Rio de Janeiro is not for the faint of heart. In a city with some of the world’s most famous beaches (think Ipanema and Copacabana), summer is year-round, and a cult of the body is displayed at parks, beaches, and boardwalks. Cariocas (a.k.a. Rio natives) of all ages run, exercise in the sand, swim, and practice all kinds of sports to stay fit. Constantly exposed, the bodies of the Cariocas appear in the collective imagination as tanned and toned, with pert bottoms, thin waists, and large, firm breasts. But the vast majority of residents don’t actually (at least not naturally) look like this. With the enormous pressure to look a certain way, an otherwise-idyllic day at the beach can feel more like a nightmare.
Brazil, a country where the beauty industry has been extremely resilient despite the economic crisis, ranks second in the world — after the United States — in the number of aesthetics-focused plastic surgeries performed. In 2014, more than two million procedures were performed here, or 10% of the world's total. Women are the main customers, but men are starting to go under the knife as well. The largest numbers of procedures take place in São Paulo, the large business capital of the country, and in Rio. The requests in Brazil are not very different from those in other parts of the world. The most demanded procedure is a classic worldwide: larger breasts.
Of course, in an ideal world, no one would feel such pressure to change their look that they'd put themselves through something as drastic, expensive, and potentially dangerous as surgery — but according to the women with whom we spoke for this story, plastic surgery was the right way to express themselves and open themselves up to a new, more confident life. After all, unconditional self-love is a beautiful thing, but choices — and the freedom to decide what's right for you — are beautiful, too. Ahead, we speak to several Cariocas about their plastic surgeries.