You are on page 1of 7


Boom and busts -

February 22, 2013 5:13 pm

Boom and busts
By Richard Lapper and Amy Stillman

The once elite phenomenon of plastic surgery is becoming increasingly common among Brazilians of all classes and ages
Márcia Valim confesses to a twinge of envy whenever she sees Rio de Janeiro’s famously full-figured carnival queens strut their stuff. It is one of the reasons why, despite undergoing breast augmentation three years ago, Valim, who works as a nurse, is still unhappy with her body. Now, as she waits to see surgeons at Santa Casa Misericórdia public hospital in downtown Rio, Valim says she wants to increase the size of her bottom. “I’m turning 50 in March, and I want to be able to look good on the beach. Besides, in Brazil, big bums are part of our culture,” she says. Valim earns only R$3,000 (£990) a month but is prepared to borrow up to twice that to pay for buttock implants. “If I get plastic surgery my self-esteem will be a lot higher.” That R$6,000 may be double Valim’s monthly income, but in fact it represents something of a bargain in a society where middleclass women can often pay three times as much for such an operation and the rich way beyond that.

©Fif i Tong

Márcia Valim, 49, nurse: Procedures so far: breast implants Planned procedures: buttock implants, further breast implants

The ward at Santa Casa where Valim hopes to have the procedure is funded by a charitable foundation set up by the country’s most famous plastic surgeon, Ivo Pitanguy, a man referred to in Brazil as “the pope of plastic surgery”. Operations are performed by resident physicians who are training at Dr Pitanguy’s private clinic and who volunteer at the ward in Santa Casa hospital. Working for nothing, they provide cut-price and even free surgery for poorer women. Talking at his private clinic in Rio’s Botafogo district, Pitanguy says the public hospital initiative represents “one of the most important things I did in my life”. Pitanguy established the ward 50 years ago, a decision that reflects his longheld belief – he is now 86 – that aesthetic surgery should be freely available. “It is easy to understand why [poor people] would need reconstructive surgery, but difficult to understand that aesthetic surgery is 1/7

one of the high-profile guests.FT. “I just want to slightly increase my cup size.” she says. She earns R$2. compared to 49. as having “the popularity of a superstar”. meanwhile. “Plastic surgery can bring dignity to your own image. he insists. She has already had a tummy tuck and now wants breast implants and lipo​ suction for her thighs. Last month an account in Correio do Brasil of a party to mark the beginning of Rio’s carnival described Pitanguy. “It’s something that’s deeper than that and should be available to everyone. whose clients are reputed to have included Frank www. 28. thanks to a combination of increased social mobility and access to credit. The surgeon.000 (£660) a month and her procedure of choice is a tummy tuck.. and when you are happy with [that]. Many times when we operate we are like a psychologist with a knife in our hands. you are happy with the world around you.” he says. “This part of the equation brings a psychological aspect to plastic surgery. many of them like those in the queue for treatment at Santa Casa – women such as Ali da Silva Vaz.” And. “Brazilians now have higher incomes [and this] is chipping away at the idea that plastic surgery is a luxury for the upper class. Also hoping to have plastic surgery at the Santa Casa ward is dental technician Diana Viana. Pitanguy sees his work as akin to a physical form of therapy. “After my son was born my stomach looked so awful that I didn’t even want to leave the 21-year-old interior design student Isabella Romeiro is seeking breast not a luxury.” she says. ..” he says.5 % Percentage of ‘Class C’ Brazilians who say they would consider plastic surgery for aesthetic purposes. carnival singers and soap actors so beloved of celebrity-obsessed Brazil.” Like da Silva Vaz.html#axzz2LkDeZyvy 2/7 . Specialists such as Pitanguy are as celebrated as their many famous – but anonymity-craving – patients. a bubbly unemployed 39-year-old. “I used to be really heavy so when I lost all this weight I started to have a problem with sagging skin.1 per cent from classes A and B combined The result is that the once elite phenomenon of uma plástica is becoming increasingly common among poorer Brazilian consumers.” he says. It is only 10 months since she persuaded her grandmother to help pay for thigh-reduction surgery. is more complex than merely helping poorer women emulate in some small way the film stars.” The reason. “I just can’t wait for the day that I can wear a bikini again. it’s a view that resonates with the wider population more fully than ever before. 49.” she says.2/23/13 Boom and busts .

