Is it ‘all about that bass, bout that bass no treble’? The first floor of an unremarkable brown brick building on the 3800 block of East Side Avenue in Deep Ellum housed two seemingly qualified proprietors who ran a studio that offered a common service: eyelash extensions. However, in the shadows of the studio behind closed doors, they also provided another, more mysterious amenity: black-market butt injections. Women wanting to enhance the round shape and increase the size of their buttocks came here for a bargain price. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. According to their customers, the doctors appeared professional with their latex gloves, alcohol swabs and sterilized paper-covered exam tables. Both doctors asked all the questions a doctor would ask before administering the injection: “Why are you interested in getting a butt injection? Why did you choose us?” They performed the injection by cleaning the area thoroughly first and then inserted the needle into the buttocks and injected the hydrogel solution. The procedures took anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes depending on the injection amount, according to their clients. Most customers, like Cece Taylor, a local Dallas club dancer, left with some soreness and minor bruising along with take-home instructions for post-injection care, and they healed up nicely. They were so satisfied with the quality of their service that they even started to refer others to this hidden oasis. All seemed well until one day when the salon went dark and the equipment inside seemed to have vanished overnight. Only one thing remained: a body. It was Wykesha Reid, who was known to frequent the salon for “booty shots.” This discovery alarmed patients who had procedures there in the past. Later The Dallas Morning News uncovered the important fact that the proprietors of the salon were not doctors after all. Denise “Wee Wee” Ross and Jimmy Joe “Alicia” Clarke had been administering the illegal buttocks injections for years and had become widely known for their services, Taylor said. People have known about breast augmentations and other popular plastic surgery procedures for years, but buttocks injections seemed like something foreign. There are two groups for whom they’re fairly common, however. Strippers and porn stars find that bigger booties can equal bigger paychecks. And male-to-female transsexuals sometimes use the shots to give them the curves nature denied them. These shots are costly, averaging as much as $4,000 each if done by a licensed physician, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and may need to be repeated to maintain the desired result. So some patients turn to the black market to find these services at a cheaper rate. Butt injections are a booming business, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “Americans spend more than 12 billion dollars on surgical and non-surgical procedures,” it said in a recent study,“Of more than 10 million cosmetic procedures done in 2014, those that showed the largest growth in volume on a year-overyear basis included buttocks augmentation which was up 86 percent.” The injections can consist of either fat or a substance called hydrogel. The former takes natural fat from other areas of the body, such as the hips or back, and injects it back into the buttocks area to lift and enhance their round shape. Hydrogel injections are between 95 percent and 97 percent water and 3 percent and 5 percent polyacrylamide gel, creating a silicone-like consistency. Either way, injections usually need to be readministered every 15 to 18 months because their effects are not permanent. Buttocks implants are a more permanent but pricier option. Alexis G. Pantoja, a Dallas man transitioning from a male to a female and a vibrant member of the trans community, shared some of his experiences receiving buttocks injections along with many other cosmetic procedures. He says that black market butt injections have been around since the 1970s. His thick brown hair frames his perfectly sculpted face covered in edgy make-up, his apple-red lipstick on his plump lips, and his carefully drawn eyebrows. His procedures have helped him to attain the physical form he always longed to have. Pantoja grew up with Clarke, one of the suspects arrested in connection with Reid’s death, and says that he had some work done by them in the past to achieve a more feminine look. “Any buttocks procedure even done by a licensed doctor has risks. I have had injections done to my lips, hips, buttocks, cheekbones, forehead, and chin and I’ve never had one issue at all and I’ve had them for years,” Pantoja says. For Cece Taylor, the Dallas stripper, the decision to get the shots was all about business. “Men like big butts and in my industry that is what makes money,” Taylor says. The University of Texas recently released results of a study that suggests that “men express a clear preference for women who have a pronounced back-to-buttock curve.” Tiffany, a woman in her late 30’s who didn’t want her full name used, felt that pressure. She had buttocks implants inserted by a licensed physician in 2014. “As soon as I got the procedure done, my self-confidence went sky high. I finally had the figure I had always wanted.” For Tiffany, it wasn’t just societal pressure, but also her own happiness with her body that caused her to make the change. Even though genetic females are not seen as the main demographic for this procedure, women still seek to have the ideal figure that society demands. She sees the implants as a safer alternative to buttocks injections. The craze surrounding the big booty may owe a lot to Hollywood celebrities and music lyrics. From Kim Kardashian’s voluptuous stern to M.C. Hammer’s hit song “I Like Big Butts,” today’s culture perpetuates messages that one’s body is not simply good enough the way it is and a big booty makes bodies more beautiful and feminine. “2014 was the year of the butt…Celebrities like Nikki Minaj and Kim Kardashian have brought the attention to the rear to an all-time high influencing more women to undergo buttock augmentation to achieve the hourglass look,” says Constantino Mendieta, an ASAPS member doctor, in the press release. As big booties gain more and more prevalence in the world, SMU anthropology professor Joci Caldwell-Ryan believes there is a genetic component at play that could explain why this biological procedure has become so popular in recent years. Steatopygia, an ancient Greek term meaning fat butt, refers to a characteristic typical of women in subSaharan Africa: an unexplained accumulation of adipose tissue, or fat, on the buttocks. No one really knows why it’s there or where it came from. “Cosmetic manipulations could be a result of a greater appreciation of body types and preferences that used to just be relegated to ethnic peoples,” says Caldwell-Ryan. The ideal hip-to-waist ratio and its role in genetic selection and mating may have something to do with the recent increase in injections. Historically, women with narrower waists and wider hips were seen as more attractive and valuable to men because they were more likely to produce healthy, viable offspring. Since American diets have been changing and lifestyles are becoming more unhealthy, “it’s easier to make a bigger butt than a narrow waist,” says Caldwell-Ryan. Also, society is shifting away from its preference for the bone-thin look because it is unattainable. People are becoming more accepting of different body shapes and sizes and are realizing that they too can achieve fuller, more beautiful buttocks through these procedures. But the downside of these procedures was made horrifyingly evident in the case of Andressa Urach, a 27-year-old Brazilian woman who gained recognition for her famous curves. She won accolades for her prized rear in 2012 by winning runner-up in the Miss BumBum competition, which aims to find Brazil’s most attractive buttocks. Brazil is known for being the inspiration behind exercise videos featuring the Brazilian butt lift and other buttocks enhancing products. She achieved her voluptuous curves with the help of hydrogel and polymethyl-methacrylate filler (PMMA) injections containing 20 percent PMMA polymer spheres and 80 percent purified collagen gel. This dermal filler supposedly has semi-permanent results, however, multiple injections are still needed. She religiously took these booty shots and eventually, months later, they started to cause her immense pain. She had some of the hydrogel drained from her thighs, but it was too late. The gel had started to rot the muscles and caused her body to go into septic shock. Now after almost losing her legs and narrowly escaping death, she vows to never take the booty shots again because they are not worth the risk. “Every procedure of this nature comes with risks; you just have to choose which ones you’re willing to take”, says Dr. Robert D. Wilcox, a plastic surgeon who performs these buttocks procedures. Pantoja vows to continue his use of these dermal injections until his desired look is fully achieved. He embraces his new look and has even been chosen to star in Love and Hip Hop on VH1 in part due to his new look. In his case, his transformation continues to benefit him both personally and in his career aspirations.