The shocking reality of practitioners who are responding to demand for curvier, bigger bottoms by performing illegal and dangerous procedures is laid bare in a new National Geographic documentary.
Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller hears from licensed US clinics and underground, unregulated practitioners who charge up to $3,500 for butt injections and Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBLs), procedures which have seen a surge in popularity in recent years as women seek to artificially create the curvaceous bodies popular on social media.
One unlicensed aesthetician in Atlanta, Georgia, makes up to $40,000 a day by performing illegal silicone butt injections but defends the practice by saying she helps transgender women who can’t afford legitimate surgery.
The woman, who herself is transgender and known only as Miss T, has no formal medical training and is one of hundreds of back alley ‘pumpers’ performing the risky cosmetic procedure in the US.
She says she treats up to 40 clients a day using silicone which she claims to have bought illegally from a licensed doctor. Her procedures cost $1,000.
Van Zeller also meets legal practitioners in Miami who perform BBLs – which involve taking fat from other areas of the body and injecting it into the buttocks -for $3,500.
In one shocking revelation, a scheduling manager at a clinic linked to eight plastic surgery deaths in six years admitted doctors ‘don’t give a f***’ about patients safety and that it’s ‘all about the money’.
Unlicensed practitioner Miss T, pictured, who operates in Atlanta, Georgia, says she treats up to 40 clients a day using silicone which she claims to have bought illegally from a licensed doctor
Mariana also meets with a transgender woman who is having her bottom injected admitting she ‘loves the feeling’
Speaking to Mariana in a new documentary, Miss T reveals she ‘never in a million years’ thought she’d be working in the underground but in her 20s she was making so much money as a pumper she ‘didn’t know what to do with it’.
‘It started out in our community, the first people I seen it done were trans women, [sic]’ she explained while wearing a face mask and sunglasses to conceal her identity.
‘When I transitioned, doctors will look at you crazy, if you came in saying you want implants.
‘When I was 19, I went to the doctor, I said “I want implants”. I heard all there nurses and doctors laughing saying “that’s a guy, he wants implants'” they were just laughing and they said “go tell him no”.’
Miss T says she’s given hundreds of people injections and admits that it’s ‘super easy money’ as she charges $1,000 for the 15-minute procedure but says that it’s ‘very risky’ because if caught she could face up to 10 years behind bars.
She added that she’s been set up by clients and robbed as they known she will have a lot of cash on her.
Mariana also met with D’Nisha Monroe, who works as a waitress in a strip club in Atlanta. D’Nisha, who said dancers can make up to $10,000 a night, revealed that 90 per cent of people working at the night club have had cosmetic surgery
National Geographic documentary Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller (pictured) explores the startling reality of US clinics and underground, unlicensed practitioners like Miss T who are responding to the growing demand for butt injections and Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBL) as women seek to artificially create the curvaceous bodies popular on Instagram
Mariana, who watched Miss T perform the procedure on another transgender woman in a motel room, also revealed that many pumpers carry guns, but Miss T wouldn’t share if she did herself.
‘Back in my 20s, I used to make so much money I didn’t know what to do with it,’ she explained. ‘But I have a different mindset about it now. One thing was getting robbed and almost killed.
‘I was set up by a girl [I was going to inject]. She set me up, tied me up and robbed me. I guess that’s the dark side to it.’
When asked if she carried a gun, Miss T added: ‘I don’t want to answer that question. I’m always in control of every situation I’m in, put it like that.’
She added that no one she’s ever injected has had bad side effects and that people sell her phone number for $250.
Marianna visited Miss T in a motel as she injected a patient. The 15 minute procedure cost $1,000
Botched cosmetic surgeries have become a growing and dangerous problem as enhancement procedures have become increasingly popular.
The increased cultural obsession with procedures to enlarge the buttocks and make the waist smaller combined with their high cost have pushed some people to find illegal and unregulated surgeries, which have lead to multiple deaths in recent years.
