The end of the BBL era and a return to ’90s thinness

Content warning: weight loss, body image issues, disordered eating habits

For years—perhaps centuries—the female body has been seen as a trend. So it's no surprise that we're seeing the tide turn again. Thanks to the rise of influencer-driven microtrends on social media sites like TikTok, we're seeing these trends shift faster than ever. This can be seen in the transition from the “BBL era” to thin standards again.

A Brazilian butt lift is a fat grafting procedure that increases the size and shape of the buttocks without implants. Many are calling it the BBL era, an aesthetic standard that emphasizes women with full hips and slim waists, largely credited with being popularized by celebrities like the Kardashians in the mid-2010s. As a result, BBL surgery came to the fore. The origins of the trend are debated, as many black women are born with the body type the surgery seeks to achieve and have previously been ridiculed, especially when it became “popular” in the 1990s and early 2000s. Even celebrities who are considered the pinnacle of beauty are expected to conform to this Eurocentric beauty standard. In a 2021 interview with fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar, Beyoncé said her body-shaming was the inspiration for her 2002 hit “Bootylicious.”

2002 was not that long ago. In the early 2000s, being thin was very “in” as it had been in previous decades. Thin is just disguised in a different package. Considering that the BBL era was so different from the beauty standards of previous decades, it's crazy to think that there ever was a time when traditional beauty standards were upended. This perception of beauty can be seen in the Renaissance paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. At a time when food insecurity and disease were rife among the general population, a plump figure became a sign of wealth, prosperity, and even beauty.

Americans' perception of “traditional beauty” changed in the 1920s. The term “calorie,” formerly used primarily in academia, became everyday parlance during World War I thanks to the U.S. Food Administration. Dangerous, due to constant messages from the Food Administration. As a result, calories became a part of American daily life, and staying within the recommended calorie count became a sign of patriotism. Calorie counting wasn't just a way to preserve food for war: it was also used to maintain the new ideal body shape – a slender figure. Most people are now thinner due to rationing during the war, and the new “traditional beauty standards” reflect this. This can be seen in the androgynous flapper look that began in the 1920s and subsequent trends since, all in contrast to the BBL, which focuses on dramatic curves. The modern subculture of the 1960s was characterized by ultra-slim androgynous looks (as seen on popular models such as Twiggy), the aerobics craze of the 1980s emphasized slim but toned bodies, and the 1990s saw the rise of “heroin chic,” which incorporated ultra-slim Idealized, the lanky figure is back again in the early 2000s. The BBL era is a far cry from the traditional ideals of beauty that have persisted for decades. However, it is as harmful as the standards of the past, as it still provides women with an unattainable standard of “perfect” body through dangerous plastic surgery. Being big is no longer synonymous with wealth or prosperity. In the new age of calories, BBL is destined to be temporary, as a trend that emphasizes thickness and curves can't change decades of slimming culture. This return to thinness can be seen in an increasing number of medical procedures that emphasize weight loss—for example, ozone and buccal fat removal.

Ozepmic is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, but in a recent trend, it helps in weight loss. Many people are prescribed this drug for “off-label” weight loss, that is, using an approved drug without approval. In early January, due to its rising popularity as a “diet drug,” there was even a shortage of the drug, affecting many people with diabetes.

Ozempic has faced headwinds due to its rise as a “diet drug.” However, there are rumors that celebrities such as the Kardashians, Mindy Kaling and others have been using the drug to reduce appetite. Elon Musk One of the few public figures to publicly say he used the drug to lose weight and endorse it. Chelsea Handler revealed on the “Call Her Daddy” podcast that she was on Ozempic, but she didn't even know it. “[My]antiaging doctor just handed it to anyone,” says Handler. Now, it’s not just celebrities and influencers, it’s every day someone is trying out Ozempic and posting “befores and afters” on TikTok. This is all the more worrisome, and not just because it's reminiscent of the diet culture of the 1990s and 2000s, with people taking diet pills like Fen-Phen, Redux and laxatives in general – in some cases disastrous for people's health Influence.

Removing buccal fat is another fad in the recent trend of slimming. Buccal fat pad removal is a serious cosmetic procedure—and completely unnecessary medically—requiring the removal of small amounts of buccal fat pad tissue from the sides of the cheeks to reduce the appearance of cheek puffiness and create a more defined appearance. Lea Michele, Amelia Hamlin and Sophie Turner are just some of the celebrities who are suspected of having the procedure, although few celebrities have confirmed that they have had it. This procedure was originally designed for those who simply want to reduce the size of their already very full cheeks. But now, many of the celebrities who are rumored to have undergone the procedure have already lost face weight, so they end up with more dramatic, model-like results. The app's look is emblematic of things we've seen before, particularly the heroin fad of the 1990s, which placed a heavy emphasis on gaunt, sickly looks. As these traits are associated with high fashion, they help perpetuate the notion of the gaunt physique as the ultimate symbol of beauty, because fashion was created for these women. As a result, everyday women often feel pressured to achieve this elusive look, and many resort to extreme weight loss to achieve the same due to the high cost of surgery, which many cannot afford. However, many women these days are more aware of media literacy and are tired of these beauty standards that are constantly being imposed on them.

The procedure's latest trend again beautifies and continues the slimming. A plump face is obviously more rounded, while a gaunt face is usually more angular. The gaunt face has been associated with beauty, especially high fashion, since “heroin chic” in the 1990s. Yes, there are round-faced women like Florence Pugh who are praised for their beauty, but at the same time, these women are still not considered to “conform” to beauty standards – they are exceptions to the rules of “beauty”. Opposition to glorifying thinness is entirely justified, categorizing women and their bodies is inhumane and should be called out. However, as the discussion around this issue spreads, things got a little dicey. A big factor that people have been using against the procedure is its effect on aging. The common reaction to the procedure, both from surgeons and from ordinary people, was, “Well, they look good now, but in 10 years they're going to look old.” In many ways, the implications for these actresses and society in general All owe youth. Although thinness as a standard has fluctuated over time, youthfulness has prevailed for decades and has never been questioned. Much of the resistance to surgery is very superficial. While people try to discourage others from undergoing the procedure to conform to the standards of looking “hot” and model-style, they are still imposing youthful standards on other women. These celebrities are not criticized for violating aesthetic standards, but because they may not meet the standards due to aging in the future. Choosing to judge these famous women for having a particular procedure done regardless of whether they have done so does nothing to break down the idea of ​​the female body as a trend; it warrants criticism of the industry that perpetuates these insecurities for women.

It's understandable to criticize social pressures on women to fit into the mold of what's considered “beautiful” at all times. What many people don't realize, however, is that these celebrities and models are as affected by these beauty standards as any other woman. In many ways, they are more than willing to do so, given the public attention they often receive and the thousands of people who can comment on their appearance. As someone who previously suffered from anorexia for eight years, using Ozempic and removing mouth fat felt like perpetuating a dysfunctional eating habit, not only for the general public, but for the average person as well. Ozone and buccal fat removal haven't risen to trend status like BBL has, but I think they can, which is why we should be worried. If we stop glorifying it, we can only stop perpetuating thinness as the norm, and while it’s hard, it’s a necessary step if we want to stop seeing women’s bodies constantly scrutinized — celebrities and regular women alike.

Art of the Day writer K. Rodriguez Garcia can be reached at karodrig@umich.edu.

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