BBL And Genetics
Black women's bodies, including their buttocks, have long been the focus of attention and objectification. In 1992, Sir Mix-A-Lot's hit song "Baby Got Back" celebrated the attractiveness of large buttocks on Black women, and the intro features a White woman gawking at a Black woman's buttocks, saying "It is so big" and "She's just so, Black!" Black women's bodies have continued to be a source of fascination and inspiration, with some praising Jennifer Lopez's buttocks as a new trend in the "Era of the Big Booty." In the past, curviness and large buttocks were often viewed as undesirable and something to be hidden or tamed, rather than celebrated. However, this narrow standard of attractiveness is harmful and reinforces harmful biases.
A quick scroll through your Instagram feed may reveal a non-Black, artificially enhanced buttocks, as posterior cosmetic surgery procedures such as Brazilian butt lifts (BBLs) have become increasingly popular. While BBLs are not exclusively sought by White patients, the majority of patients seeking this procedure are White. BBLs have evolved from a derriere-lifting surgery first developed in the 1960s and have gained widespread popularity in recent decades. Some Black celebrities, including K. Michelle and Cardi B, have publicly discussed getting butt injections, though K. Michelle has since stopped the practice for health reasons. While other celebrities may have had work done on their buttocks, there are relatively few who openly admit it. Despite the openness of the conversation around BBLs, some people may still be drawn to the mystery surrounding the procedure, even though it is a commonly discussed topic.
According to Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon Michael K. Obeng, M.D., one of his colleagues claims to have coined the term "Brazilian butt lift." However, the term is actually a misnomer, as the procedure does not lift the buttocks, but rather transfers fat from one area of the body to the buttocks through liposuction and injection. Renowned plastic surgeon and TV personality Terry Dubrow, M.D. explains that the procedure involves liposuction to remove fat cells from a specific area, cleaning and processing the fat, and injecting it into the tissue of the buttocks. Despite its name, the Brazilian butt lift is not actually a lifting procedure.
Despite its popularity as the "fastest-growing cosmetic surgery" in the world according to The Guardian, the Brazilian butt lift procedure is also highly dangerous. In the past, it was common for the fat to be injected directly into the muscle, but surgeons have since learned that this increases the risk of the fat entering veins and traveling to the heart and lungs. As a result, this practice has been largely abandoned, but fatalities from the procedure remain high.
A study published in May 2020 in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open that evaluated the safety of cosmetic surgery procedures found that the Brazilian butt lift has a mortality rate of one in 15,000 to 20,000 procedures. Renowned plastic surgeon Terry Dubrow, M.D., has stopped performing the surgery altogether and now focuses on cosmetic reconstruction. He mentions that the Inter-Society Gluteal Fat Grafting Task Force attempted to ban the procedure altogether, but the effort was unsuccessful.
According to Lea Richardson*, who has undergone a Brazilian butt lift, recovery from the procedure is "wildly-uncomfortable" and involves a type of pain that is difficult to describe. The most challenging part of the recovery process is the aftercare, during which patients are not allowed to sit for up to six weeks to give the transferred fat cells a chance to survive and contribute to the final results. Richardson notes that scarring can also contribute to the discomfort during recovery, and plastic surgeon Michael K. Obeng lists a range of potential post-surgery complications, including infection, scar tissue, fluid accumulation, asymmetry, extreme cell death, blood clots, and fat embolisms.
The Instagram account Doll Memorial (@dollmemorial) memorializes individuals who have died as a result of cosmetic surgery procedures, some of which were fat transfer procedures. The account has more than 100 posts featuring images of these individuals. Some people choose to undergo surgery abroad in an effort to save money, as fat transfer procedures can cost upwards of $5,000, not including aftercare. However, this can lead to the use of less safe facilities and ignoring the advice of certified plastic surgeons about the risks of the procedure. Obeng, a Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon, shares the story of a patient who sought out a less expensive Brazilian butt lift procedure in the Dominican Republic, only to later die from the procedure. Obeng still gets emotional when recalling this tragic event.
Despite the potential harm that the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) procedure can cause, it remains popular. Some attribute this trend to the influence of the Kardashian family, as Kim, Khloe, and Kylie Jenner are rumored to have undergone surgery to enhance their buttocks. The Kardashians' media presence may have contributed to the way other women view their own bodies. While the family has faced criticism for cultural appropriation and imitating certain Black women's natural forms, there are alternative cosmetic options with varying levels of invasiveness that may present less risk to one's health.