There’s a new Melania Trump walking around Texas, but she goes by the name Claudia Sierra.
Last year, after a battle with breast cancer, the 42-year-old Houston woman decided to have a slew of surgeries to make her look more like the First Lady, a former fashion model.
In November, Sierra went on her first date after reconstructive surgery. After a few more dates, the man asked her age; she was 41 at the time, but he didn’t believe her.
“Get your driver’s license out for me,” he said, Sierra told the Daily News.
He thought she looked older.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Sierra said. “I was 41 years old and I decided that I have to change everyhting about me.”
The following Monday, she called Dr. Franklin Rose, one of the premiere plastic surgeons in Houston. She told him what she wanted: liposuction, a Brazilian buttock lift, eyelid lift, breast reconstructions, a nose job, Botox, fillers and injectable treatments.
“I want to feel like a woman,” she told him.
The cost came back between $50,000 and $70,000, too steep a price for Sierra.
Instead, she tried working out, but she still couldn’t get a date.
“I’m fine, I’m nice, but I didn’t have the look. It made me feel like when I was a kid getting bullied; you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough,” she told The News.
“I was getting rejected by men and it was killing my soul. Nobody was picking me. So I said, ‘let me change everything because I don’t want any part that’s been touched by anyone.’”
A few months later, Rose called her back and offered to make a deal because of her good standing in the community.
In June, Sierra underwent nine procedures over the span of 10 hours. She reshaped her face to look like Melania Trump, who she admired for her courage in standing up in the face of her critics.
She changed everything. But she’s still not dating.
“I’m labeled as that sick girl, but I’m not. I’m a healthy, happy person,” Sierra told The News.
“I’m not mentally unstable. I knew what I wanted to do for me. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long we have here, so while I’m here, I wanted to be happy and I wanted to shine.”
Some friends have stuck around. Others vanished.
“People really, even as adults, they’re always going to find some avenue where they can still pick on you,” she said. “It’s got nothing to do with us and everything to do with them.”
Sierra said she wants to go out, to dinner and dancing. She doesn’t want to hide. And Melania Trump has given her inspiration.
“She holds her head up high. She’s still going out there,” she told The News. “She’s not hiding. I don’t feel like I need to hide.”
In a Facebook Live video before the surgery, Rose said many of his patients want to look like Ivanka Trump, so he wasn’t surprised when Sierra requested to look like Melania. He said it’s enjoyable making patients who are already beautiful, “hyper-beautiful.”
However, photos of “hyper-beautiful” women in media and advertising have been condemned among advocates for women and girls. Some claim that the images may be unrealistic and cause people to have poor body image and lowered self -esteem. In 2013, New York launched a girls’ self-esteem initiative called the New York City Girls Project. The project included an ad campaign, self-esteem programming at after-school programs and Park Department events to help girls.
“We know that girls – and often women’s – sense of self-worth and esteem is inextricably linked to self-image,” said Linda Gibbs, former deputy mayor of health and human services.
“And every day, girls are confronted by unrealistic, often photoshopped images that they can’t possibly emulate. This intervention sends an important message that girls are valued for who they are and what they do.”
Sierra, too, wants to fight that stigma, as well as help prevent childhood bullying like what she went through.
She wants to talk to students and travel. She’s writing a children’s book about bullying.
And while Sierra is happy with her makeover, she knows that’s not the answer for everyone.
“Don’t feel like you have to do all these surgeries,” she told The News.
“I did but it still won’t change people. I did this for me.”