Tamra Judge is a cast member on Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County, which just finished its 12th season. After filming wrapped and ahead of her 50th birthday, she got a lower facelift — then shared the news on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and the Real Housewives reunion episode. Below, in her own words, Tamra tells us why she thinks it's important to be open about getting plastic surgery, especially when you're in the public eye.
As told to Alix Tunell and edited for length and clarity.
In Hollywood and on TV, no one wants to talk about the work they've had done. It's like, come on, let's be realistic. You have younger people looking at you, wondering how you look good and what you're doing... Saying, 'Oh, nothing' is false advertising. I'm okay to let someone know I didn’t like the way something looked, so I fixed it. The truth doesn’t hurt me.
When I did my fitness competition last year, I really brought my body fat down. I'm a lot leaner than I used to be and that shows on your face as you start to get older. I started to see a huge difference at 48 — that’s when I felt like my face started to fall. And of course, being on TV definitely puts a little extra pressure on you.
So about five months ago before I turned 50, I went to [plastic surgeon] Dr. Milind Ambe's office to discuss my options. I had no intention of getting a facelift because I thought I was way too young, but one of the girls who worked for him mentioned she'd just done a lower facelift and we're the same age. She looked so good and refreshed, not pulled or anything, and I was like, 'I want that.'
Dr. Ambe had actually done my mom's facelift a decade ago on the show and some other former cast members, so I knew his work was really good and natural-looking. He said I was doing it at the perfect age actually, because when you get it done in your 50s or 60s, it can be a very drastic change. It was super-scary, but I just put my trust in him.
I didn’t really want to tell too many people before, because I didn’t want to hear the negativity, that I was too young or didn't need it. Eddie [Tamra's husband] knew and my mom and I think I told Shannon [Beador] and that was about it. At first, Eddie was like, 'Oh geez, really? You don’t need that,' and then he came around.
I told Bravo, too, because you are supposed to tell the producers if you're going to alter yourself in a big way. They wanted to film it, even though we were done filming the season, just in case they decide to use it in the future. I didn't have to let them film it, but I was fine with it. I'm pretty much like that with most things: Sure, if you want to.
Later, I found out Bravo wanted me to kick off the Watch What Happens Live season, and I had never done that so of course I said yes — but I'd have to fly to New York for it just 15 days after surgery. Dr. Ambe was not happy about it; he said that was pushing it and I'd have to be so careful.
The day of the surgery, we started at 7 AM and it took a good four or five hours. I did a lower facelift, where they pull from the neck and the lower jaw. When you do that, naturally the skin underneath your eyes will pile up there. Since he would have to cut underneath the eyelid and pull that skin up anyway, I was like, 'Why don’t you just do my eyelids, too?' So I also got the upper eyelid lift at the same time. When I woke up, I said goodbye to Eddie and an aftercare nurse watched me at a facility overnight and took care of me. I had drains in and she fed me and gave me my medication for 24 hours. The next morning, I went back to Dr. Ambe and he took the drains out and cleaned me up and sent me home. For the first three days, I just laid in bed and didn’t do a whole lot — day three was when the swelling really set in. It was not so pretty.
It was important for me to keep my chin up, be still, keep ice on my face, and not get my heart rate up — or else I'd risk getting a hematoma, which isn't uncommon. I was on painkillers for a couple of days, but it wasn't painful, which was surprising. You would think it'd hurt. After awhile, the stitches around my eyes started to get itchy and my eyes were watering and getting blurry and it was annoying, but that was it.
On day 10, I felt so good that I decided to go to the store, but driving was really hard since you can't turn your head or use your neck. I didn't do anything strenuous, but the next day, I got the stomach flu. I was so sick and throwing up — it was horrible! That's what I get for trying to get out of the house early.
Five days later, I was on Andy Cohen's show and he asked me about the facelift. I had no idea he was going to say anything — it was a total shock to me — but it broke the ice to talk about it. Then he asked me about it when we filmed the Real Housewives reunion, too. It didn't cross my mind not to talk about it — I'm just not that person. But I'm a rare case. I've always been pretty open about what I've done to myself. I had my nose done in my 20s, I got my boobs done on the show, and I've been getting Botox since my 30s — I don't keep things a secret.
Since talking about it, I haven’t gotten any backlash on social media or out in public. I got about 400 emails after the show aired from women asking questions about the recovery and how I found my doctor and I'm still trying to go through them. There's honestly nothing I regret sharing about the whole experience; I'm just happy to help other women.
If you're thinking about getting a facelift or any plastic surgery procedure, make sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in that particular field.