All About that Bass

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.