By Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer,
Coke bottle, brick house, hourglass– all of these terms have been used to describe a desirable feminine figure and evoke a certain image.
Today, social media feeds and reality television shows are filled with images and videos of celebrity influencers that contribute to the growing trend of going under the knife to attain the perfect body and eye-popping derriere.
More and more Black women opt to achieve their desired physical shape through cosmetic surgical procedures. Butt augmentation or gluteal fat grafting, commonly known as the Brazilian butt lift, has become increasingly popular among Black women.
The Brazilian butt lift is a procedure where fat is suctioned from one area of the body, most commonly the abdomen, flanks, thighs, or arms, then injected into the patient’s buttocks.
At her heaviest, Keshia Tensley, 44, of Bowie, Md., was almost 300 pounds. Through diet and exercise she lost about 40 pounds. She had been considering liposuction and a butt lift for almost seven years and in April 2021, she finally decided to have it done.
“I’ve always been thick and very comfortable in my skin –no matter my size. After I lost weight, I decided I wanted a certain shape. During the pandemic I made the decision to get the surgery,” said Tensley. “It was the perfect chance for me to do it, being locked down and not being able to go anywhere anyway, so I had time to recover.”
Tensley initially went for a consultation for liposuction and decided to have a butt lift as well. She had the surgery at George Washington University Hospital in the District of Columbia.
Many Black women are traveling to Miami or outside the United States to the Dominican Republic for cosmetic surgical procedures, especially butt lifts. Tensley said she researched these options but decided to have her procedures done locally.
“I looked into having the surgery in Miami but found that the surgical centers there seemed to be ‘chop shops.’ Once I added up the cost of the surgery, airline tickets, hotel, time off work, it would have only cost only about $2000 more to have it done locally. Here I could recover at home where someone is available to help me,” Tensley said.
Beaux Arts Institute of Plastic Surgery in Glen Burnie, Md., is the private practice of Dr. Nia Banks, who has been in practice since 2008.
She believes patients like Tensley are making the right decision.
“Some of the biggest challenges with surgeries like butt lifts are the recovery process, the necessary time off work to recover, and the cost,” said Banks.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of butt augmentation surgeries increased by 90.3 percent between 2015 and 2019, with the number of Black patients increasing by 56 percent.
“Traveling to have these procedures done allows a lot of younger women to get into the market
] cosmetic surgery because the price is lower in places like Miami and the Dominican Republic,” Banks said. “But the trade-off for the lower price point is consistent, quality follow-up care and a good, safe outcome.”
A single cosmetic surgical procedure can be on average between $4000-$7000, and typically is not covered by health insurance. Banks’ practice, like most practices, offers financing options.
Banks noted that the traditional attitude surrounding plastic surgery among Black women is that it’s frivolous and unnecessary, too expensive, or something only for White women. These attitudes are changing.
Discussions about Brazilian butt lifts and cosmetic surgery are ubiquitous on social media. Women chronicle their journeys on Instagram and YouTube – from their motives and decisions to have procedures, all the way through to recovery. Procedures are becoming more common among Black women, but there is still taboo and stigma.
When women opt for services from doctors that are not board certified– or worse, let unlicensed, non-medical professional people inject them with substances such as paraffin, non-medical grade silicone, caulk, and concrete–it’s a recipe for disaster at best, and tragedy at worst.
One in 3000 women are dying on the operating table, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Black women also feel the stigma of not having a certain shape “naturally,” so they don’t want to admit they’ve had cosmetic surgery. Banks’ clientele, or “guests” as she refers to them, are about 60 percent Black women, older, more mature, between ages 40-60.
“My guests know who they are, have good self-esteem, are confident, their appearance is important to them, and they want to feel good,” said Banks. “Nowadays, cosmetic surgery is not seen as the luxury item it once was. It used to be that Black women were told cosmetic surgery was frivolous and too expensive. We hadn’t been allowed to say we want to feel good about our bodies and how we look.”
Tensley is highly satisfied with her surgeon and the outcome of her Brazilian butt lift. She largely attributes her satisfaction with the skill of her surgical team, the pre-operative support and follow-up care of her doctor.
She cautions anyone who is considering a Brazilian butt lift or any type of cosmetic surgery to be prepared for what it involves.
“You definitely need support because the recovery is intense, especially the first two weeks,” said Tensley. She described coming home with tubes attached to her to drain fluids, not being able to sit on her butt, or sleep for a few weeks without the use of a special pillow, and not being able to raise her arms above her head.
“It’s not something you want to travel by yourself
] and go to a hotel alone afterwards to recover,” said Tensley.
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