Reality-TV star Tameka “Tiny” Harris "just wanted to do something different" when she traveled to Africa for a procedure that permanently changed her eye color from brown to light gray, she said.
"They are ice gray. That's the color I purchased," Harris, 39, told ABC News' Deborah Roberts in her first interview confirming the buzzed-about change.
Harris, the star of two reality shows who first gained fame as a member of the R&B group Xscape, traveled to Africa for the procedure because the operation is illegal in the United States.
"They go into the eye and they make a little slit," Harris explained of the procedure that uses a medical-grade silicone. "They take an implant and it's folded up. They open it [and] spread it over your eye.
"They told me that the procedure was going to be quick, five to 10 minutes an eye," she said. "They woke me up. It was very blurry, then it kind of fades in."
Dr. James C. Tsai, president of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, cites the potential risks. "These risks can be sight-threatening and can include glaucoma, cataract and corneal problems," he said.
Despite such risks, Harris says she was instantly happy with the results.
"I looked into the mirror and I was like, 'They are amazing,'" she said. "I love them."
Harris, the wife of rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris, says even her husband questioned her decision to get the surgery at first.
"He was like, 'What are you doing?'" Harris said, adding that now her spouse is OK with the change.
"He loves them," she said. "He's OK with it as long as I'm healthy and don't have any problems."
Harris drew fire online Monday after she confirmed in an Instagram post that she used BrightOcular to make the color change and thanked the doctor who performed the procedure, writing in part: “Huge thanks to the incredible doctor(s) for the amazing experience and for making my dream come true! I hated wearing contacts just for the color and it made my vision blurry! Blessed to say my vision is #perfect after my #ice-gray implants! Special thanks to the #Brightocular staff for ALL that you've done to make this process happen, you're amaZing & thank you to the hospital's staff for your exceptional customer service as well … .”
She also mentioned people living with eye conditions such as ocular albinism, aniridia and iris coloboma, writing: “Brightocular can help you,” she wrote.
Her post included a caution that any procedure had potential risks but continued: “no one has gone blind with brightocular and the success rate has been close to 100%.”
She also gave her followers a promo code that they could use to get a deal on future BrightOcular service.
BrightOcular’s Facebook page had several links to blog reports about Harris’ eye color change.
Harris’ revelation has prompted several blogs in the African-American media, and has also drawn mixed reviews from her Instagram and Twitter followers.
One poster asked her what example she was setting for her children. “You want to be white so bad it’s sad,” the poster wrote.
Another wrote: “The things money can do,” and a third posted a before-and-after photo of Harris with the comment: “Is this self hate or what?”
Harris responded to the criticism by telling Roberts she has "the right" to make the change.
"I just wanted to do something different," she said. "And I have the right to do that. It's my body."
The procedure is an “is an intraocular implant that is placed in the anterior chamber of the eye to change the appearance of the iris for both medical and cosmetic reasons,” according to information on BrightOcular.com.
Its website says the implants may be used medically in patients with iris abnormalities, including iris atrophy and ocular albinism. It also says BrightOcular is available as a way for “healthy and safe individuals to alter their eye color and serves as an alternative to colored contact lenses for those wishing to achieve permanent cosmetic result.”