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Real Life

NZ Idol star opens up about undergoing sex change surgery

Reality TV star Nikki Lee, formerly known as Nik Carlson, tells all about her five-year journey

By Sebastian van der Zwan
Growing up in Masterton, NZ Idol singer Nik Carlson always dreamed of one day embracing his feminine side and living life as a woman.
Now named Nikki Lee, the brave musician has completed an incredible transformation thanks to gender reassignment surgery – and speaks exclusively to Woman’s Day about allowing cameras to document her life-changing operations for the new TV One series Beauty and the Beach.
Levin-based Nikki Lee, 37, tells us, “Gender reassignment surgery is something I have wanted for so long, but when I was approached about being part of the show, I thought, ‘Do I want to do it so publicly?’ I crawled into my bed for three days to think about it.
“In the end, it was family and friends who encouraged me. They thought it could educate people on what so many people go through.”
For Nikki Lee, the four operations she had in Phuket, Thailand, last year helped turn her childhood dream into a wonderful reality.
“I enjoyed being male – I had a good life as a guy,” she says. “But while I never felt trapped in a man’s body, I knew I had another side of me I wanted to explore.”
Nikki Lee first hit the headlines as a male musician called Nik. During the 2005 season of NZ Idol, he wowed audiences with his good looks and smooth voice, coming a close runner-up to winner Rosita Vai.
Nikki Lee appeared on NZ Idol as Nik.
At the time, Nik was living life as a gay man. But five years ago, the musician began hormone therapy to enhance his feminine features. Gender reassignment surgery was to complete the journey.
“How I feel on the inside now matches what is on the outside,” tells Nikki Lee. “I’m still the same person, but more brave, courageous and more complete. It’s like my mind, body and soul are all aligned.”
For the full exclusive story, see the latest issue of Woman’s Day.
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