“Almost every woman I see in the gym [attached to the gated community where she lives] has an implant because it increases self-confidence. nor is it frowned upon.FT. Submitting to the knife is normal among the elite. Alvaro Jarrin is an anthropologist at Union College. He has even won membership of Brazil’s academy of letters.488 Brazilians in December 2012 905. as seen in works such as The Right to Beauty: Memoirs of a Grand Master of Plastic Surgery. who has written extensively on Brazil’s plastic surgery phenomenon. the second-highest number in the world after the richer and more populous US Source: Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery She adds that most people in her circle have had work done. unemployed: Procedures so far: tummy tuck. says that “the question in Brazil is not why did you get plastic surgery.” In the past two decades the number of plastic surgery procedures in the country has risen dramatically. A 21-year-old niece – www. “Modifying the body is not something that provokes fear. According to the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery.html#axzz2LkDeZyvy 3/7 . it’s a symbol of wealth and modernity and sexuality. she says. She is now consulting plastic surgeons about a breast reduction. second only to the richer and more populous US. thigh liposuction 33. a social anthropologist at the Federal University of Rio de” Magno. smartly turned-out woman in pressed designer jeans and high-heeled sandals.” says Daniella Magno.” Mirian Goldenberg. I’ve got some good names.4% Percentage of Brazilian men who say they would consider aesthetic plastic surgery Source for highlighted data on this page: Brazil Confidential survey of a sample of 1. a tall. New York.” ©Fif i Tong Ali da Silva Vaz. My breasts are not what they were. has a reputation as something of a philosopher of his craft. Sinatra and Jacqueline Onassis. Planned procedures: breast implants. principally. a 42-year-old systems analyst from Salvador in northeast Brazil.124 Plastic surgery procedures performed in Brazil in 2011. it’s why didn’t you?” Nor is it a taboo subject. “They told me it would leave a big scar and they were not prepared to do it [but] I’m looking for other opinions. alongside novelists including Paulo Coelho.2/23/13 Boom and busts . 905.124 operations were carried out in Brazil in 2011. had surgery to flatten and straighten her tummy following the birth of the younger of her two children. It’s the opposite. “We all talk most about liposuction and putting in silicone. Her sister spent several thousand dollars on having her thighs surgically reduced and two close friends are paying for breast reductions.ft. he says. “If you have the means to do something about [your appearance] and you don’t look the part you are not being a proper defender of your class.

Brazilians tend to say it’s down to the country’s tropical climate. face cream. For one thing.” It is no coincidence that companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. falling unemployment. And my own empregada [maid] is dying to get her thighs reduced. Once socially marginalised. nail varnish www. “When two people ©Fif i Tong have the same qualifications but one of the two is slim and Dr Ivo Pitanguy: Brazil’s celebrated ‘pope of plastic fit there is no doubt who will be preferred. “She was very flat-chested and her parents paid for it. “When you have to be covered. you are a better observer of yourself. She is paying in I don’t know how many instalments. such people are now significant consumers. you don’t have to know much about your own body. “My mum’s cook paid to have her breasts reduced. however. social welfare programmes and a growth in the availability of credit have transformed the lives of poorer a dentistry student – has just had a breast augmentation. economic stability.2/23/13 Boom and busts . surgery’ “Generally speaking.” says Pitanguy. “Brazil is a country where people are much more exposed to the sun and often when you are more exposed. fully explains why plastic surgery is so much more popular in Brazil than anywhere else in the world.” It is demand from the less well-off that accounts for the surge in treatments. Marcelo Norio Inada. a plastic surgeon based in São Paulo.” says Inada. Since the early 1990s. younger people – such as Romeiro – are more likely to seek treatment. Spending on lipsticks.html#axzz2LkDeZyvy 4/7 . two of the principal competitors in the lucrative personal care market. with discreet facelifts and tummy tucks quite common. Guys with experience are doing all they can to keep themselves men don’t like to do plastic surgery but they adore it when people say they look young. deodorants and soap powder than their counterparts in similar middle-income countries. Brazilians spend more per head on products such as shampoos. a natural response to a lifestyle that allows fewer clothes – and lots of time on the beach. says competition for jobs is driving interest. Magno has noticed that poorer acquaintances are also having plastic surgery procedures. are big investors in Brazil – its personal care and cosmetics sectors are not just fast-growing but among the biggest in the world.” she says.” None of this. The plastic surgery market is growing in other ways as well. The Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery estimates that the average age of clients has fallen from 50 to under 30 in the past 10 years.FT. Men too are increasingly likely to undergo surgery.ft.

