If you meet RACHEL LOVE-FRASER at Starbucks in Issaquah, she'll be wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and it's likely that she won't have any makeup on. Her skin will have a clean, healthy glow typical of pregnant women and people in love, and her hair will be shiny and thick, probably pinned up in a style that manages to be both efficient and elegant. She'll be friendly and talkative, and as she sweetens her ice tea, she'll make a joke about buying stock in Splenda. A perfect size 8 with long legs and toned arms, Love-Fraser won the series- finale pageant—and $50,000, a new Jaguar, and a closet full of clothes—to become Fox TV's Ultimate Swan this past May on The Swan. She smiles brightly, radiates happiness, and is clearly at ease with herself, but the Swan will be the first to tell you that she hasn't always been that way.
After spending four months without a mirror and undergoing a nose job, lip enhancement, liposuction, brow and breast lifts, dental work, and extensive therapy, the 27-year-old says the key to her new contentment is that she now knows who she really is. Ironic? Absolutely. It took an extreme makeover to awaken Love-Fraser to her inner potential, but along with the essential lesson that nipping and tucking are nothing if you don't take equal care to prune and beautify what's inside, being on The Swan made her realize that she had wasted years of her life by limiting herself to the ordinary instead of seeking the extraordinary. While some of Love-Fraser's fellow contestants seemed destined for eternal self-doubt and histrionics, she exuded a workmanlike attitude throughout the beauty boot camp. She worked hard to change not just her appearance but her self-image, too—and she knows the work isn't over.
"Just because I have self-confidence now doesn't mean that I won't have to work to keep it up," she says. Luckily, Love-Fraser has determination and strength on her side. In the Swan episode that revealed her personal remodel, much was made of a comment that supposedly shaped Love-Fraser's childhood: Her father told a former grade-school teacher not to expect too much from Rachel because she was average, terminally. But what you didn't hear is that when she found out about that, Love-Fraser worked harder than ever and earned straight A's. Having worked for most of her adult life as a document controller for construction companies, the blue-collar work ethic is something she's been cultivating for years. On the other hand, Love-Fraser and her husband, Mike, fantasize about owning a bed and breakfast in Hawaii, and having made the discovery that just about anything is possible, the couple now speak much more seriously about their dreams.
While there is something profoundly troubling about the huge number of women who are so willing to be viciously picked apart by a team of "experts" (The Swan's included a former Miss U.S.A.) only to be put back together— sometimes with Frankensteinian results—by a team of surgeons (and, of course, it's harder to endure when the show is on the same network as The O'Reilly Factor), Love-Fraser seems so genuinely happy that it's difficult to condemn her for wanting to feel beautiful. "Now when I look in the mirror," she says, "I just see me."
Rachel Love-Fraser's Picks
BEST SPOT FOR A NIGHT OUT IN SEATTLE: "[My husband] Mike doesn't like to go into Seattle too often, but we do really like I Love Sushi. We also used to go to Tommy's on Eastlake, but he's out on the Eastside now."
BEST SPOT FOR A DAY TRIP IN SEATTLE: "We go to Alki Beach, to Bubbles. We breed sphinx cats and the owners bought one from us, so we go visit. The green tea bubble tea is my favorite."
BEST EASTSIDE RESTAURANT FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS: Jak's Grill on Front Street in Issaquah.
BEST PLACE TO WORK OUT: "I run four miles every morning, and my husband rides his bike along with me. We just do a loop right here around the Sammamish Plateau."
BEST PLACE TO GO TO RELAX AND ENJOY THE SUMMER: "Pine Lake. It's right around the corner from us. They don't allow motorized vehicles, so it's nice and calm."
BEST BARGAIN HUNTING: "We get great stuff at Elhi Auctions down in Fife."
SEATTLE WEEKLY'S BEST OF SEATTLE 2004 INDEX