Fetishizing black people's bodies has long been an American pastime. The past couple of decades though, has yielded a specific reverence for the curvy backsides celebrated in black and Latinx women. Some of these women, striving for the silhouette of an Instagram model, have resorted to black-market butt injections to achieve it. These shots can be incredibly dangerous—and while they’re usually marked as “saline”—the contents are unreliable. They sometimes contain mineral oil, Fix-a-flat tire fluid, and even cement, leaving some women injured or dead. La La Anthony, ‘Power’ actor and author who’s felt the pressure of society’s gaze (and considered butt shots herself), produced a new BET documentary, ‘Killer Curves: Bodies to Die For,’ that features several women who have been gravely impacted by illegal butt enhancement. Anthony tells us, below, why this sometimes-fatal trend is still going strong.
I wanted to make it clear that this documentary is not an attack on plastic surgery. It’s specifically about butt shots and doing them illegally, which could cause major health problems. If you want to change something about yourself, I’m all for that if you do the research. I’m not here to judge somebody but this is the wrong way to go about it. People do it the wrong way sometimes because [butt injections] are the cheaper alternative and have quicker recovery [than traditional butt enhancement surgery].
If you’re not in the financial position to get it done properly then maybe it’s not the right time. This shouldn’t be a problem so big that it’s worth dying for. That’s what’s happening, and it’s directly affecting African American and Hispanic women in our community who want to fit in, or feel the need to fit in. They’re going with these cheaper alternatives because they don’t have access to the other ones. In the film, we kind of crack the lid off what’s going on behind the scenes.
We first covered how large butts became a trend. African American and Hispanic women have always been curvy and for so long [they] would have to try to hide that. It’s not something that you were drawing attention to and wanted everybody to look at. We started by showing and discussing the Hottentot Venus—this was a woman whose butt people were so fascinated by. They would come from far and wide just to see it. That was a fetish but now [having a big butt] is a trend.
In the film, we documented what we were seeing in front of us in the entertainment industry. At one point, the trend was natural bodies like a Jennifer Lopez and then it went to “No, I want bigger than that.” And then bigger than that. Where do we draw the line?
With the body dysmorphia that we discuss in the film, it’s kind of like everyone sees you as one thing but you see yourself as something totally different—when you look at your butt, which is fine, and it looks tiny to you. With [body modification], you have to get to the root of it before you do it, just to make sure it’s something you really want to do or if it’s touching on a deeper issue.
One of my producers found Anivia [a model featured in the film who nearly died after an infection caused by the butt injections]. Her story was so powerful because she was pumping herself and pumping people [with silicone]. I really valued her sharing her story and the other people on the documentary like [singer] K. Michelle—they were so open. They weren’t hiding. They were transparent and that’s what people need to see. That’s how people are really going to get the message.
Literally when the image [of Anivia’s infection] appeared on screen in the film, my phone went haywire. People were like, “is this real?” I had celebrities asking me, “is that how it really looks or did you guys [alter] the picture?” Mouths were on the floor. I’m just so happy she’s so open about it. Because you can talk about this but when you put something right in people’s faces, they walk away with a different understanding.
When I ended the documentary, I said, if was able to save one life then I did my job. This is a documentary that could help our people who are dealing with body issues and different things. I connect to it. We’ve all struggled with insecurities and wanting to change something about ourselves. If anyone tells you differently, they’re lying. And it’s magnified when you’re in the public eye.
I did make it clear that I’ve never gotten butt shots—not because I never thought about it—but because I got scared about the side effects. I do have access to doing things the right way, but the quick and easy is always attractive to people. And then I was like, no, I can’t do this.
I’m being very transparent about how we’ve all struggled with body image as women. So my story is, yes, I have struggled with insecurities about the way I look. I have looked at my peers and said, I need to be skinnier or I need to be thicker—because it always changes. But then I realized I’m not willing to risk my life to appear a certain way.
I wanted to include [in the film] everyone who’s dealing with these issues. A lot of this started in the trans community—many of them had no choice but to turn to black-market injections. There was no way to do this and not include them. So many of the trans community told us that they’ve been struggling with this problem. This a reality.
In an ideal world, we’d just continue to push people to love themselves and be happy with themselves. Is that realistic? I don’t think so. So if you decide to do this, go about it the right way and understand that there’s a point where you could go too far.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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