I’ve seen the unfortunate growth of this black market firsthand. In 2013, I traveled down to Miami, Florida, the epicenter of ass enhancements (legal and otherwise), to learn about the underground cosmetic surgery rings that are proliferating throughout the US. I was brought there by the notorious case of Oneal Ron Morris. Morris, known as the Duchess, had reportedly injected the asses of at least 25 different women in the early 2010s with fluids like Fix-a-Flat and mineral oil, causing at least one death.
What I discovered in Miami was that although underground butt injections may have started on the fringes—among the trans community, sex workers, and strippers—women from all walks of life are now willing to gamble with their health in the hope of getting a butt like J. Lo or Nicki Minaj by going to a nutjob with a syringe instead of a real board-certified surgeon.
Kelly Mayhew’s tragic death exemplifies that. She was an educated, naturally attractive woman. She worked at BET in Washington, DC as a platform producer. She had a loving mother who unfortunately accompanied her to get the injections and watched her as she died, and a boyfriend who has claimed to the press that he tried to steer her away from the sketchy operation.
So what is it that drives a woman like Mayhew, who had previously had work done on her butt by a legitimate surgeon, to fall into the netherworld of ass shots? I believe that to understand why so many girls are willing to put their health on the line it is important to first understand the difference between legitimate and illegal butt augmentation.
In really simple terms, there are only two ways a board certified plastic surgeon will make your ass a badonkadonk. They will either do implants, which is pretty much a boob job on your ass, or they will do a fat transfer, which involves taking fat from other parts of your body and depositing it back into your ass.
Although you can get a fat transfer or implants performed by a doctor, a board-certified surgeon in the United States will never agree to inject free-flowing fluid into your ass like the guy “operating” on Mayhew did, because it is really fucking stupid and dangerous.
The luckiest ass shot recipients will just get a booty that over the course of five to ten years will start to look and feel like they have an anvil in their pants. But as Mayhew’s case shows, it can also be incredibly lethal. If you inject just 555cc of silicone into a body, it can break apart into 30 billion small globules, and all of those bits have the ability to cause infectious reactions such as polyps, boils, skin discoloration, and even necrosis. In the worst, most deadly cases, the fluid can travel through the bloodstream causing a pulmonary embolism, fusing onto organs, or causing septic shock.
Other than the horrific results, the main difference a lot of people will point out between black market injections and legal augmentation is the cost. Butt shots can be as cheap as $200, while fat transfers and implants can cost several thousand, helping make legitimate ass augmentation a $26 million industry. And while many like to paint this burgeoning health epidemic as a symptom of poor people wanting a body they can’t afford, I believe that the speed and convenience of the procedure is as much of a draw as the price.
Ass injections are practically instantaneous. As one stripper told me in Miami, “I got my butt [shots]on a Tuesday… I came back to work on a Friday and made triple the amount it cost in one night.” Implants and fat transfers, on the other hand, require weeks of recuperation and are really fucking painful, because the procedures are real deal surgery. Even after you can start moving around, it takes months for your new ass to settle and the results to really shine.
Injections are like flipping a light switch and having a new body. They are especially convenient when you are an upwardly mobile woman who has lots of shit to do. Oscarina Busse, a woman from Coral Gables, Florida, who I interviewed back in 2013, received some heinous illegal ass shots that caused her entire butt to turn purple and cave in on itself. She is a wife, a mother, and a prominent businesswoman who owns her own salon. She spent $6,000 on the disastrous injections—and she had to spend another $70,000 on getting work done from a real plastic surgeon to reconstruct her body after the injections went sour. It wasn’t the money that caused her to take the risk in the first place, it was the ability to quickly transform without sacrificing any of her business or familial responsibilities.
This scenario highlights the trick bag many American women find themselves stuck in when they try to meet all the unrealistic expectations of society—run a household, work a full time job, and look like a video girl—all at the same time. I’m sure when Mayhew contemplated getting her injections, it all seemed so easy.
Although butt injections exist on the black market, they are talked about pretty openly among women at beauty salons and spas. And sly people who present themselves as quasi-medical professionals offer to do them with all kinds of promises and guarantees. Considering all the rumors that stars like Nicki Minaj and Beyonce have resorted to ass shots, they have attained an air of luxury around them—even though the reality is a dirty syringe pumping who-knows-what in your ass. Oftentimes, girlfriends get them done together in events called “pumping parties” at hotels or in the back of the same places where they get their nails and hair done. It’s easy to see how these women can be misled about what’s right and what’s wrong, or why they’d suspend their disbelief in the blind hope of easily attaining that thing that everyone is after right now—a big booty.
Dr. Constantino Mendieta, the well-known surgeon who reconstructed Oscarina Busse’s butt, talked to me at length two years ago about all the ladies who came to him to repair the damage done to their bodies after receiving buttshots. Of course he couldn’t name names, but the man who is known for creating some of the most sought after and expensive asses in Miami told me he had repaired the behinds of everyone from known entertainers to wealthy housewives. All of them had hoped they could get a perfect apple bottom without paying the dues.
My hope is that the tragic deaths of women like Kelly Mayhew will wake other women up to the fact that ass shots are just not worth it. But considering the surprising amount of illegal injections happening in communities across the country right now and the reality that these procedures can kill you months and even years after the fact, I’m afraid we’ve only seen the tip of the toxic-ass iceberg.