Expectations of Black Women

Anyone with a social media account has surely stumbled upon women with the “ideal look”—an hourglass figure, flawless makeup, straight white teeth, and silky hair. This image is portrayed often; however, a vast majority of women do not fit this mold. When stepping into the real world, there is more variety and realism. But with technology more and more accessible than ever, the constant imagery of people who seemingly have it all starts to take a toll. Soon, insecurities are taken advantage of by the promotion and normalcy of plastic surgery.

The History of the Ideal Body

Before taking that step, it is important to realize that beauty standards have never been stationary. During the Italian Renaissance period around the 15th century, having a fuller body was seen as a symbol of wealth and beauty. Today, some countries such as Fiji continue to idealize bigger bodies, but many are influenced by Western ideals of beauty which values thinness. In the Roaring 1920s, the standard was having short hair, being thin, and being boyish. In Hollywood’s Golden Age (1930s), the hourglass body was the ideal as it is today. From the 1960s to the 1990s, it was the era of “modeldom”—thin, tall, toned, and androgynous bodies were popular. Now in the 21st century, the hourglass body has emerged victorious once again. But even this has begun to shift again as celebrities such as K. Michelle and Blac Chyna opted to remove their BBLs (Brazilian Butt Lift) and butt injections for thinner figures and healthier bodies.

Modern Ideals and Their Effect on Mental Health

In various places such as social media posts and music, Black women are praised when they have a “slim-thick” body type. These women model in the music videos of popular hip-hop/rap songs and successful women in the industry have the same body type. But what is not often considered is that the hourglass body type is hard to achieve naturally and is not something that many people are born with. As such, many of the women online get cosmetic procedures and edit their photos to achieve it.

Yet the highlight reel of social platforms paints a picture of conventionally attractive women living lavish lives. This is detrimental to the mental health of women who don’t fit into that mold. This leads to a slippery slope of finding ways to change to feel more confident and have better opportunities in life, thus fueling the normalcy of plastic surgery culture. But this is as unhealthy as it is dangerous. 

The Dangers of Illegal Procedures

Many women are under the notion that something is wrong with them and that it can be fixed with a single payment worth thousands of dollars. But more often than not, they won’t be satisfied with only one procedure. If the internal conflict is not first addressed to identify the root of the insecurity, then they are going to find another flaw to nitpick and fix. Additionally, these surgeries are not cheap, meaning alternative (often illegal) means are sought out. As instances online depict such as the tv show Botched and, recently, TikTok veneer tech scams, it is easy to let desperation cloud judgment. According to data collected between 2009 and 2022, at least 92 U.S. women between the ages of 17-69 have died after going to the Dominican Republic to receive plastic surgery. These deaths are not widely reported and are likely higher. Cases that don’t result in death usually lead to infection and disfigurement as is the case for Apryl Michelle Brown who lost her limbs after getting illegal butt inflections.


It is essential to receive professional mental health support before committing to any plastic surgery. If plastic surgery is still being considered, then thorough research should be done to ensure that the surgeon performing the procedure is a licensed professional with stellar reviews. But it is vital that one comes to accept their flaws first and foremost, if not love them completely. Being imperfect is the beauty of humanity.

Written By

Makaya Davis

Makaya is currently a senior studying English at Jackson State University. She aspires to become an author and editor upon graduating.