her suit, producers told her they were dropping her because the recovery time wouldn't fit into their schedule. She got the news just hours before the surgery was to take place, according to the suit.
Williams' case began in December 2003 when she applied to "Extreme Makeover" 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 current husband and sisters were also interviewed and encouraged to make disparaging comments about her looks, the lawsuit says.
She also met with a psychologist and numerous doctors who decided she needed "eye lift, ears pulled back, chin implant and breast implants," according to the suit.
"She knew that they could drop her at anytime, but she didn't believe they would," Cordova said.
Williams said she returned to Texas devastated. Four months later, her sister killed herself.
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 suit.