While it’s hard to know official figures illegal butt lifts, there is also an increased number of legitimate doctors performing risky procedures for easy money.
Paying for curves: What is a Brazilian Butt Lift?
With a Brazilian butt lift, fat is taken from various parts of the body and put with the buttocks.
It has grown increasingly popular in the United States, becoming the fastest-growing type of plastic surgery, according to 2015 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The rate of buttock lift procedures rose 252 percent from 2000 to 2015. The total went from 1,356 to 4,767 procedures over the course of that time.
Injecting fat into the butt can lead to problems if done improperly, including fat embolism – which is when fat enters the bloodstream and blocks a blood vessel.
The estimated death rate for BBL is 1 in 3000, according to PlasticSurgery.org.
A study published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that there was a 252 percent increase in buttocks augmentation surgery between the years 2000 and 2015.
While nearly every other cosmetic procedure saw a decrease in appointments before and earlier during the Covid pandemic, butt lifts saw a spike increasing by 22 percent from 2019 to 2020.
The TikTok tag #bbl – Brazilian butt lift – has 4.6 billion views with users showing off their before and after photos and documenting their surgeries, which can cost upward of $7,000.
Miami has become a hot spot for plastic surgery, particularly BBLs, where doctors remove fat from a woman’s stomach and thighs and inject it into their hips.
The Florida city has become a tourist destination as it offers such cheap surgery, with doctors allowed to perform up to eight procedures a day.
Dr. Stanley A. Okoro, a plastic surgeon from Atlanta who trained for 12 years explains in the documentary: ‘In the US, any medical doctor can do plastic surgery.
‘A paediatrician can do plastic surgery. There are all kinds of weekend courses, in a hotel, that these doctors take [before performing surgery].
‘It’s like a cook book, the problem is, if you get into a problem, and it’s not in the cookbook, what do you do then? You call 911.’
Mariana also met with a former manager from Jolie Centre in Miami, a plastic surgery clinic that has seen eight deaths in 10 years.
A 2019 investigation by USA Today and the Naples Daily News found that the cosmetic clinics, all owned by Dr Ismael Labrador, also left nearly a dozen women with critical complications, including three with punctured internal organs that forced them to rush to the hospital for help.
The names of the clinics have changed three times since 2016, often times changed not long after the death of another patient.
The south Florida clinics employ doctors who are not board-certified in plastic surgery and are known to market themselves aggressively on social media to younger woman, especially Hispanics and African Americans, at half the price of traditional plastic surgeons.
Four of the women died after the doctors mistakenly injected body fat deep in their muscles and tore the veins during a Brazilian butt lift procedure.
The fat pooled in their hearts and lungs, killing them in minutes.
A 2019 investigation by USA Today and the Naples Daily News found that cosmetic clinics all owned by Dr Ismael Labrador (pictured) left nearly a dozen women with critical complications, including three with punctured internal organs that forced them to rush to the hospital for help
In 2014, one of the clinics was known as Vanity Cosmetic Surgery.
Another was called the Hialeah clinic until it changed its name to Encore Plastic Surgery in 2015.
Both names were changed to Eres Plastic Surgery in 2016.
Now they operate under the name Jolie Plastic Surgery, making it increasingly harder to find past reviews for prospective patients doing their research.
Labrador said the name changes were of normal business and marketing, and stressed that they were not done to avoid any legal responsibility.
Labrador himself was arrested in 2007 after undercover officers found unlicensed doctors performing operations at the clinics.
He was placed on probation for three years and fined $30,000. The felony charges were dropped in 2010 after he entered a court diversion program.
Juan Carlos, who spent time working at Jolie and other clinics as a scheduling manager, also revealed that doctors in Miami clinics do up to 12 surgeries a day. More than three or four a day is considered unsafe.
Speaking with a mask on, he revealed: ‘I think morally we have to do this, people deserve to know what’s going on.
