The first time I saw the video for TLC's "Unpretty", I watched it repeatedly.
It resonated with me because it was the narrative so deeply embedded in my black girl psyche. I, like many other women, have struggled with maintaining a positive self-image, inspiring a culture that encourages dangerous surgeries that require painful recoveries.
Cardi B., who credits her rise to the top to her investment in her image, recently told GQ that she decided to get butt injections four years ago after developing an insecurity fueled by her personal and professional lives. The risky black market operation, which left her dizzy and in tremendous pain, was performed by a shadetree surgeon. Cardi's painful experience is a reality that is increasingly relevant to women of color in this day and age.
It's the same reality that celebs like K. Michelle and Jenelle Salazar Butler (popularly known as Get Bodied By J) are also opening up about. These women are speaking their truths about the societal pressures that drove them to seek physical augmentations, a dangerous trend made extremely popular among women of color in the entertainment industry over the last decade. The celebrities' recent admissions shed light on an industry that exploits black bodies and employs a deadly insecurity among black women.
Society has spoken, and big booties are the wave.
This fact leaves many women of color in the limelight to compare and question their natural bodies, especially when their shapes don't reflect the "ideal black body type." This deadly insecurity has caused more and more women to seek alternative methods of reaching their beauty goals, including detox tea, waist trainers, and one of the latest trends, minimally invasive cosmetic surgery.
In 2016, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons announced that butt implants were the fastest growing type of plastic surgery and can cost upwards of $10,000, causing many women who cannot afford the procedure to seek out back alley operations that consist of placing silicone in their butts or other materials like hydrogel or bi-polymer. And while the result can present women with the asses that they're after, K. Michelle might be a glimpse of the host of complications that Instagram bodies can come with.
Last year, K. Michelle opened up on The Real about how her trouble with men led her to develop a negative self-image that she felt she could resolve with cosmetic surgery.
"I had a big ass. I already had one. I was insecure. I was like, 'I want a big ass, I want some titties, I want some teeth. This is what I wanna do.'"
The R&B singer continued on to discuss the pain she felt after the cosmetic surgery as a result of her body rejecting the injections. She said that over time, the surgeries began to affect her overall health, causing her to be extremely fatigued.
She explained that she began aching to a point where she could no longer walk and decided that it was time for a change.
"I just did it. It felt good. It was a temporary bandage on some issues with me, and it felt good at the moment. Now I just want to be me, who my mama made me."
Last year, she announced her decision to have her butt injections removed, but the process has not been easy. A tearful K. Michelle recently went live on Instagram during a blood transfusion in an effort to document her recovery. In the live video the Love and Hip Hop alum said tearfully:
"I've been sick. I'm doing better. So I love y'all, so much. It's been so rough. I've had blood transfusions, everything. It's been a really rough week. But I thank y'all for everything. I'm ok. I'm crying because I'm happy. I'm not crying because I'm sad. It's been so painful. It's been a lot. So I just thank God that I made it out on the other side."
Although she had undergone surgery in January to remove her butt implants, K had undergone complications despite her initiative to take the necessary steps to get her health and her body back right. In a lengthy Instagram post, she got transparent about just how traumatic her journey to getting her body back has been:
"January 12, I started a journey to correct a mistake I did over 6 years ago. The first surgery went well, so we thought, until my body started to shut down while I was on tour. For 26 cities, I was on steroids to walk and keep down infection, causing me to get off stage and be rushed to ER over 4 times and then the next day back on stage. I later found out the silicone had spread and I would be rushed back into surgery."
"Last Wednesday, I entered surgery barely functioning with my legs and an infection. The surgery to remove all of this from me lasted a long 6 hours. The following days were spent with paramedics until they realized my blood count was severely low and I was rushed into [the] ER where I was admitted. 2 blood transfusions later, I've been released and started therapy today [to] heal and walk. I have the most skilled and amazing reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills and I'm blessed to be here. It hurts my heart to know there are girls out here who can't afford to have the best and are just sitting around in pain and infection. I thought I was strong but this changed my life. I saw my life flash right in front of me."
"Rough" is an understatement and her journey is only a glimpse of what the reality of her and women like her have and will go through as a result of a decision based on a temporary fad.
It takes so much bravery to publicly confront the consequences of ripping the bandaid off of the insecurities that make us feel so damn unpretty. Fitness guru and self-love advocate Get Bodied by J has also opened up about her painful recovery process after having her butt injections removed in attempt to educate others. In one of her videos she said:
"If I had self-love in 2010, I would have never done this."
Both celebrities have been extremely candid throughout their healing processes and hope to prevent other women from making the decision that led to this ultra painful period in their life. K. Michelle said in an interview with Steve Harvey:
"Everybody was doing it. A lot of your favorite artists, we went to the same person. They're sick too, but I just talk about mine. I don't lie to y'all. I don't tell y'all, 'Oh, this is great!' It'll catch up. So I said, if I can show them my body, and what I did, I can also show them the outcome and the consequences of it. So I've been very open about it."
K. Michelle mentioned how easy it is to get swept up in following beauty trends, no matter what the cost, even if they happen to be deadly. Women like Get Bodied by J and K. Michelle have chosen to share their experiences to inspire positive self-image in other women and to remind them that nothing about them has to be artificial for them to be beautiful.
For generations, society has imposed their standards of beauty to exploit black bodies: beginning with women like Sarah Baartman. These standards have driven women of color to extraordinary lengths to reach unrealistic #BodyGoals. As women, we have to make the decision to save ourselves from ourselves, refute these ideals, and develop beauty standards based on our natural bodies.
Self-love is imperative to healing as a culture.
Featured image via K. Michelle/Instagram