I contorted my naked body to get the best possible view of my ass in the mirror. How was it simultaneously too flat and too jiggly? I sat back down on my bed and continued to watch a beauty guru vlog about her experience of getting a Brazilian butt lift from a Toronto plastic surgeon — a surgeon whose clinic is just up the street from my house.
The procedure removes fat from the waist and redistributed it to the hips, thighs, and buttocks, giving a person a more pronounced hourglass-shaped figure.
Growing up, cosmetic surgery felt like a Beverly Hills thing. It was what celebrity gossip magazines and trashy tabloids like TMZ made fun of celebrities for. Us Weekly detailed the latest about Ashlee Simpson’s nose job and Victoria Beckham’s breast augmentation, which she denied until a few years ago. It was not until Heidi Montag’s infamous 10-procedures-in-one-day People Magazine cover that I saw a woman being upfront about her cosmetic procedures. And no wonder — media outlets bullied these women mercilessly for supposedly being shallow while simultaneously bullying them mercilessly for supposedly being ugly.
The conversation surrounding plastic surgery has shifted since the mid-2000s. While Twitter users and gossip blogs will still find ways to tear women down, popular opinion has swayed in favour of cosmetic surgery. This is particularly true for young women. Over one million Americans under the age of 29 underwent a cosmetic procedure in 2018, and physicians say that they’ve noticed an increase in young women receiving treatments.
It’s not exactly clear why this is, though doctors have some ideas. First, many of the less invasive treatments, such as Botox, are done preventively. Alongside investment in Olay’s Anti-Wrinkle cream, millenial women will inject fillers into their foreheads and around their eyes to prevent their face from creasing in the first place.
Another reason for the increase is social media’s influence on our body image. Snapchat filters and apps like Facetune make it easy to morph your face to be smaller, your skin to be smoother, and your eyes and lips to be bigger. No one is immune to shaping their boobs and slimming their waist — even Beyoncé has been called out for it. Face tuning often goes unnoticed, but has massive effects on the self-esteem of the audience. It’s not the case that everyone has perfect skin; what is the case is near universal access to smartphones. We’re all editing ourselves, but we don’t think of others as doing the same. Especially not Beyoncé.
Not only that, but more people are opening up about their own cosmetic procedures. The pressure for online vloggers to be authentic means that many beauty gurus discuss their experiences with lip fillers, rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, and of course, the Brazilian butt lift. They make it seem normal. Everyone is filling their lips. Loads of girls get nose jobs. People I admire are going under the knife to change the shape of their bodies.
I scrolled to the comments of the Brazilian butt-lift vlog. They were all positive, things like: ‘Omg, u look amazing,’ and ‘YAS our girl’s looking thicc.’ The commenters were right: the vlogger did look good.
I opened Google Chrome: “How much is butt lift.” According to the search results, just over $4,000. I allowed the thought to roll around in my brain for a minute, and went back to the mirror. My hands pulled the fat around my waist toward my back to make it smaller, and I squinted my eyes. I couldn’t afford it now, but maybe in a couple of years. I turned around and lifted my butt, but wasn’t able to tell what it would look like bigger.
Going back to my computer, I looked up Brazilian butt lifts in Toronto, and saw an article from The Toronto Sun: “Woman dies undergoing ‘Brazilian butt lift.’” Don’t get me wrong, I’m no subscriber to the Sun, but I read the story. The 29-year-old had seemingly gone to a legitimate surgeon in Florida, and then just died.
I’m not willing to risk death for a fatter ass, but according to the numbers, millions of women are. In the age of quick fixes on Facetune and Instagram, it’s easy to forget that these cosmetic procedures aren’t just cosmetic; they’re medical, and they’re not without risks. Death is the worst-case scenario, but side effects range from infection to rejection of the fat or implant, to permanent paralysis. For now, I’ll save my four grand and appreciate the fact that my body is alive.