Move over Twiggy. Big butts are in.
It’s not clear why – but the trend is unmistakable.
A half-century ago, many American women aspired to be as skinny as a rail. In the ‘90s, it was called “heroin chic.” And even today, especially among yoga aficionados , the look is immensely appealing. So appealing that yoga marketers are tripping over each trying to suggest – against all evidence to the contrary — that their low-cardio posture-and-breathing practice can actually help you shed the pounds.
But in the larger culture, fat is clearly where it’s at. Madonna may have started the trend but today it’s the proliferation of African-American celebrities – everyone from Kim Kardashian to sports icons like Serena Williams – that have turned the gluteus maximus into an object of national awe and anatomical wonder.
In some ways, the new trend is a throwback to an earlier era – the 1950s, when women like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren eagerly showed off their backsides to fawning male admirers. Back then it was called the “hourglass figure.”
These days, the fitness craze has demanded that women agree to tone those muscles but size matters – and that means, for the most part, the bigger the better.
Consider the craze that has accompanied the “Brazilian butt lift” — arguably the most dangerous cosmetic surgery procedures ever invented – but still wildly sought after by women the world over.
BBL is basically a follow-on to liposuction: Fat is removed from other areas of the body including the hips, thighs, and abdomen, and used to enhance the buttocks. Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a risky procedure, in part because the injected fat can obstruct blood vessels in the heart and lungs, leading to embolisms.
But the risk grows when patients go under the knife under un-sterile conditions and a surgeon substitutes silicone or plastic for fat – which is bound to fail.
Any responsible medical establishment would likely ban the BBL, but consumers are having none of it. Despite some highly-publicized medical tragedies, eager women keep coming. Public health authorities seem powerless to stop it.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 20,000 people had the BBL procedure by board-certified surgeons in 2017, up from 8,500 patients just five years earlier (a 150% increase).
That same year, a plastic surgery task force reported that 3 percent of plastic surgeons that performed BBLs had a least one patient died. From 2013 to 2018, a single Florida clinic had at least eight patients die.
The fall-out from deaths in Florida has led to calls for restrictions on the practice – but not an outright ban. Last June, the state’s Board of Medicine approved an emergency rule that sets new restrictions for surgeons who conduct the procedure.
Under the new rule, surgeons can only inject fat under the skin above the muscle to avoid interfering with a blood vessel. Violators of the rule can suffer disciplinary action for malpractice that can result in a suspension of their doctor’s license.
To its credit, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has warned its members to stop performing the procedure. However, no such guidance has been provided by its American counterpart. The consumer demand is simply too great.
There are safer alternatives to a BBL. An off-the-label injectable known as Sculptra Aesthetic can boost your body’s natural collagen. In theory, it’s designed for facial enhancement but it can also be adapted to other parts of the body.
It’s cost-prohibitive; estimates range as high as $10,000, more than twice the cost of a typical BBL. And there are risks associated with the procedure, including the possibility of lumps and imperfections as well as the risk of infection.
Supporters of butt-lifts say it’s possible to love yourself and still get plastic surgery. Being shamed by other women, they say, is hypocritical when so many critics are just as assiduously seeking enhancements of their own appearance — by other means.
Make no mistake: As long the butt reigns supreme, BBL is probably here to stay. And so is the risk of death and injury.