“All I ever wanted was to be accepted for who I was. Not forhow I looked or for how sexually enticing my body was. I was tiredof meeting people and the first thing they noticed were myoversized breast. Not my face, not my personality, just a pair ofinsignificant objects that were hereditarily passed on to me. Istand for more than that. And besides, they were beginning tobecome very uncomfortable also. The pain I had to endure mentally,physically and emotionally was overwhelming at times. It was timefor a change and ultimately I just wanted a different look.”
Cosmetic Surgery is a growing phenomenonamongst middle class African American women. Procedures that wereonce strictly for Caucasian patients are now attractive to Blackwomen and are being performed more than one may actually think.
Between 1997 and 2002, the number of cosmeticprocedures completed on people of color alone was 1.3 millionaccording to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
In a similar study recently conducted byAmerican Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery(AAFPRS), it was revealed that facial cosmetic surgery, eyelidsurgery and nose jobs are the two most popular procedures,quadrupled from 1999, amongst African Americans. This significantincrease is primarily centered on the growing middle class creatinga more expandable income for surgery and recent medical advancesgreatly reducing the risks of keloids among darker skinnedpatients.
Often times African Americans tend to criticize othermembers of their race for going under the knife and altering bodyparts that they are terribly uncomfortable with. They assume thatthey are selling out their culture or even erasing theirethnocentric background and trying to look more white, however,women of color are having cosmetic surgery for some of the samereasons Caucasian woman do: “to look younger, fresher and feelbetter overall.”
Dr. Shan Baker, President of the AAFPRS,stated in a recent press release that America’s single standard ofbeauty is no longer the blonde hair blue eyed cover girl. Theseimages according to Baker have been replaced by images of beautywithin each individual minority group that make up this country.”Patients want to look their best in their own ethnic groups,” saidBaker.
But is this ideology ok? Is it acceptable forwomen of color to assume that because the standard of beauty withintheir own ethnic group is centered on Hollywood celebrities thatappear to have achieved physical perfection in every way possible,that altering unique features of their bodily physique, willimmediately make them “more beautiful?”
According to the Women’s Center at theUniversity of Virginia, men’s obsession with female body sizes,hair types and cosmetics is having a derailing effect on theself-esteem of young women, which in turn is subjecting young womento eating disorders and reconstructive surgeries.
Karen Rogers, freshman biology major at HowardUniversity, had a breast reduction on December 18th 2003and feels that men put a lot of pressure on women to have perfectbodies; especially on college campuses. “People would notice myboobs and be like damn, but I kind of got use to it because I’vehad big breasts all my life; I got my first bra when I was 8 or 9.”Rogers went on to giggle, “I have a boyfriend who was verysupportive of my surgery and likes my new breast.”
The three top cosmetic surgeries performed onwomen of color to date, are liposuction, tummy tucks(abdominoplasty) and breast reductions (mammoplasty); breastimplants and buttock augmentation are also very popularprocedures.
Abdominoplasty aka “tummy tuck” is a two hourprocedure that tightens loose muscles, gets rid of extra skin andexcess fat, to ultimately give you a firmer, flatter stomach.Cost: about $4,500.
Mamoplasty aka “breast reduction” is a threeto four hour surgery that removes excess breast tissue and skin,while lifting the breasts and repositioning the nipple. Thisprocedure can be covered by medical insurance if the patient canprove oversized breast are affecting their health. Cost:about $5,000
A vacuum like instrument is used to suctionexcess fat from certain areas of the body. Most common placesamongst Blacks are abdomen, thighs and hips. This surgery is aimedat enhancing the overall physique and takes approximately 5hours.Cost: $2,500
Traditional methods involve a silicon implantinserted in the buttock to increase volume. The latest procedureinvolves taking fat from the lower spine region and reinserting itinto an area of the buttocks to create a more rounded, full andlifted look. Cost: Varies
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons(ASPS) reported that the demand for cosmetic surgery has increaseddue to improved safety surgical safety. Advances in technique,equipment and even anesthesia have made having cosmetic surgerymore desirable. Procedures like liposuction have become morerefined; results are much better than before and the possibilityfor complication has lessened.
But do you honestly believe that women ofcolor are more interested in plastic surgery due to recent medicaland technological advances? Or do you feel that pressure fromsociety to be beautiful, through the production of TV shows like”Extreme Make Over” or “I want a Famous Face,” that promise to dowhatever it takes to make you look like your favorite Hollywoodstar is shattering the standards of beauty amongst young AfricanAmerican women?