2/23/13 Boom and busts . these ideas changed again and nationalist is driven by Brazil’s mixed-race heritage governments started to defend Brazil’s mixed-race heritage. In Europe. heat and a passion for cosmetics. But in the late 19th century. Yet such pride in Brazil’s mixed-race identity was always ambiguous..ft. popular culture tended to favour – and still does – European facial characteristics.FT. later. surgeons saw themselves as fighting against “ugliness”. Portuguese colonists and settlers regularly found sexual partners among the indigenous populations and. among the millions of black African slaves forcibly brought to the country.. particularly among the new consumer classes. In 1933. says Jarrin. In line with the racist thinking of the day. the Brazilian historian Gilberto Freyre proposed that Brazil represented a new form of tropical civilisation in which its racial profile was a national asset. plastic surgery was developed to help soldiers mutilated in the first world war. It was in this context that Brazil’s plastic surgery industry emerged in the 1930s. In a piece written for a medical journal in 1998 he argued that plastic surgery www. . helping domestic cosmetics companies such as Natura and O Boticário to rank among the most successful businesses in the country. settlement and the formation of a multi-ethnic 5/7 ©Fif i Tong . Anthropologists such as Jarrin say that the importance of body image is intimately linked to a complicated pattern of colonisation. Pitanguy. Brazil’s white elites started to encourage immigration from southern Europe in order to deliberately “whiten” the and perfumes is also relatively high. As Brazil slowly moved towards democracy in the early Anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin says the surgery boom 20th century. they also hoped to “improve” its genetic characteristics. And although the official Brazilian aesthetic valued brown skin and the African body form. in Brazil. Unlike their more puritan Anglo-Saxon counter​ parts. who came to notice after treating hundreds of victims of a fire at a circus near Rio in 1961. and one that could help to harmonise social differences. takes a broader view. Yet the radicalism of the plastic surgery trend suggests that Brazil’s body culture has more complex roots than sun. because darker-skinned people in Brazil have consistently tended to be poorer than their fellow citizens.

But what you can say is that in a culture where women are valued for their bodies. they do it for themselves. Isabella Romeiro. it is hard to avoid the impression that body shape is just one more product to be bought off the shelf. He helped Brazilian victims of social inequalities and violence. She says that if she does get the implants in her bottom that she wants. the day-to-day succession of urban violence creates just as many mutilations as war. Even as Brazilian women are Planned procedures: breast implants playing a greater role in the workforce and sexual norms are becoming more liberal. who teaches English literature at the University of Ceará. his philosophy has reflected a society that values the free market and individual choice and where inequality is less acute.” ©Fif i Tong The grandmother of Isabella Romeiro helped pay for her thigh-reduction operation Mirian Goldenberg has a more nuanced view. she will need to alter the size of her breasts in order to make sure www. More recently. “We live in an era of permanent traumas. the idea that plastic surgery is simply a commodity like any however. women are “going backwards in this area”. point to a culture of sexist ©Fif i Tong body imagery in advertising. 21.FT. like a shampoo or face cream.” Meanwhile. says Lola Aronovich. For poorer Brazilians raised to equate what are perceived to be ugly physical attributes with low-grade work and few prospects. “We have not overcome our obsession with our body image. talking to Brazilians such as Márcia Valim or Isabella Romeiro. We still see a woman as someone whose principal function is to be pretty and decorative.” he wrote. Valim is thinking about a third operation. student: Procedures so far: thigh liposuction. they need to invest in their bodies [because] their bodies have more value.ft.html#axzz2LkDeZyvy 6/7 .” he says. one where plastic surgery can help individuals to realise their potential. however. and their sexuality. “When I speak to women who get plastic surgery they say that they don’t do it for men. Some feminist critics. Even so. Even if war created a greater concentration of it. This used to be a medical ethic about when you should and shouldn’t do plastic. the attractions of the consumer dream are powerful. the majority have always been against this kind of banalisation. “We plastic surgeons.2/23/13 Boom and busts .

Advertising optimism helps invigorate ITV Mozart: Piano Concertos 13 and 14 Egypt's wheat stocks down by half The Inventory: Ronaldo Street of shame On the ascent Westhouse counts the cost of expansion Hewlett-Packard: stop the red ink The wild style Changing channels: why TV has had to adapt www. Additional reporting by Lucinda Elliott and Cecilia Briones You may be interested in A new class of soap Paula Rego: The Dame with the Goat's Foot and Other her body is “in proportion”. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others.html Print a single copy of this article for personal 7/7 . London Immigration law fallout in American south Brain implants give rats sixth sense Carnival turns to web to sell cruising Expat lives: the London of Africa The BBQ activists Brazil: the first big 'soft' power Eastleigh looks to be a two-horse race A spa treatment for Brazilian corruption Printed from: http://www. ------------------------------------------Richard Lapper is director and Amy Stillman is a senior researcher at Brazil Confidential. but a bum like a Brazilian”. © THE FINANCIAL TIMES LTD 2013 FT and ‘Financial Times’ are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd. Marlborough Fine Art.2/23/13 Boom and busts .com/cms/s/2/1b9c3e98-7bbc-11e2-95b9-00144feabdc0.FT. an FT research service. Her ultimate aim? To have “breasts like an American woman.