Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jodi Johnson’s military career has taken her from New Mexico to Hawaii, but her personal journey has been an even longer one.
In June, Johnson made that journey public by appearing on “Botched,” a reality TV show on E! that follows two plastic surgeons as they try to correct unsuccessful cosmetic procedures.
Spoilers ahead: Johnson’s story has a happy ending.
“I just want other people to know that it gets better,” she said in an interview.
Johnson’s story aired June 8, but it truly began more than a decade ago, when Johnson was in New Mexico, preparing to join the U.S. Air Force as an active duty civil engineer. She was overweight, and had to lose 30 to 40 pounds just to get into the military. She dropped another 30 pounds at boot camp, and saw her breast size decrease significantly.
Her confidence dropped, too. So in 2014, she decided to get breast augmentation surgery. The first surgery didn’t go well — and that was only the beginning of Johnson’s nightmare.
All told, she had 15 breast augmentation surgeries, mostly necessitated by the poor quality of the initial surgery, Johnson said.
“It just chipped away more and more at my confidence,” she said.
She left active duty in early 2015, moving to Oahu, Hawaii, to become a firefighter and join the Air National Guard as a medic. She started to compete in bodybuilding competitions, and even though she won a show in 2018, she couldn’t regain the confidence she’d lost.
“I tried for years to just move past it, and put it behind me, but I just couldn’t,” she said. “It was affecting me every day.”
She decided to apply for “Botched.” The producers liked her story, about a woman in a man’s world, struggling with her femininity, she said. They flew her out to California, went through her medical background and made sure she was a good candidate.
The only moment she was nervous, she said, was the day she met the plastic surgeons, Terry Dubrow and Paul Nassif, for her consultation. But they gave her final support she needed, repairing her breasts after seven years of struggle.
It’s completely changed her life, Johnson said.
“I live in Hawaii, and I would avoid going to the beach because I hated wearing bathing suits,” she said. “Now, I don’t have to think about that anymore.”
Her friends and family have noticed the difference, too, as her happy personality has returned.
“A lot of them have said that they are happy to have me back,” she said.
Now that Johnson has closed this chapter in her life, she’s looking ahead. She’s scheduled to begin nursing school in August, using the GI bill, and she’s considering a focus on reconstructive or cosmetic surgery to help people avoid the experience she went through.
As for the message she wants to share, it’s to “never give up.”
“You always have to try to stay positive through the hard times. Even though it might feel like it’s never going to get better, you just have to keep pushing, keep looking to the future,” she said. “You have to truly believe that something better is around the corner.”