The Big Business of Big Butts

February 16, 2011  |  

Sir Mix A-Lot’s notorious ode to women with a little more junk in the trunk not only help propel him from Seattle’s underground hip-hop scene to superstar status, but it also put the national spotlight on a part of the body that has long been ignored—the booty.

It used to be that a slim physique was considered the standard of beauty. As such, women would go to extreme measures, such as anorexia and bulimia, to look like Kate Moss. However, Sir Mix A-Lot, along with a host of other black and brown rappers who have penned numerous tributes to women with big butts, helped to usher in a new standard of beauty—one based around a much healthier and fuller derriere.

The days of slim, waif models have been replaced by the “Sista” with the thick curves. But not just any curves, we’re talking about curves in all the “right” places, such as in the breasts, thighs and of course, the behind. This new appreciation for a different type of femininity seems to fit nicely into the changing aesthetic of the country; since the late 80s through 90s, everyone seems to be living in excess and embracing the mantra of “the bigger, the better.”

But despite this change in preference, women are still going to extremes to increase their measurements, which seem impossible to attain outside of genetics. Women have begun to put their backsides in the hands of the local plastic surgeon’s office after months of squats and leg lifts at the gym failed to achieve the desired shapely bottom. At an average of $4,000 + per bun, many patients must take out loans for the surgery or pay it back in mortgage-like installments.

But sometimes, these desperate women end up paying a more serious price.

Take for instance the story of Claudia Aderotimi, an aspiring rapper/singer from the UK, who traveled to Philadelphia for implants to add the much-desired fullness to her rear-end.  She’d hoped that the injections would help boost her career in the music industry, but instead the botched procedure cost her her life.

Aderotimi is not the first woman to have died from a botched butt implant procedure.  In 2009, Solange Magnano, a 38-year-old married mother of twins and former Miss Argentina, died three days after checking herself in for a buttock lift at a Buenos Aires clinic. In 2010, two sisters were arrested for practicing medicine without a license for the death of a 22-year old mother, who also had her backside injected with silicone.

It may seem a little pathetic, if not downright ridiculous to the rest of us, the lengths in which some women will go just to fit into an image.  But in light of stars such as Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardishian and Beyoncé, who own a portion of their careers to the plumpness of their derriere, it should come as no surprise that big booties have become big business.

And there is no shortage of savvy entrepreneurs willing to capitalize off of the insecurities of others as illustrated by the success of butt pad purveyors such as Booty Pop and Love My Bubbles.  The big butt has taken on global appeal; in the UK, thousands of women are lining up for herbal booty growing supplements, which contain ingredients used by farmers to bulk up chickens.

Of course, most historians are quick to draw correlations between today’s booty-craze to the exploitation of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, the large buttock black woman who was kidnapped from South Africa in the 17th Century and paraded around American and parts of Europe as a side show carnival act under her stage name Hottentot Venus. But the difference is that modern women, although clearly influenced by the imagery instilled in our culture, have become willing participants in this objectification.

While I am a firm believer that we should learn to love the skin that God gave us, I’m also not naïve to the fact that we do live in a very image based culture, one that has placed more value on beauty than any other personal attribute. But the sad realization is that for thousands, if not millions of young women globally, our obsession with one or two body parts is sending a message that it is more important to develop the breast and the behind as opposed to the heart and the brain.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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