“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
These empowering words, from the late Maya Angelou’s anthemic poem, “Phenomenal Woman,” are still today a siren call to African-American women struggling with self-acceptance. Women who live in a society that doesn’t quite know what to do with the varying shapes and sizes of our eclectic beauty.
Black women have had to learn to embrace it all, but for those who weren’t born with that enviable Coca-Cola bottle shape and full derriere ubiquitous on Internet blogs, in magazines and on social media, there are more drastic measures to get them. Some women are even willing to die for them.
A quick google search will uncover real-life horror stories about these women: some young, some older, some with children and some with booming careers, but all with lives cut short after a highly controversial butt augmentation procedure.
Plastic surgeons have noted a spike in buttock augmentations over the past decade. According to a report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 11,500 butt augmentations with fat grafting were performed in 2014 (up 13 percent from the year before), nearly 1,870 butt implant procedures were performed (a 98 percent increase from 2013), and more than 3,500 butt lifts, best known as Brazilian Butt Lifts, were performed (a 44 percent increase from 2013).
Women of color are generally characterized for naturally boasting more volume in their backsides. However, Dr. Dzifa S. Kpodzo, a plastic surgeon and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, says she’s seeing an uptick in women of color asking for these procedures.
"A lot of people are interested in augmenting their backside. Some of them have never had it and want to have it, some of them if they’ve lost weight and are unhappy with the weight that they lost in that area so they want to restore that. It’s definitely a big trend,” she tells B*Real.
“If you do it properly, the options to augment your backside are a silicone implant and your own fat,” she continues. “Most people, when they say Brazilian Butt Lift, are referring to using your own fat to augment your backside. In the U.S. there are only hard silicone implants available for your butt, not soft ones that people use for their breasts,” she says.
Dr. Kpodzo doesn’t perform procedures with silicone implants because she says it’s more difficult to shape them for the most natural look and feel. “There are a lot of issues with silicone butt implants and that’s why I don’t do them and I generally don’t recommend,” adding, “In Brazil, they’re really good at putting the soft implants in and making them look good.”
She regularly performs fat grafting, a liposuction technique, where a patient's own fat is extracted from various points on their body, sterilized and then re-injected with a syringe into tiny access points all over the buttocks, ensuring that the fat can grow its own blood supply.
Fat grafting is a tedious process requiring immense skill and generally costs in the range of $4,500 and up, depending on the amount of volume you want. It’s a price tag that’s driven many to seek out cheaper alternatives, including butt injections, performed, at worst, in the hotel rooms, garages and basements of unlicensed individuals promising a cut rate and quick service.
“All these butt [injections] that people are getting that are not done in a health care setting, they’re getting cement injected into them, mineral oil, Fix-A-Flat — that’s the stuff that you fix a tire with. A lot of people don’t have any idea what the person is injecting into them. Best case scenario, you have a lumpy, hard butt from the scaring and whatever they’ve injected,” Dr. Kpodzo says.
“Getting worse, you might have wound problems, so you might develop an open wound, because they don’t know how to do it and make sure that the skin and the blood supply stays alive. Or you can get an infection, and people have gotten devastating infections from this and their whole body is affected. They become septic, all of their organs are not able to function any more, and people have died from this.”
If you are exploring your options, Dr. Kpodzo cautions to do your research to ensure the person you go to has all the certifications to perform the procedure safely. “Make sure they are a plastic surgeon and not somebody who calls themselves a cosmetic surgeon. You need to look to make sure the person is not a family practice doctor, or a OB/GYN, or even a dentist. There are some who've taken a few courses and they’ll call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. You need to do your research.”
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