TAMPA — Online forums have a way of bringing together people with unique interests. Like knitting, for instance. Or cosmetic butt injections.
On a Topix.com forum dedicated to the quest for big, big butts, women look for "hookups" to get what they want: I need a booty asap, writes Needs Booty Bad from Brooklyn.
There's no talk of bun-busting exercises. In thousands of posts, women say the remedy is a shot — make that, dozens of them — with an illegal silicone solution to grow their bottoms to look like J-Lo's, round and bubbly, or hip-hop model Buffie "the body" Carruth's, which might be called epic.
Buffie is to the butt what Pamela Anderson was once to the breast — a yardstick for "sexy," out of reach for average women.
In a 2005 MTV interview, rapper Ludacris said Jessica Simpson was flawless except for one thing: "I would get her a bunch of little butt shots."
Women are dying for that ideal.
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Andrea Nicole Lee is 30, and she's on dialysis at Town & Country Hospital. Her kidneys: damaged. Her lungs: damaged. Her butt — well, that's not as important anymore.
Lee and her friend Zakiya Thema Teagle, 33, researched butt injections online, and heard through word of mouth that a Thonotosassa woman gave them.
Because the silicone solution is illegal to inject, the shots are often administered at private "pumping parties" by strangers who have no medical experience.
Sharhonda Lindsay, 32, met the women at Lee's home on Jan. 29, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies say. Lee paid $500 for 40 shots. Teagle paid $250 for 20.
After Lindsay left, the pain began. The women are still hospitalized with internal injuries. Teagle is stable; Lee is in serious condition.
Lee's mother, Doretha Belnavis, has no idea why her daughter agreed to such a procedure. "She's a beautiful girl."
Belnavis tries not to ask her daughter too much about it — "it makes her sick to her stomach." Her daughter is having nightmares. All Lee says is she's sorry.
Lindsay turned herself in to deputies Wednesday, after an arrest warrant was issued. Charged with two counts of practicing medicine without a license, she paid $5,000 bail and walked out of jail an hour later.
Investigators are still trying to figure out what she injected into the two women.
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It's hard to quantify how many people are risking their lives for bigger butts. Those people are unlikely to report adverse reactions, says Siobhan DeLancey, spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In 2001, a Miami woman died after silicone was illegally injected into her breasts and butt. And in 2006, University of Texas doctors studied 44 women and transgender men who suffered from pulmonary embolism resulting from injections in different body parts. A quarter died.
"I see more disasters in the buttocks than in any other part of the body," says Dr. Anthony Griffin, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon famous for his Brazilian butt lift.
He administers anesthesia and injects liposuctioned fat between butt muscles. He says human fat contains collagen and stem cells that help the butt keep its shape.
But his safer procedure costs $15,000 to $20,000. And he'll only do it to women who have enough extra fat to inject into their butts.
Doctors say women desperate for cheap filler are allowing people to inject them with unknown substances that could have been purchased from other countries or even at a hardware store.
If injected haphazardly, the liquid can seep into the bloodstream and nerves.
"I'm seeing all these patients with just ridiculous amounts of stuff injected that suddenly comes to the surface of the skin," Griffin says. "One lady from Texas — I basically had to cut it out."
The horror stories aren't sexy. The women on the forums read right past them. They talk of looking good in Apple Bottom jeans, designed by rapper Nelly.
And they talk of Buffie, whose backside has graced covers of magazines titled Smooth and FlyGirl, and music videos of songs titled So Seductive and Oh Yes.
"Being able to buy a new house, buy a new car — it's all because of my butt," Buffie said in an interview with the Times. "If I was on the other side of the fence, if I had seen another girl did all of this because she had a nice shape, nice booty … I would want a booty too."
Buffie knows all about the shots. Women in the Atlanta club where she used to dance got them, she said. None got sick.
Still, she says it's not worth it.
"I know I wouldn't have risked my life to be on the cover of a magazine," she said.
Buffie says that when women e-mail her every day for butt advice she urges exercise. But she doesn't condemn legal plastic surgery, like butt implants.
Her own butt? She insists it's real.
Her breasts, however …
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354. Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which also used information from Times wires.