The True Historical Relationship Of BBLs And The Eugenics Movement In Brazil

The True Historical Relationship Of BBLs And The Eugenics Movement In Brazil


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The Brazilian butt lift (BBL) is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery worldwide, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Since 2015, the number of BBLs performed globally has grown by 77.6 percent.

But as patients seek out the least expensive BBLs, often leading them to unauthorized practitioners, BBLs are also “one of the deadliest cosmetic surgeries,” Bloomberg reported.

The BBL has its roots in the eugenics movement in Brazil that followed slavery, according to Daniel F. Silva, associate professor of Luso-Hispanic studies and director of the Black studies program at Middlebury College. Silva wrote the new book “Embodying Modernity: Race, Gender, and Fitness Culture in Brazil.”

Eugenics is the theory of “racial improvement” and “planned breeding,” which gained popularity during the early 20th century.

The BBL is a surgery where a doctor transfers fat from the patient’s abdomen, hips, lower back, or thighs to the buttocks, according to WebMD. Women have the procedure to achieve a more of an hourglass-shaped figure with larger buttocks. 

The popularity of celebrities like Kim Kardashian has prompted women to want to achieve a backside like hers. Dr. Mark Mofid, a leading American BBL surgeon, noted the influence of Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj that “had really popularized the beauty of feminine curves.”

Reality TV show star NeNe Leakes, 54, has often promoted plastic surgery and she’s doing it again. She announced to her followers that she was getting liposuction and a Brazilian butt lift as part of her “surgery journey.” The former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” revealed she recently went under the knife for a “professional, mini Brazilian butt lift” and liposuction, Page Six reported.

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She also said she was being named the ambassador of Dr. Stanley A. Okoro’s Georgia Plastic Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery center.

“I’m only looking to fix my problem areas,” Leakes said in an Instagram video.

”So, we called in a ‘professional, mini BBL.’ And I love it. So, I’m gonna take you on this journey with me and Dr. Okoro to fix some of my problem areas and become you.”

Leakes has previously undergone two nose jobs and breast augmentation.

In a second clip, she took her followers through the process of having the procedures done at Dr. Okoro’s offices.

But achieving this desired hourglass figure can be risky. In 2017, Dr. Mofid published a paper in the Aesthetic Surgery Journalwhich reported that 3 percent of the 692 surgeons he had surveyed had experienced the death of a patient after performing the surgery. One in 3,000 BBLs resulted in death, “making it the world’s most dangerous cosmetic procedure, The Guardian reported.

The origin of the BBL is not clear.

Some say the surgery was pioneered by the Brazilian doctor Ivo Pitanguy, who was a favorite of celebrities in the 1950s and 1960s. Pitanguy was known as “the pope” among plastic surgeons and in 1960, he founded the world’s first plastic surgery academy.

But others say the BBL started in the U.S.

“It wasn’t even invented in Brazil. In 1996, Dr. Leonard Grossman, M.D. was performing a fat transfer surgery on television, and the patient happened to be from Brazil. The show was titled ‘Building the Brazilian Butt.’ The nickname for the procedure stuck, and it’s now known by that moniker,” according to DrGrossman.com.

However it was created, Silva claims BBL has an anti-Blackness history.

“While this figure is viewed as highly desirable across the globe today, the BBL procedure and its connection to its namesake in Brazil has a long history rooted in anti-Blackness. We can locate the fixation with the BBL and the body it promotes at least as far as back as the abolition of slavery in Latin America’s largest country,” Silva wrote in The Washington Post.

Following the end of slavery in 1888, white Brazilian elites, most of whom were descendants of Portuguese colonists, “dreamed of building a white nation,” wrote Silva. But African descendants far outnumbered the country’s white population. So the white elite launched its own eugenics movement to promote elite white standards. In Brazil, eugenic policies included the imprisonment and sterilization of certain groups and other measures.

Plastic surgery wasn’t just used to “whiten” up Brazil. It was also used to hyper-sexualize the Black Brazilian woman, the mixed-race Brazilian woman– or the white fantasy of her, Silva wrote. And this meant re-shaping and exaggerating her butt.

Ironically most Black Brazilian women don’t strive for the BBL look.

“In the global imagination, we think Brazilians are obsessed with butts,” said anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin, author of The Biopolitics of Beauty, which examines the culture of cosmetic surgery in Brazil, in a Guardian interview. But not every Brazilian woman has the idealized Brazilian bottom. Nor, added Jarrin, does every Brazilian woman want it. While researching his book, he found that the BBL’s popularity depended on the class and race of the women he was talking to. If rich and white, “they would say, ‘I don’t want the body of the ‘mulatta’ [an often derogatory term meaning biracial], I want the body of the European supermodel’.”

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