Andressa Urach was considered one of the most beautiful women in a country known for its beautiful women. The 27-year-old had shoulder-length hair, almond eyes, and full ruby lips. But she was mostly known for her ass. She was the runner-up in Brazil's Miss BumBum contest. Her butt inspired such fanfare that braces-clad preteen girls greeted her at airports as if she was a Beatle or a Backstreet Boy. And like Bieber with his Beliebers and Lady Gaga with her Little Monsters, the beauty queen had a term of endearment for people enamoured with her hump: Urachers.
But now, a series of gauze-filled holes dots her thighs. Urach's most precious asset is literally rotting away. Her medical catastrophe was the result of the hydrogel and PMMA that she had injected into her thighs and ass to make herself more curvaceous. Those fluids began to fuse to her muscles and caused her body to go into septic shock.
Her condition highlights the intense body-modification trend in Brazil, a country that was second only to the US last year in the number of plastic-surgery procedures performed. Although it might seem odd that a developing country is so focused on something like plastic surgery, it's worth noting that people there consider beauty a right. There's absolutely no stigma placed on getting a nose job, for instance, because it improves self-esteem the same way seeing a psychoanalyst might.
However, the procedure Urach had done to her ass is not something offered by legitimate plastic surgeons anymore. The filler she used was banned in Brazil in 2010 by the regulatory agency AVISA, well before she underwent the black-market procedure.
Injections of foreign substances (of any kind) should not be confused with what has become known as the Brazilian butt lift, a popular procedure that involves filling a person's buttocks with his or her own liposuctioned fat. Right now, that and implants are the only legal methods of butt augmentation in the US. And it will be that way in Brazil by 2018 as some other methods are phased out, according to certified Brazilian plastic surgeon Antonio Graziosi.
While we know that Brazilians are certainly into augmenting their bodies, due to a dearth of statistics we don't have a clear idea of how many women are going to the black market for butt-enhancing procedures as Urach did. This kind of thing isn't isolated to Brazil, however. Thousands of women across the globe have pumped their butts and suffered the consequences. In the US, people have even turned to using grotesque fluids like cement and Fix-a-Flat to get bigger booties. But no matter what chemical these people are injecting themselves with, the result is almost always the same: an initial boost in plumpness, followed by disastrous disfiguration.
WARNING: This next photo is real messed up. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Urach was injected five years ago in her bottom and thighs. On November 30, she started to feel a pain in her legs and was admitted to a hospital in Porto Alegre. She was given an isolated room in the ICU unit with no label on her bed, to prevent harassment. A hashtag, #ForçaUrach, was started to wish her strength in recovery. Although she was at one point in a coma, and rumors floated around about a possible amputation, the model seems to have pulled through. Two days ago, she posted on her Instagram, "God is so wonderful that gave me back my life!"
That a high-profile person like Andressa Urach is struggling with this problem helps combat a misconception that only poor and impoverished women go to the black market for plastic surgery. It's true that in the US, once the FDA made butt and breast injections illegal in the 60s, a network of black-market "pumpers" seems to have first developed around women in the adult industry and trans women in transition. However, these shady procedures are being increasingly used in the States by people of all races and classes who want a big butt but don't want to suffer the invasive surgery and lengthy recovery time of implants or a fat transfer.
As women in the spotlight like Urach strive to #breaktheinternet à la Kim Kardashian, it's likely even more will break their bodies instead. Given that it took five years for Urach to seek medical attention, we could be looking at a wave of similar but less famous victims down the road.
On November 27, just two days before Urach's mother announced her daughter's health problems, the model posted a front-and-back image of her famous posterior. Although these comment appear to have been deleted in the wake of the tragedy, a Portuguese-language gossip site has catalogued some of the now ironic posts left by fans.
"What's the secret of that butt?" asked one follower, with another replying: "It's from another planet."
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