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tributes >> Cindy & Gia
The Clone Zone

Cindy’s Story

Original Extreme Makeover pioneer Cindy Jackson, 49, tells how cosmetic surgery turned her and stunning transsexual Gia darling, 25, into identical twins!

“During the past 16 years I have helped A-list celebrities, housewives, executives, taxi drivers – people from every conceivable walk of life – through countless surgical procedures. All of them, in varying degrees and for a myriad of reasons, wanted to change the face or body with which they were born.

No one understands the frustration of having to live inside a body you don’t feel is your own better than I do. Feeling like an eternally young and beautiful spirit trapped within the shell of a plain, prematurely aged frump, I started having cosmetic surgery in 1988 at the age of 33 in an attempt to unearth my authentic self. The story of my transformation first appeared in the press in 1989 when I pioneered the world’s first Extreme Makeover. Since then I have had more major surgery (nine operations in total) and numerous minor procedures to improve my appearance and keep ageing at bay.

After growing up an ugly duckling in the American Midwest, I emigrated to England in 1977 at the age of 21. My ancestors originated from this country so I’ve always felt very much at home here. My small town in Ohio is very judgemental and intolerant of anyone with ideas that are different or unusual. As a result, I have experienced my share of narrow-minded prejudice. I feel this has blessed me a special empathy with others who are brave enough to be true to themselves.

(Ironically, now that I have become world famous for something that I was able to do only in a creative hotbed as is London, I am feted as the local celebrity whenever I go back there! No one else from my town has written two best-selling books and appears on national television regularly.)

Because I have appeared on literally hundreds of programs in every corner of the globe, tens of thousands of men and women from all over have contacted me to find out the secrets of my success. One of those who saw me on an American talk show in 1996 was a 16 year-old transsexual girl named Gia Darling.

Gia sent me an email through my web site in 2000 along with some pictures of herself. She’d already had numerous operations and was a very pretty – and sexy – girl. After telling me a bit about herself, she asked my opinion on the surgery she’d had so far and what I would advise her to have done next in her quest to be as feminine on the outside as she was on the inside. Reading between the lines, I could see that she was a very special and spiritual person.

We discussed surgery at length: hairline lowering, brow bone shaving, body sculpting liposuction, the pros and cons of various controversial new procedures, etc. I gave her guidance where I could via email but was so drawn to her warmth and intelligence that I was very keen to meet her in person. Since I was planning a trip to the USA to visit relatives during that very summer, I invited her to join me in Conway, Arkansas, where my family live. I met her at Little Rock Airport, feeling extremely protective. Arkansas is about as backwoods as it is possible to get in the USA where gays still stay in the closet with the door firmly locked. I very much doubt that they have any transsexuals at all.

I had already carefully explained to my family over the telephone from London that I was bringing a transsexual girl friend to the house. They didn’t even know what transsexual meant so I had to explain that as well. I hoped that they wouldn’t have a problem with it. Nothing could have prepared me for their reaction.

My cousin Ron’s southern drawl boomed down the transatlantic line: “Bring her on over; we can’t wait to meet her! We want the kids to meet her! We’ve never met a transsexual person and it’ll be fun! We want our kids to meet all kinds of people so they’re not stuck in a backward Arkansas mentality! We just don’t get this kind of opportunity so you better not forget to bring her, ya hear?!”

When we arrived at my aunt’s house in Conway, they were all there to meet her. The kids had brought their friends and I was worried that Gia would feel overwhelmed. But that’s when I first realised what a truly special, generous person she is. She patiently and candidly answered all their questions, much to their obvious delight. I don’t think she expected such a fuss to be made of her but she seemed to revel in their willingness to learn about transexuality and handled the situation with grace and dignity. In fact she charmed the entire community. When we left Arkansas several days later, there were lots of hugs and tears all round. They’re still talking about her down there, where she has an open invitation to come back and stay anytime.

For me, being with Gia is just like being with any other girl friend. There is nothing remotely masculine about her, so you soon forget that she was technically born a man. I have advised many transsexual girls who’ve undergone feminizing surgery, but Gia is the most convincing of any transsexual girl I have known. There is a soft vulnerability in her manner that is mostly exclusive to women. She has a genuine girl’s personality and is confidently comfortable with her sexuality. Whenever I’ve introduced her to other women, which is the real acid test, not a single one of them would have suspected that she was not born female. And that’s because she was born female. Her body just didn’t get the message.

That’s where cosmetic surgery brought Gia and me together. Nature may have played a cruel trick on us, but we refused to live out our lives trapped inside bodies that our minds and spirits didn’t recognise as ours. We used surgery to change them into what – but for a different draw on the genetic lottery - could have been ours naturally.

When I went public with my Extreme Makeover back in 1989, it struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of others all over the world; some who wanted to change a little, some who wanted to change a lot. Gia has been through years of extensive surgery and the result is simply stunning. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Gia’s Story

Twenty-five year old Gia Darling shares her astounding journey from living as a Guatemalan boy to All-American California Girl!

