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Friday, July 13, 2012
'Shot Girls,' Underground Butt Injections Exposed
Courtesy Vanity Wonder
By LARA SALAHI
In five years, Vanity Wonder, 30, has had more than 16 butt and hip injections to curve her waist line. Her butt has more than doubled its size since she began injections.
"I had always wanted a better body and, on top of that, I liked the compliments that I'd got when I was a little thicker," Wonder wrote in her book, "Shot Girls."
Fat is the most common substance injected for implants among certified plastic surgeons, which is typically transferred from another part of the body. Wonder's experience is a different story.
Ask her what kind of injections she has had, and she'll say that for at least the first two times, she's not quite sure.
That's because, in many cases, Wonder went to hotels in Detroit, lay on a massage table and let a "shot girl" -- someone who she said was clearly not certified -- give her the injections. Indeed, after each of at least her first two injections, Wonder was patched up at her injection site with cotton balls and super glue to keep from leaking, she chronicled in her book.
The practice is more common than thought, Wonder said. In her book, "Shot Girls," Wonder exposes the not-so-underground world of black-market cosmetic procedures in which many people are injected with liquid silicone, tire rubber and even super glue.
Although Wonder said the injections worked for her and helped her to reach her goal without any harmful side effects, she's now on a mission to stop others from doing the same. The goal of her book is to warn women about the dangers of underground shot operations, she said.
"Don't look at me and think that I'm living happy," Wonder said. "You may not come out like me."
In a growing number of cases, such practices have led to damaging and, at times, fatal consequences.
Wonder, who later became an assistant to a "shot girl" before she faced jail time for being involved in a shot operation, told ABC News that many girls refuse to get butt implants because they "are not trendy and cool."
Injections are seen as the better alternative because they provide a more firm and natural look, she said.
Black women, who once shunned any kind of medical enhancement procedures, are now growing more accepting of conventional means of undergoing cosmetic procedures, a report by ABC News' "20/20" found.
Still, Wonder said that many women, especially those who turn to underground practices, do so because they don't want others to know they have had any kind of cosmetic procedure.
About 12.2 million cosmetic minimally invasive procedures were performed in 2011, a 6 percent increase from 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It's unclear how many people participated in illegal black market procedures.
According to Dr. Malcolm Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Wonder book might mislead many to think that these kinds of procedures are safe.
"We've all seen horror stories of people who have done the quick and seemingly easy procedure done by the non-medical community," Roth said.
Although Wonder details one of the shot girls as someone who she said was rude and uncouth, many people comment on her fan pages begging for the contact information so they can get the same procedure.
"They beg me for her number even though I don't know what was injected into me, and people want to know where she's at," Wonder said. "Nobody listens."
Some of the most common side effects of botched injections are severe allergic reactions and even ulcers around the injection site, according to Dr. Mark Abdelmalek, chief of the division of laser and dermatologic surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.
"There's a spectrum of danger," Abdelmalek said. "It can start as a little infection, but infections can be dangerous if you don't get control over it in a timely manner."
Silicone injections are among the most dangerous kinds of botched procedures, Roth said.
"We cannot adequately take care of silicone injections gone wrong," he added.
In March 2012, Padge Victoria Windslowe, aka the "Black Madam," allegedly administered illegal "butt-boosting" injections that might have caused the death of a 20-year-old British woman last year, ABC News previously reported.
In a separate incident, Windslowe of Philadelphia was arrested after a 23-year-old woman who allegedly attended Windslowe's "pumping party" was admitted to a Philadelphia-area hospital after the substance Windslowe allegedly injected into her buttocks got into her bloodstream and into her lungs.
"These methods are clearly rising in popularity because we're seeing more people with problems related to this," Dr. Roth said.
In November, Oneal Ron Morris was arrested in Florida for allegedly administering a series of "butt-boosting" injections made from a concoction of cement, glue and tire sealant.
In January 2011, Whalesca Castillo, an unlicensed practitioner in New York City, was arrested for allegedly running an illegal business out of her home injecting women with liquid silicone in the buttocks and breasts.
And in 2010, a Miami woman, Ana Josefa Sevilla, was charged with a similar crime after one of her clients allegedly ended up in the emergency room with complications.
Plastic surgeons and dermatologists continue to warn consumers about the dangers of getting cosmetic procedures in non-approved facilities and from non-certified practitioners. The notion of cutting costs for a typically expensive procedure might be tempting, but the results can be dangerous.
"If you want substantial improvement, don't try a short cut," Roth said. "It'll end up being a long-term problem."
Dr. Abdelmalek said that undergoing procedures by practitioners who are not medically trained not only increases the risk of receiving a wrong injection, but there's also an added risk that the practitioner might be using incorrect monitoring of the anesthetics used or using improper aseptic techniques.
"You might go places and get away with it but you're rolling the dice," he said. "It is never OK to go to an unlicensed person for a medical procedure. It takes training and medical expertise that you don't get in an underground environment."
Wonder said, "I wasn't smart enough to think about these things."
Wonder said that many women who now undergo these underground procedures know their risk, but they don't think anything will go wrong with them.
"Everybody who goes to that knows that what they're doing is wrong, yet they still do it," she said.
Wonder also said, based on her observations, many women who take the back-road option are in their 30s and 40s and have the money to spend on legitimate procedures, contrary to the common belief that the kind of women undergoing the procedures are in their 20s and don't have the money.
"If women want to get a bigger butt, I'm all for it," Wonder said. "I'm not against cosmetic surgery but just do it the safe way."
The best way to ensure getting a safe procedure is to meet the practitioner before agreeing to go through with the procedure, Abdelmalek said. Also, always ask for the practitioner's licenses and qualifications, and have them fully communicated any risks that might be involved.
"Even in the best of hands, there are risks of complication," he added. "You should feel comfortable that the person can handle your complications." ABC News' Carrie Gann and Dan Childs contributed to this report.