BUTT OF COURSE
Bigger is better in the latest plastic-surgery craze. DuJour gets behind a growing trend
Good news for all you Shake Shack devotees: After so many years in vogue, thin is no longer the preferred aesthetic—at least not when it comes to the backside. “It actually started about 10 years ago, when Jennifer Lopez showed up to the Grammys in that green dress,” says Miami plastic surgeon Constantino Mendieta. You know the one: Versace with a neckline that plunged far below her navel and a sheer skirt that revealed more than it covered. And everyone wanted what she was selling. After that, he says, “The butt was no longer neglected in the area of plastic surgery.” These days, Mendieta—who literally wrote the book on butt lifts, 2011’s The Art of Gluteal Sculpting—says augmenting and shaping backsides makes up a full 85 percent of his practice.
But what Mendieta says began as a way for, mainly, black and Latina women to enhance their existing curves is now about creating the ideal silhouette for every body type and ethnicity. Today’s clients, he says, want “perky, youthful” butts like Jessica Biel’s and Pippa Middleton’s, though the number-one question Mendieta fields remains the unsurprising “Is Kim Kardashian’s real?” (“I’d have to see it in person,” he says.) Although the gym can help tone and even enlarge the butt by making gluteal muscles stronger, surgical contouring isn’t just about bypassing your barre routine for a quick fix. “Augmentation will give you a shape that dieting and exercise just can’t do,” says Manhattan plastic surgeon Steven Wallach.
The procedure itself is fairly straightforward, with two predominant implant types: silicone and fat, in which fat is harvested from other parts of the body—the back or the middle—and injected into the butt. Because your own fat “looks and feels more natural,” says Wallach, it’s almost universally preferred. “The silicone implants used in the U.S. are very solid, so when you sit on them, it doesn’t always feel so good.” The catch, of course, with using fat is that you need enough to graft. Mendieta often sends patients away for what he calls “booty camp: a month of McDonald’s, pizza, Dairy Queen. I tell them to go crazy and then come back when they’ve got a nice layer of padding,” he says. “It’s the best diet you’ll ever be on.”
The outpatient procedure lasts a few hours and commonly incorporates some liposuction around the midsection or upper legs: Removing excess fat above and beneath the glutes is what helps give the appearance of a “lift.” Recovery includes 10 days of at-home rest, a month “to feel normal,” two before you can work out, and three to six to see final results. An average of 60 to 70 percent of the fat sticks around permanently; on occasion, once “things settle down,” as Wallach puts it, patients may need a second lift to achieve optimal results. You will sit on a pillow for a good while.
With an average cost of $10,000 to $15,000, a butt lift might not run you all that much more than your annual barre bill. The price tag may be one reason why, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, buttock augmentation is one of the fastest growing plastic-surgery procedures, with an increase of nearly 60 percent over the last year alone. Mendieta says 10 percent of his buttocks patients are men, 80 percent of whom, he notes, are straight. They come from as far away as South Africa, Australia and Dubai. “I tell everybody,” he says, “the buttocks packed their bags and are on a world tour!”