Black market plastic surgery doesn't just happen in other countries

Black market plastic surgery doesn't just happen in other countries

Beautiful, sassy and smashing Billboard Hot 100 records; rapper Cardi B seems to be the musical woman of the moment. Known as much for her willingness to discuss topics (including relationships and gang membership) as she is for her hits, the 25-year-old has won herself legions of fans who admire her no-filter approach to interviews. Now, the former stripper has turned her spotlight on the issue of black market plastic surgery, opening up about the illegal buttock filler injections she received in a Queens basement at the age of 21: "They don't numb your ass with anything," she divulged to GQ magazine. "It was the craziest pain ever. I felt like I was gonna pass out. I felt a little dizzy. And it leaks for, like, five days."

But shocking as it sounds, Cardi B’s experience isn’t as unusual as you might think. Because while the idea of a dodgy nose reshape or a botched boob job may be something you associate with cosmetic tourism hot spots such as Thailand or Brazil, illegal clinics are just as common in the US. And just as the number of women undergoing legal operations is rising - according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 17.5 million surgical and minimally invasive procedures (such as injections) were performed in the US last year - so too is the number opting to use these back-alley services.

Seemingly quick and less threatening than more invasive operations, butt injections are among are the most frequently performed illegal operations. Over the past few years, law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have repeatedly focused their efforts on cracking down on just this type of procedure, with the then-Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara commenting in 2011 that: "We will continue to work with our partners at the FBI and the FDA to expose and prosecute such underground operations that seek to profit by offering unsafe treatments at the expense of public health and safety."

Despite the pain, Cardi B seems to have been pretty happy with the final results, explaining that she intended to go back for a top up. Alas, it was not to be: “by the time I was gonna go get it, the lady got locked up 'cause she's supposedly killed somebody,” she explained, adding “Well, somebody died on her table.” Which brings us, fairly succinctly, to the dangers of back alley surgery. More often than not, those carrying out the injections have little to no real medical knowledge; at present, individuals convicted of running dodgy surgeries in the US have included a former soldier with no medical qualifications and a former surgeon who had been struck off after a string of botched jobs and sexual assault allegations. In 2017, a Canadian teenager was arrested after being caught running an illicit botox clinic in her bedroom.

But it’s not only a lack of appropriate medical knowledge or a doctor's licence that’s an issue: the ingredients used in black market procedures are too. In the case of buttock injections, medics have found everything from super glue to olive oil and tire sealant being used on unsuspecting patients. Not only are these ingredients toxic, but they also risk spreading throughout the body, as happened in the case of 20-year-old Claudia Aderotimi, who died after travelling from London to Philadelphia to receive illegal silicone shots. Given that it's also impossible to determine the final size of the booty you'll receive from such injections, the results themselves can also be hit or miss. 

So why do women subject themselves to such risks? For Cardi B, the surgery appears to have been motivated, at least in part, by insecurity: “She wanted fat for her ass because (1) her boyfriend had recently cheated on her with a woman who, per Cardi, "had a fat, big ass" and (2) she'd observed that her colleagues with big asses made more money than she did stripping, regardless of dancing technique.” Many have also pointed to the idealisation of the Kim K bum-that-broke-the-internet look as a driving factor in the sharp rise in the popularity of butt augmentations over the past few years. 

For many women, there’s also the issue of price; with the cost of a (legal) butt augmentation starting at around $5,000, it’s easier to see where the temptation to opt for cheaper alternatives comes from. For a full "Brazillian butt lift", in which fat is removed from large areas and transferred into the patient's buttocks, slimming the stomach and waist at the same time, prices can be in excess of $20,000. 

Yet while we all love a bargain, it's hard to see how opting to use a basement clinic rather than a licensed professional would ever be worth the risk, what with the dodgy doctors, ingredients that should only be used on a building site and the risk of having a butt that literally leaks. Just imagine for a second, letting your best friend or your little sister inject your ass with tire sealant. You wouldn't even consider it, right?  That "doctor" is only as qualified as they are. But if anyone sums up the risk best, it's probably the lady who's been there herself. In an earlier interview with The Breakfast Club, Cardi B admitted that she regretted the way she had gone about getting her booty boosted, reflecting on the ticking time bomb nature of her famous rear: "I got it done in the basement, so I can die any day now."