“It’s a scientific fact that all foetuses are female very early on. Then, in effect, nature flips a switch and some go on to develop into males instead. I believe that the switch for my body was working but the one for my brain was not. That’s how I ended up being born a male with a female brain.

I was born in Central America and my family moved to Los Angeles when I was three years old. My childhood was no different from any of the other kids I knew, except I had all these feelings that I had no way of explaining; I felt and thought like a girl yet I looked like boy. I naturally gravitated toward anything that had to do with makeup or girls’ clothing. People expected me to be interested in toy cars and sports, but instead I wanted to play with dolls and put on makeup.

I hated that I was not like the other girls around me who had been born outwardly female. For them it was okay to play with dolls and be girly, but I had to do these things in secret. As a child I had a few dolls that I had taken from my female cousins who lived with us in our extended family household. I kept them in a box under my bed along with make-up from my mother’s dressing table. Playing with dolls and putting on my mother’s face powder and lipstick felt perfectly normal to me. I don’t think my family ever noticed anything because to them I was just their kid and parents often don’t see these things.

But my classmates knew I was different. By the time I reached my teens I was bullied so badly that I regularly began faking my Mom’s signature on sick notes to get out of classes. Eventually I got caught and I had to either tell the school counsellor why I didn’t want to go to classes or face the consequences of my habitual truancy. When I came clean to the counsellor, she told me her son was gay so fortunately she was very sympathetic. She called my Mom in to the school for a meeting. With a psychiatrist present, we told her what was going on.

It was very hard for her at first. My mom blamed her self but later on realized that it was nothing she did or did not do but it was just how I am. Now she is very accepting and we are extremely close. It was more difficult for my Dad. We did not speak for many years and finally in March last year (in 04) I went to see him and he seems to be slowly coming around. It has been hard for him because older Latin men are brought up with a very different mentality; transsexuality or being gay is something you don’t talk about.

At the age of 15 I started living as a female and I think that’s where my life really started. I never “came out” as such; it was more of a natural transition.

One day when I was 16 I had stayed home from school yet again and was watching The Sally Jessey Raphael Show. They had this girl named Cindy on who had used cosmetic surgery to change herself in to this drop dead gorgeous woman. I could relate to that so much because I was so unhappy with my looks and at one time she was had been somewhat in my position. She did not just have a nose job or breast but she changed her whole face and body. That’s what I wanted for myself. Way back then Cindy Jackson was the only person in the world who had done an Extreme Makeover. I wanted to be a blonde all-American girl like Cindy. Seeing her on the Sally Show gave me hope and changed my life. I was inspired to start looking into cosmetic surgery.

My romance with cosmetic surgery began when I had my first operation, a boob job, at the age of 18. Since then I have had a total of 22 procedures valued at about $75,000, with Cindy’s help and advice.

I first got in touch with Cindy in 2000 through her web site (www.cindyjackson.com) when I bought her cosmetic surgery guide book online and then emailed her. Since then we have met up in person several times both in the USA and London. She has even taken me home to visit her family in Arkansas, which was kind of scary at first because that’s serious Redneck hillbilly country! But her kind hearted relatives welcomed me with open arms and treated me like a long-lost daughter. They were very interested in me, which was extremely flattering, and I enjoyed answering their questions about life as a transsexual girl. I was a bit tearful when I had to say goodbye to them if you want to know the truth.

While we were in Arkansas we had the funniest experience while shopping in Wal-Mart, one of Cindy’s favourite stores. I guess we were a little more glamorous than the locals were used to. Several young cowboy types began following us around while we shopped. Their eyes were practically on stalks as they eyed us up hungrily. Cindy turned to me and said, “Imagine their reaction if they only knew that I’m old enough to be a grandmother and that you’re a man!” We had a good laugh about that.

I am often asked why I the one operation I’ve not had is male-to-female gender reassignment surgery. I think that sexuality is in between your ears not your legs and I am really don’t feel that having the GRS will make me more of a female than I am now. But who knows, maybe some time down the road I may change my mind, especially if the surgical methods and success rates improve dramatically.

I am very lucky to live in California. It’s a very open-minded and fun place to live. Being a transsexual girl, I think living in L.A. has made a big difference to my quality of life. Not all places are so accepting of individuals who do not conform to society’s mainstream.

My job isn’t bad either. I own a production company and with my modelling I get to go on lots of auditions. Ideally, I’d love to continue working in television!!!!!!!

Gia’s operation list:
3 boob jobs
2 nose jobs
Cheek bone implant
Chin implant
Liposuction abdomen/ waist
3 lip jobs had implant but did not like it so now I have silicon
Eye lift
Forehead lift
Brow bone shaving
Face peel
Under eye peel
Hip implants
Buttock implants
Body laser hair removal
Hair transplants
Hair line lowering