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Friends, co-workers, classmates even relatives don't know. Maria, who graduated with a degree in biology from a local college, is prepping to apply to medical school. When choosing her size, she considered her professional aspirations. "A doctor with boobs like Pamela Anderson? No way," she says, cringing at the thought.
Then why spend $5000 on a surgery no one will notice? She glanced down at the floor, growing red. "I was sick of wearing a training bra."
Maria never would have considered a boob job as a teen growing up in Miami. The daughter of a conservative Nicaraguan family, she didn't think highly of women with implants.
But Maria had an aching insecurity. She wasn't happy with her flat chest. "I thought I was late bloomer," she says. "But it never changed." So she used push-up bras to give the illusion of bustiness. Then the turning point: About two years ago, she talked with a friend at a party who openly mentioned she had fake breasts. "They looked great," Maria recalls. "They looked real." She encountered other normal, intelligent women who had been augmented."They weren't like Pamela Anderson. They were professionals."
The stereotype of the ditzy implant girl was crumbling. And a little more than a year ago, after some research, she decided to do it. "I just wanted them to look as natural as possible."
The change was small an increase from an A to a midsize B. And because she had been using push-up bras already, her newly augmented breasts didn't really modify her appearance.
Her life hasn't changed profoundly, she says. Men didn't begin staring at her in a new way. But as Maria talks about the post-implant life changes the one-year anniversary just passed her voice grows steadier. "I like the way my clothes fit better.... I feel more comfortable in a bathing suit.... I feel more attractive and confident."
She didn't get implants, she says, to attract men. "It's for myself."
The goal in high-fashion modeling is to make the viewer focus on the clothes, not the breasts, says Ron Gerard, director of the Miami Beach office of elite fashion agency Next Model Management. Next, which has offices in Paris, Milan, London, and New York, is one of the world's largest agencies, providing models for high-end clients such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Fendi.
Although implants are commonplace in high-fashion work, Gerard, who has represented thousands of women over the past two decades, says there is still a preference in the industry for real ones. "The educated client can tell."
That said, he adds, good implants will do the job and can greatly enhance a model's marketability. A lot of girls don't want to do it, he says, but in this business, your body is your livelihood and clients are looking for a specific size. "A girl can sometimes double her income after getting implants."
The optimal bust size for an elite model these days is a full B, Gerard says. "Never a D, at biggest a full C."
A flat-chested size A (Kate Moss) or a small B is perfectly fine for high-fashion runway modeling in Paris or New York, he says. But the problem is that's too small to carry lingerie work. To show off underwear, they need larger breasts.
Gerard says the reason clients over the past five years have increasingly looked for larger breasts the full B is economics. It's tough times for retailers. "They don't want to pay for two models anymore," he says. "They want a girl who can do both fashion and lingerie."
After speaking with many enthusiastic implantees, New Times decided to pay an undercover visit to a randomly selected cosmetic surgeon in Miami-Dade. Initially it was a routine doctor visit: The physician came in, conducted a brief interview, inspected the patient, offered some preliminary thoughts on size and shape. There were some brief murmurs about the properties of saline, some calming words about safety and scars.
Then came the I-might-be-at-a-car-dealership part. After we were escorted into another room, a sales assistant, who was sporting implanted double Ds herself, showed some samples. Surprisingly the fake-breast catalogue was not a collection of generic, sexless, faceless models. It was a porn mag.
We were briefed on the pricing ($3500 to $6000) and financing options, and warned it would be wise to schedule an appointment early because it's busy.
Meanwhile, in an adjacent office, a thirtysomething woman with long, pulled-back hair and high heels, accompanied by her preteen daughter, was chatting with another double-D sales assistant. At one point Mom spotted a fetching set of breasts in her porn magazine. She turned to her daughter and showed her a picture, waiting for feedback. The daughter reeled in revulsion, covering her eyes.
While leaving, we encountered a group of college-age youths, also leaving a consultation. The group included two muscular guys, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue types; and their lady friend, a chatty Latina who appeared to be about twenty years old. The girl was distressed. Her consultation did not go as planned. The doctor had balked at her request. She wanted D-size breasts, but her frame couldn't carry them. "The doctor said I'd be eating off them," she snickered to her guy friends.
This girl, however, was committed: She vowed to check with another doctor.