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Getting cheeky: the hype behind the Brazilian butt lift

An illustration featuring a feminine person wearing a purple bra, purple underwear and a purple kerchief in their dark brown hair. Their backside is to the camera, and their head is turned to look behind them. There are dotted lines along their buttcheeks. A white man in a white lab coat is kneeling down in front of their body, holding an uncapped marker. The background of the illustration features dotted lines as horizontal stripes.
Charnel Hunter

The Brazilian butt lift is one of the fastest growing cosmetic procedures. What is driving the desire for a “perfect peach”?

They’re referenced in Drake’s song lyrics. Highlighted on the glossy grid of Instagram. Showcased on every red carpet. From the proliferation of butt-focused content, one thing has become abundantly clear: the gluteus must be maximus.

The collective obsession with the large butts has led many people to go under the knife to achieve this idealized form. The Brazilian butt lift, known as the BBL, has become the cosmetic procedure of choice for butt augmentation. Despite its popularity, the BBL was once considered the most dangerous cosmetic procedure in the world, when a 2017 study estimated the mortality rate of 1 in 3000. Host Anita Rao investigates the science, history, and culture behind BBLs to better understand its meteoric rise.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Kelly Bolden takes Anita inside the operating room, as she describes step-by-step how the BBL procedure is performed and what she likes to keep in mind for pre-op consultations.

Youtube vlogger and personality Ronte’ Jentel joins the conversation to discuss what motivated him to get a BBL in 2022. Ronte’ shares how his BBL has allowed him to feel more embodied in his queer nonbinary identity and how he conceptualizes his body today.

Anita also meets Dr. Alisha Gaines, an associate professor of English at Florida State University, who gives insight into butt-related beauty trends … and what they say about power and race in America. She tells Anita how body modifications like the BBL are often linked to racial impersonation and appropriation.

Special thanks to Daniel Lombroso, director of the New Yorker documentary “You’ll Be Happier," and Dr. Carmen Alvaro Jarrin for their contributions to this episode!

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Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.