Before The Swan hacks away at another ugly duckling's beak (Monday at 9 pm/ET on Fox), let's give it up for Tawnya C.. Sure, the 40-year-old mother of two volunteered to be putty in the hands of a bunch of plastic surgeons she had never met. But, rather than let the docs go mad on her mug, she took a pass on a nose job and face-lift — in the process losing herself a spot in the reality hit's upcoming pageant for extreme-makeover recipients. Is she nuts... or merely crazy like the fox she now is (and, if you ask us, was to begin with)? TV Guide Online rang up the divorcée at home in Denver for a little post-op chitchat.

TV Guide Online: During the show, you remarked that you wanted to be a different person. Who did you want to be?
Tawnya C.:
I wanted to be the person that I was about 10 years ago [before my brother's death, the breakup of my marriage and my joining the ranks of the unemployed]... the person who was more happy-go-lucky, not as worried or as aged like I was. That's what I wanted.

TVGO: So, naturally, you thought, "I should go on TV." Did you consider, I dunno, therapy?
I did actually try one therapist, but it really didn't click. Luckily, I had my family and friends that I could talk to, but that's not the same; they're always going to be on your side.

TVGO: Maybe your family and friends will be. How hard was it to say no to your plastic surgeon?
It was a little tough. I told them I wanted [to look like] me, only 10 years younger — I didn't want all the surgeries. But when I went in there, they decided, "This would help you, and this would help you." You come out of there feeling like, "No, that's not exactly what I came here for." Probably because of my age and maturity level, I wrote down everything that they had talked about and decided that [some of] it wasn't for me.

TVGO: Seeing as those decisions are probably what got you booted from the pageant, are you sorry you didn't go whole hog... or are you secretly relieved that you don't have to compete to be Miss Makeover 2004?
I wanted to be in the pageant, but I wanted to be in the pageant for me. I didn't want to look like somebody else. They were laughing, saying they could have Beverly Hills'd me, but I really didn't want that. [Laughs] I live in Denver. That's a big difference!

TVGO: How hard was it for you not to quit the program and rush home after getting the call from your daughter in which she said — and I quote — she "flew off the side of the mountain"?
[Groans] That was horrible. I was having some flashbacks at that moment and was very upset. But of course, she was real supportive [of my sticking it out]. This was her very first [car] wreck, and she was just 16. She flew down the mountain about 30 or 50 feet and came out of it walking. It was scary for me.

TVGO: After finding that out, I'd want anesthesia whether I was having surgery or not!
Yeah, that would be a good calmer-downer.

TVGO: Are you concerned that, as your girls get older, you might find out that you've sent them the message that what you are isn't necessarily — and doesn't have to be — good enough?
No, I don't think I'll be sending a negative message. I think probably because I did question the doctors, there was more of a positive spin on my segment. And that's what I would tell them, if they decided, "Well, Mom, I really want to get some lipo." I would tell them they need to question the doctor and think about it a lot. "Is this what you really want to do?" If it is, and it makes them feel good about themselves, they should do it.

TVGO: I know you haven't been released back into the real world yet, but...
Actually, I have been released into the real world. It's been fun. I've been playing with people. I saw my boyfriend at the airport, and my daughter and I were standing on the other side of the [luggage] carousel, and I said, "Let's just stand here and stare at him, and see if he recognizes us." Of course, he's standing there, looking around for me and looking around. Finally, I said, "Okay, we'd better go tell him we're here."