For a would-be Miss Bum Bum, the price of beauty proved too high.
Brazilian model and reality TV star Andressa Urach, 27 — once runner-up in a curiously named contest that sought to identify Brazil’s finest derriere — was recently released from the hospital after an operation to augment her thighs left her in septic shock and on life support.
“I put that poison in my body, mostly because of having too much vanity,” she said in an interview on Brazilian television reported by the Associated Press this week.
According to Brazil’s Plastic Surgery Society, Urach reportedly received 200 times the dose of silicone gel permitted by the Brazilian government. In graphic photos posted to Huffington Post among other news outlets, Urach’s leg appears ulcerated — “rotting,” in the words of the Sydney Morning Herald, who reported she was in intensive care for a month after she was hospitalized in November. The photos also appear in Urach’s recent interview with Rede TV.
Warning: Video contains disturbing medical images.
On Rede TV, Urach pointed a finger at “society, which unfortunately holds a standard of beauty in which you have to be perfect.” She added: “I hope that these wounds at least serve as a warning to other women.”
In Brazil, Urach’s reversal was shocking — a bit like Dolly Parton speaking out against plastic surgery. A former single teenage mother named “Beanpole,” as the AP reported, she became an evangelist for cosmetic enhancement — the recipient of silicone implants, anabolic steroids, a nose job, and gel and botox injections, as well as a user of anabolic steroids.
“There are plenty of ugly women,” Urach said last year. “If you have the money, you can be beautiful. This pretty face you see here, my dear, it costs some.”
For a nation passionate about its plastic surgery, this only added fuel to the fire. Brazil is in the middle of an epidemic of cosmetic touch-ups, re-dos and improvements. Last year for the first time, more procedures were performed in the country than in the United States — about 1.5 million, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Plastic surgery is so tied to this dream of becoming somebody,” Alvaro Jarrin, a professor at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts who has researched the expansion of plastic surgery among low-income patients in Brazil, told the AP. “For the growing middle class with more purchasing power, plastic surgery is a means for upward mobility.”
Advocates have targeted Brazil’s cosmetic enhancement-friendly culture in the past.
“They are selling us these plastic surgeries, these synthetic injections like it was any other product,” said Sara Winter, protesting against plastic surgery in Rio de Janeiro in December.
Though Urach is not well known in the United States, her hospitalization recalls the death of Donda West, Kanye West’s mother, after plastic surgery in 2007. West, who had liposuction and breast reduction before her death, died “as the result of complications from a cosmetic surgical procedure,” a family spokesman said at the time. Comedian Kathy Griffin also had to be hospitalized during a liposuction in 1999.
Plastic surgery disasters also strike the common man. In 2008, a study found that one in 50,000 people died as a result of plastic surgery between 2001 and 2006. And many medical personnel who perform cosmetic procedures are not certified to do so. Indeed, Brazil has 5,500 certified plastic surgeons, but an additional 12,000 doctors will perform cosmetic procedures.