Wednesday’s episode of Red Table Talk dived deep into the dangers of the Brazilian butt lift (BBL), a trendy plastic surgery procedure designed to give people an Instagrammable behind and tiny waist. Yet while the procedure may be all over social media, it comes with serious risks — including death.
Jada Pinkett Smith and her daughter, Willow Smith, who host the Facebook Watch talk show with Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, both admitted they were interested in having a BBL.
“Let’s be real. I considered getting the tiniest little bit,” Willow shared. “But then I just got in the gym and got it anyway.”
Jada joked that Willow’s gym routine was so successful, people started assuming she did have a BBL. However, Jada confirmed it was all exercise: “I told her, ‘You want a butt? The one thing your mother knows how to do is build a butt,’” the Gotham alum explained.
However, many people do decide to go under the knife to build a bigger butt and slim the rest of their body in the process. Sadly, not everyone survives the procedure. Later in the episode, the hosts brought on the sister and son of Alicia Renette Williams, an English teacher who, in 2019, died after having a BBL in the Dominican Republic.
In 2017, a report by the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF) said that 1 out of every 3,000 patients will die from the surgery. A 2020 survey from ASERF revised that mortality rate and said there is a 1 in 14,952 mortality rate — provided the BBL is performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon.
Despite its name, the Brazilian butt lift actually isn’t exactly a “lift.” Dr. David Rapaport, a New York-based plastic surgeon, tells Yahoo Life that “a Brazilian butt lift, or BBL, is a nickname for liposuction — taking fat from somewhere on your own body — and fat transfer or transplantation, to the butt. So you’re taking from areas where you have relative excess, using liposuction, and instead of having that fat as medical waste, it’s kept sterile and put back into the body, and, in the case of the BBL, into the butt.”
The result is a perkier, fuller butt, typically with a slimmer all-around figure. That hourglass figure that’s all over Instagram? The popularity of the BBL likely has something to do with the prevalence of social-media-ready bodies.
While a BBL can help people achieve the look they desire, it’s important that people considering the procedure are aware of the potential risks.
“A large amount of fat transfer leads to higher risk, because there’s more pressure on that part of the body from that fat,” Rapaport says. “When there’s more pressure, there’s less blood supply, so a higher risk of a potentially devastating infection. An infection isn’t something that happens on the table — that’s something that happens in two days, maybe a week.”
Yet a major complication of the BBL can also occur during surgery — and it can even lead to death.
“What can happen on the table that people took time to figure out is that people thought you should be injecting fat into the muscle of the butt because there is more 3D space and you can get more volume. Initially, they thought that was a good idea,” he explains. “Here and there, people would die from this, however. What they’ve found from injecting colored fat into cadavers is that when you go into the muscle, just the pressure of that fat can have the fat migrate into the very large veins of the pelvis, and lead to a fat embolism. That can cause death, instantly.”
Not every plastic surgeon feels comfortable performing BBLs. Dr. Myla Bennett Powell, who appeared on Red Table Talk, said she does the procedure only “rarely” due to the dangers associated with it. Rapaport stresses that it’s important to find a skilled surgeon if this is a procedure you are interested in.
“You have to go with someone who understands sterile technique very well,” he says. “This is not for the young person who just started doing this. It’s a procedure that has to be treated very seriously because bad things have happened in the world.”
While there will certainly be people who want to go under the knife to score a perkier butt, the Smiths seem keen to build their behinds in the gym — risk-free.