You’ve seen this story play out before on TikTok: A woman gets a Brazilian butt lift, and suddenly her life changes for the better.
Despite the months–long, arduous recovery process that follows this procedure, many still claim that their surgery was one of the best decisions of their lives—they look better, they feel happier, and they’ve been transformed from the inside–out. But there’s another, darker side to their life–changing butt lift stories.
Affectionately nicknamed the BBL, the Brazilian butt lift is said to leave patients with wide hips, a thin waist, and most importantly, a fat ass. In recent years, it's become one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the world. But despite its notoriety, the BBL is also one of the world’s most dangerous plastic surgery procedures. With one to two out of every 6,000 BBLs resulting in death, this fad flaunts the highest mortality rate for any cosmetic surgery. In fact, some plastic surgeons even refuse to carry out the procedure, saying that it's too dangerous to be ethical.
BBL procedures consist of sucking out undesired fat from different areas of the body and injecting that fat into the butt. The danger of the BBL is straightforward: If the fat is injected too deep or in the wrong area, it will enter the bloodstream, traveling to the heart and lungs and inevitably leading to death. Not only is the procedure itself dangerous, but the recovery process is also painful and long, with many regretting their BBLs due to unsatisfactory results and post–op pain.
But if the surgery is so risky and painful, why do many celebrities and influencers act as if their BBLs were life changing? The answer is simple: Big butts are the beauty standard.
And yet, with celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Iggy Azalea making millions off of their unnaturally large backsides, while Black women like Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion are often shamed for having similar curves, the now mainstream idea of big butts being beautiful reveals a double standard. People worship white women who culturally appropriate these cherry–picked traits while hypocritically critiquing women of color for having the same features. Why are big butts beautiful for some but not for the communities that popularized them?
What's more, the popularization of the BBL still puts pressure on Black and Latinx women to have the disproportionately large backsides and wide hips that mainstream society has traditionally associated with these communities. Black and Latinx women without these features often feel the desire to conform to these standards and to have a “perfect body.” The body dysmorphia that women often have to face due to societal pressure is exacerbated by the racialized trauma inflicted upon these communities.
Predatory, lower–cost surgery clinics often market the BBL to working–class Black and Latinx women by using a cheap price tag and misleading information about the safety and after–effects of the surgery, making these demographics more vulnerable to the dangers of this procedure. Not only do these cheap clinics market to women of color by shaming them for not conforming with racialized and appropriative beauty standards, but they also actively harm them through dangerous medical practices, all in the name of profit.
While it may seem empowering to reclaim your sexuality by investing in a bigger butt, the BBL industry as a whole is indicative of a larger problem. By treating bodies as trends, people—especially people of color—are made to feel that they have to endlessly chase after ever–changing beauty standards to feel accepted and desired. And in the process, many end up falling victim to dangerous surgical procedures like the BBL in order to make themselves feel beautiful.
Although plastic surgery can give you a feeling of control over how you look, it’s important to recognize that a big ass or a ski slope nose isn’t going to last forever. A BBL isn’t going to actually magically change your life for the better, no matter what your For You Page says.