For Grace Victor, getting a BBL was one of the best decisions she has ever made. “I love my BBL and I don’t care what anybody has to say,” she tells Unbothered. “It madly boosted my confidence and my clothes just fit better. People also treat me better which I think is f*cked but I can’t complain.”
Grace travelled to Colombia to get her butt augmentation surgery, otherwise known as the Brazillian Butt Lift. It is a complex procedure — commonly considered the world’s most dangerous — where fat is transferred from your abdomen, hips, lower back, or thighs to your buttocks, typically resulting in a smaller waist, flatter stomach and larger buttocks.
Grace spent two weeks in Columbia before travelling home to spend some time at a recovery home in Atlanta. “Even while I was in so much pain that I could barely breathe, I knew the end result would be worth it. And it was.” She describes her surgery as perfect as she had no complications and got her dream body all while staying within her budget. “I’d do it again, babe,” she adds.
Black women like Grace are part of a growing number of women opting to go under the knife to achieve an hourglass body type, despite the surgery carrying high risks. Per the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, between 2015 to 2019, the number of butt augmentation surgeries increased by 90.3% and the number of Black patients increased by 56%. Other statistics are more sinister, with reportedly one in 3,000 BBLs having resulted in death. Just this past December, Sucretta Tolliver, a Black woman from Chicago, tragically became the latest to die following a failed BBL procedure adding to more cries to ban the surgery.
Yet, videos of Black women wearing a faja (post-operative shapewear) are becoming more prevalent on social media. On Black Twitter, BBL bodies are often treated like a caricature and subject to widespread ridicule. Given the high risks associated with BBL surgery (in 2021 it had the highest death rate of any plastic surgery procedure), many are critical of women’s choice to seek surgery to fulfil what’s deemed a “body trend.” Others are under the impression that these women will regret getting BBLs in the future — especially given plastic surgery reversals are on the rise.
Between the dangers and surge in medical tourism to unregulated surgical centres, BBL surgery isn’t something Unbothered would endorse. Yet what do the Black women who have chosen to undergo the procedure really feel about it? These women shared with Unbothered their frank and honest accounts about the surgery that changed their lives.
"I’m finally in my dream body and I love it but I’m still insecure...”
Like Grace, 26-year-old Michelle Jerome says when she first achieved a BBL she realised a dream she’d had for most of her life. It was an exhilarating experience, she tells Unbothered, one that she says was worth the wait, pain, and all the years of internal conflict. At least in the beginning.
It wouldn’t be until a few months later that she would begin to experience the telltale signs of regret. Despite this, she tells us that she would do it all over again if it meant finally getting a body she could stand to look at in a mirror.
“I hated my body and that is putting it mildly. I went years without looking at my naked body in a mirror because I would work myself into tears every single time,” Michelle says, bringing her hand to her face to catch her tears. “From when I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to get surgery because I was an ugly child and nobody let me forget it. Those comments stayed with me and even now, I still think of myself as that girl with crooked teeth and a fat stomach. I thought getting a BBL would fix that complex and it did, but not completely.”
Michelle’s regret doesn’t stem from a botched BBL like you would expect. In fact, she says she got better results than she hoped for. Her regret comes from the fact that her BBL did very little to tame the cacophony of insecurities that led to her decision to get surgery. She feels like she tried to bury the problem instead of addressing it.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m finally in my dream body and I love it but I’m still insecure,” she says. “I have a love-hate relationship with my BBL and if I could go back in time, I’d still do it. Just after I’d gone to therapy to address my many insecurities.”
"I got my body done mostly for me, because I wanted to look good in all my clothes. I love my body but I hate the attention it brings.”
It is common knowledge that many women get cosmetic surgery to get rid of insecurities that are sometimes caused by society’s pervasive beauty standards. For the past few years on social media, words like “hourglass” and “coke bottle” have been used to characterise a desirable female body. A tiny waist and large buttocks have felt like an unwavering beauty standard and this notion is strengthened by the number of celebrities who are willing to go under the knife to attain this body ideal. For Black women observing this persistent body standard, large buttocks have always been attributed to us and, throughout history, we’ve even been fetishized for it. Perhaps this is why more Black women are turning toward cosmetic surgery to align with this “natural” standard.
These insecurities are sometimes informed by body dysmorphia which is a mental health disorder where a person is obsessively preoccupied with how they look. According to Erene Hadjiioannou, psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), getting surgery is unlikely to get rid of body dysmorphia. “It’s natural to assume that ‘if I change my body I will feel better’ but changing one’s body might achieve these things short term,” she says. “Internally, we might still feel distressed. It is better to sensitively approach and re-frame the emotions and thoughts behind that need.”
Just like Michelle, Meiya Francis got a BBL to fix the insecurities she had with her body. In addition to that, she had a partner who was pushing her to get hips and a flat tummy. But while it wasn’t entirely her decision, Meiya was still very satisfied with her BBL. “I got my body done mostly for me because I wanted to look good in all my clothes. I love my body but I hate the attention it brings.”
A far less discussed aspect of getting cosmetic surgery is how people inappropriately react to these types of bodies. Already, all women are susceptible to catcalling and harassment while out in public and, for women who’ve gotten surgery, they say the harassment is exacerbated. Meiya says that since getting surgery, she’s become uncomfortable in public spaces.
“Sometimes, random women walk up to me to smack my behind. They also comment on my body,” she says. “Men stare at me and yell inappropriate things that make me uncomfortable. I’ve taken to wearing oversized clothes so that I can feel safe. I also never smile or seem friendly just so I can avoid attention.”
While she loves her BBL, Meiya wishes that she’d prepared herself for all the attention she now gets. “I don’t want to be desired by random people in public. I had to do a lot of mental work to become stronger and better handle people disrespecting me in public.”
Getting a BBL is a complex journey that doesn’t always lead to regret — but sometimes can. Grace tells us that she’s surrounded by women who love their BBLs. “Another deciding factor for me was seeing all my girls become happier after they got surgery. None of them regrets it and we all did our research before booking an appointment,” she says. “Maybe 10 years from now I’ll hate the way I look but I like to let the future worry about itself.”