‘Essentially you’re pumping out 10 to 12 cases a day it’s impossible for you to meet you patients, pre-op, post-op and day of surgery.’
Although he worked in the admin office upstairs at Jolie, he said he routinely made trips to the surgical rooms and routinely saw doctors performing multiple operations at the same time, meaning unqualified assistants are doing parts of the surgery.
‘Things go wrong. At the end of the day, it’s about money, that’s why we do it. I think patients need to understand it’s a factory, nobody gives a f*** about you.’
Labrador denied that surgical techs are doing the surgeries, denied being the owner of Jolie, and asked for $25,000 to sit down for an interview.
Mariana also met with D’Nisha Monroe, who works as a waitress in a strip club in Atlanta.
D’Nisha, who said dancers can make up to $10,000 a night, revealed that 90 per cent of people working at the night club have had cosmetic surgery.
While she wouldn’t reveal if she’d had butt injections herself she said: ‘A lot of people won’t want to talk about that, because it’s not legal.’
TIMELINE OF DEATHS CAUSED BY BOTCHED BUTT INJECTIONS
Solange Magnano, 38, a former Miss Argentina, died in December 2009 following surgery on her buttocks
In recent years, there have been a number of cases involving women who have tragically died while seeking cosmetic surgery on their buttocks.
In December 2009, a former Miss Argentina died following surgery to make her buttocks firmer.
Solange Magnano, 38, was rushed to hospital with severe breathing problems after the cosmetic operation.
The mother of eight-year-old twins died from a blocked lung artery after spending three days in a critical condition in intensive care.
In February 2011, Claudia Aderotimi, 20, a dancer and university student from London, traveled to Philadelphia with a friend for her birthday.
Aderotimi went to a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport, where she had a cosmetic injection into her buttocks.
Padge-Victoria Windslowe, 49, injected half-a-gallon of industrial-grade silicon, which traveled into Aderotimi’s bloodstream and caused her heart to stop.
In 2015, Windslowe was convicted of assault. She was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.
In July 2013, Tamara Blaine, 22, died after she received an injection of toxic silicon in her buttocks.
Blaine died after the silicon entered her bloodstream and asphyxiated her.
Tamira Mobley, 32, was sentenced to prison for doing the unauthorized procedure at a pay-per-hour hotel in New York.
In February 2011, Claudia Aderotimi (left), 20, a dancer and university student from London, died after a botched butt enhancement surgery in Philadelphia. In July 2013, Tamara Blaine (right), 22, died after she received an injection of silicon in her buttocks
In October 2014, Joy Williams (left), 23, died after having silicon implants removed from her buttocks in Thailand. Lesbia Ayala (right), 48, died last year after having a butt enhancement procedure performed by an unlicensed beautician in the Bronx
She pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, and the unauthorized practice of a profession.
Mobley was sentenced to between 16 and 48 months in prison.
In October 2014, Joy Williams, 23, traveled to Thailand from her native Britain to have cut-price plastic surgery.
She visited a clinic in Bangkok to have an operation that would give her a bigger, fuller bottom.
Wykesha Reid, 34, died in Dallas after getting injections to enhance her buttocks in February 2015
A few days after the operation, she returned to the clinic to treat an infection that developed in her buttocks as a result of the silicon implants she received.
While on the operating table, she died. Medical staff were unable to resuscitate her.
Wykesha Reid, 34, died on a massage table inside a Dallas salon in February 2015 after she was given injections to enhance her buttocks.
Denise ‘Wee Wee’ Ross, the woman who administered the injection, was sentenced to 60 years in prison. She is up for parole in 2045.
Lesbia Ayala, 48, traveled from her Philadelphia home to the Bronx to have a butt lift.
The procedure was performed in June 2018 at the home of a woman who was running an illegal cosmetic surgery clinic.
After Ayala received an injection of silicon into her buttocks, she suffered from cardiac arrest and died.
Whalesca Castillo, 44, was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller airs on national Geographic on Mondays at 9pm