When I was a kid, body image conversations always surrounded eating disorders and the pressure to be skinny. However, in my community, there is more pressure to be shapely and curvy. “Brick House” and “Baby Got Back” encompass the standard of beauty where I’m from. This does not necessarily mean “plus-size”, but rather to have a bigger chest, wider hips, and a larger butt. I, as member of the fictional Average Bodies Matter movement, have never really been in the curvy community. And to be completely transparent, I struggle with that from time to time. I’m human – everyone wants to be considered attractive to their peers to an extent. No one is exempt from that desire and if they claim to be, they are probably lying to you or themselves.
Recently, I watched an interview with the female rapper Cardi B. Cardi B started out as a stripper and propelled herself to music success this year by making hit, after hit, after hit (all of which I lost my voice while screaming their lyrics over the holiday). In this particular interview, she talked about her black market butt injections or “a$$ shots” in common vernacular. She chose to get them instead of the traditional Brazilian Butt Lift because she was not a viable candidate due to her lack of midsection fat. Cardi B seems to enjoy her body modifications and is happy with them. However, there are other unfavorable accounts in the media from women with those types of butt injections. In the Netflix remake of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, one of the characters is shown having the painful procedure in a dimly lit motel room. As a result of being overfilled, her butt literally imploded after receiving her injections. K. Michelle, a reality star from Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta, recently did an interview expressing regret for her butt injections and her plans to get them removed. She explained that the injections made her behind so big that her legs were unable to carry its new weight.
Plastic surgery is complicated. It is not typically covered by insurance. This makes even legal operations very expensive. A Brazilian Butt Lift can cost anywhere between $2,400 and $10,500 without insurance. This adds to the allure of black market butt injections. Though black market butt injection pricing is hard to track, it is generally understood to be much cheaper than traditional methods. And of course the primary benefit is that a person achieves their desired appearance. However, the price can be extremely high. Sometimes, the “surgeons” claim to have licensure that they do not have. Other times, the procedure is done by a some form of a licensed physician but the procedure itself is illegal. Either way, there is no sustainable accountability on the front end for the operation. No hospital, no ethics committee, and no advocacy. It is also extremely dangerous. Many of the accounts given in the source section of this recount how individuals suffered from extreme pain, infections, damaged nerves, and even death after receiving the injections. For example, in 2017, Meisha Santiago, was arrested for murder after one of her patients died from being administered illegal silicone butt injections. Other patients of Santiago’s, including many transgender women, said that the surgery left them constantly in pain, ill, and in need of hospitalization. One transgender woman said that the procedure almost led to the loss of her leg.
This post isn’t about surgery shaming. It is a person’s choice as to whether they will alter their body. But as a black bioethicist who cares about black health issues, I feel obligated to take a side on this issue. We all know the social (and in many cases – financial) benefits of perceived beauty. Many of us also know how it feels to be considered “less than” because of your appearance. And if anyone has taken an Uber Pool, we all know the allure of taking a cheaper option even if there are consequences. I want to implore you – do NOT get black market butt injections. The consequences can be extremely grave. We do not know how much physical pain celebrities experience on a day to day basis. Therefore, their appearance on social media cannot be the metric used to measure or justify this procedure. The Neighborhood Bioethicist and it’s supporters always advocate for knowing as much about your care as possible (here and here). In most of these black market surgeries, no one really knows what is in the cocktail the practitioners use for the injections. Silicone, liquid cement, and super glue are just some the known ingredients. Your appearance is not worth that type of risk. You deserve not only effective medical care, but safe medical care as well.
The Neighborhood Bioethicist
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