How hard did the swing of the pendulum from the popularity of the Kate Moss heroin-chic look in the early 2000’s to the juicy J.Lo-booty 2010’s hit you? In the universe of beauty standards, it can feel like you’re always just one augmentation away from being Bella Hadid-level perfect, but there’s hardly a surgical trend that has had the world in a chokehold like the Brazilian Butt Lift. Even so, rumors have recently swirled that Kim Kardashian and her sisters have reversed their BBLs. Now that we’re in the infantile years of a new decade, will we continue to follow this viral plastic surgery trend, or will the butt lift go the way of the dinosaur?
It all began in the surgery’s namesake country of origin, Brazil, with its earliest roots attributed to a plastic surgeon named Ivo Pitanguy around 1960. In his paper, “Body Contour” for the American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery in 1987, Pitanguy credited much of this move toward a curvier body to “a new consciousness about body harmony,” as well as “considerable exposure of the body in warmer climates, as in California and Rio de Janeiro…” While a plumper backside has long been the beauty standard in Brazil, it wasn’t until the mid-aughts that we began seeing its popularity rise stateside. We would be remiss to overlook the entanglement that its popularization in the western world has with a long history of the fetishization of afro-features. It can’t be denied that as hip-hop, and in turn Black culture, became more mainstream, so did the adoption of the body standards being portrayed in music videos.
The procedure itself is two-fold: the surgeon removes unwanted fat cells via liposuction from areas of the body such as the arms or tummy, and strategically deposits them at a slow rate into the patient’s bum. The whole thing can be done in under 6 hours, but the recovery time can take weeks, as the newly grafted fat needs time to take to its new home. The benefit is beyond just a bigger booty — rounding out the butt and hip area creates an optical illusion of a slimmer waist. In theory, patients will recover to find they possess an ideal hourglass figure.
“There’s hardly a surgical trend that has had the world in a chokehold like the Brazilian Butt Lift.”
While celebrities like J.Lo, Nicki Minaj, and the Kardashian’s have almost unimaginable proportions, they hardly could have catapulted their body shape into virality without the platforms of social media. Like most perfect internet storms, it was a mixture of shareability and accessibility. It turns out if you’ve got the cash, finding a surgeon to perform your BBL is quite easy. The cost of a BBL can range between $7,000 to $25,000, but that’s just in California. In countries like Mexico, Turkey, and Thailand, you can find one for as cheap as $3,000.
As with all things of virality, there’s a dark side. The BBL has been called the most dangerous procedure in the world and has left many patients disfigured, or worse, dead. Youtube and Tiktok are rife with women who will never be able to sit comfortably, or use the bathroom normally ever again retelling their horror stories. Due to the vast numbers of people seeking out the procedure, the industry has become largely unregulated, and those offering to perform such a surgery might not have the training necessary to complete it safely. While the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is taking measures to warn the public and surgeons of the risks attached to Brazilian Butt Lift surgeries, it seems the desire for the perfect measurements overrides the perils.
In mid-2021, Kardashian fans began to notice that Kim was stepping out with what looked like a less exaggerated behind, and soon the same was being said about her sister Khloe. While it’s all alleged — the Kardashians have been resistant to admit to augmentation — it begs a cultural question. Could this mean the beginning of the end for the popularity of this booty-centric silhouette? Is the pendulum swinging back in the other direction? Trends tend to move in cycles, and it feels as if change is afoot. That being said, it’s unlikely that this aspiration for curves will slow anytime soon, as surgeons continue to book out back-to-back BBLs across the world.