JOHNSTOWN – Sheldon Howard, the wellness and group exercise director at the Fulton County YMCA, has witnessed the accentuation of different body parts come in and out of style during his 30 years in the fitness industry.
Right now, in much of the Northeast, it seems to be all about the butt.
“I’ve seen the fads come and go and you often see them recycled under different names. You’ve had in this area the Brazilian Butt workout and the Bubble Butt workout before that, but I think what we’ve had recently is the Kardashian influence which has led to a resurgence in what they’re now calling the Big Booty Workout.” Howard said.
Last week, Kardashian was featured on the cover of “Paper Magazine” revealing her famous backside in an apparent attempt to “break the Internet.” This was only the latest in what appears to be a cultural trend toward a more bulbous derriere.
Nicki Minaj, for instance, raps about her “big fat” butt in “Anaconda.” And in the music video for “Booty,” Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea, wearing leotards, spend four minutes rubbing their curvy bottoms together. At one point, they slap each other on the booty.
All of this has given the U.S. booty business a big bump. Companies are cashing in on growing demand from women seeking the more curvaceous figures of their favorite stars, who flaunt their fuller rear ends.
Gym classes that promise a plump posterior are in high demand, padded panties that give the appearance of a rounder rump are selling out and a surgery that pumps fat into the buttocks is gaining popularity.
Howard said when he worked at the Prospect Park YMCA in Brooklyn he would often hear women ask him to help them look more like Kardashian, but in Fulton County most women seem to want more toning of muscles rather than size increase.
“In the NYC region this was very popular, but up here I don’t get as much of people talking about reality TV in terms of their exercise programs,” he said. “This is a body part that a lot of women, due to societal influences, are particularly sensitive about.
Personal trainer Kelly Preiss teaches some of the 60 exercise classes offered at the Fulton County YMCA. She said she has had some clients ask her to help them look more like Kardashian, but she said they are usually kidding. She said her best advice for women who want a more prominent buttock is for them to do squats and deadlifts.
“Some classes focus on different body parts. With women, yes, we’re all about our booty; we’re all about working our upper body, arms,” she said. “It’s about taking the body type that you have and working with it.”
Howard said that although he believes it is possible to increase the size of the gluteuss maximus through exercise, he said people should beware of over-hyped workout programs.
“The thing with the fitness industry is though that they often take a little bit of truth and exploit it and then they try to market it to an audience not necessarily knowledgeable in good fitness practice and they take advantage of people, so if I told you that you could get a very nice behind from a quality walking program you wouldn’t necessarily buy into that because it doesn’t have the same pizazz as something called the Big Booty Workout,” he said. “People ultimately return to scientifically based working out, which works better than anything else.”
As a result of the pop culture moment the butt is having, sales for Booty Pop, which hawks $22 foam padded panties on its website, are up 47 percent in the last six months from the same period a year earlier. The company, which declined to give sales figures, has sold out of certain styles and colors this year, including its Pink Cotton Candy Boy Shorts.
Susan Bloomstone, Booty Pop’s co-founder, says customers have asked for larger sizes. So, the Boston-based company plans to begin selling pads that are 25 percent larger this month. “People just want more booty,” she says.
Feel Foxy, another maker of padded panties, says 2014 has been its best year since launching nearly a decade ago. Sales are up 40 percent from a year ago, but the company declined to give sales figures.
“The Nicki Minaj song gave women the idea to pay attention to their rear end,” says Jessica Asmar, co-owner of the Houston company.
Dr. Jeff Rockmore, a plastic surgeon with the Plastic Surgery Group in Albany, said for years the only plastic surgery option women had for increasing the size of their buttocks were implants.
“I’ve put buttock implants in before and they would work OK, but the implant itself felt very firm and hard and it never really felt natural,” he said. “Now people are going to the fat grafts and going with something called the Brazilian Butt lift.”
Fat grafting, or fat transferring, is a procedure in which fat is removed from one part of a person’s body, typically undesirable areas like the stomach, hips or thighs, and injected into another body. When the fat is injected into the buttock the procedure is called the Brazilian Butt lift.
“They’ve come on over the past decade and they’ve been used with increasing frequency in a lot of different areas. Sometimes we use it to augment or revitalize parts of face; we use it on the breast, and also sometimes we use it to enhance the buttock,” Rockmore said. “In the Northeast Brazilian Butt lifts have grown tremendously and significantly over the past few years and I think it’s going to continue to become more popular.”
This type of surgery, along with buttock implants, was the fastest-growing plastic surgery last year, with more than 11,000 procedures, up 58 percent from 2012, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Rockmore said the fat grafting surgery is done as an outpatient procedure and typically costs between $5,000 and $6,000. He said the results are usually long-lasting.
“Not all of the fat will persist forever, but a significant proportion of it will and whatever is there after that is permanent and it lasts forever,” he said. “The take of the fat cells varies depending on the area, but the buttock is an area where it tends to do very well because there is a lot of vascularity in that area. I tell people somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of what we put in there will be permanent and typically thrive. And most people can have a significant amount of fat put in during a surgery from someplace, with the side benefit that we’re taking it out of someplace else in your body, so we’re able to sculpt there as well.”
Rockwell said some women come to him wanting to sculpt their behinds to resemble specific celebrities, including Kardashian.
“By injecting the fat precisely we can really sculpt to create the shape of the butt that the patient wants to have. Some women want a very round buttock. Some want it to be a little bit wider, some want both,” he said. “A lot of different looks can be achieved.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.