In 2010, personal trainer Jenelle Butler walked into a hotel room and paid a man $2,000 to inject nine shots of silicone into each of her butt cheeks.
At the time, cosmetic booty augmentations were at the precipice of becoming a mainstream trend. And for several years, Butler loved the way her butt looked. But after becoming pregnant with her third child, the Georgia mom had grown tired of living with the illegal enhancements.
"I started to have issues — not with anything health-wise, but my butt was just getting ginormous," Butler would later tell TV host Wendy Williams. "I mean, it was like as big as my belly."
So in 2017, Butler — who by then had hundreds of thousands of followers on her @getbodiedbyj Instagram account — announced on social media she planned to have the injections surgically removed. Producers at The Doctors, a CBS talk show produced by Dr. Phil, soon reached out and offered Butler some good news: If she agreed to appear on the program, they could hook her up with a plastic surgeon. Hoping to caution other women against getting the injections, Butler agreed.
Unfortunately, Butler says, the resulting injection removal went horribly awry. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, she alleges Constantino Mendieta, a Miami surgeon, botched the procedure by unnecessarily cutting blood vessels and causing her to lose "excessive amounts of blood." Immediately after the surgery, she was hospitalized and required a transfusion of three units of blood, according to her complaint.
And for nearly two months afterward, Butler alleges, her backside had "large open wounds." She claims she was left debilitated — unable to drive a car, bathe normally, sit on the toilet, or lift her children.
"The negligently performed surgery left Jenelle Butler in a state of misery and depression," the complaint reads. "The wounds left her unable to perform basic daily activities for extended periods of time."
Butler has since undergone three reconstructive surgeries, according to her lawsuit.
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I’m a strong Person but boy was my strength tested on another level... I couldn’t talk, walk, barely hear or see the first 48 hours after surgery. It had to be God that made me stronger. Along with My Children, My husband and my friends. There were days I put a smile on to avoid crying. Days I didn’t want to talk And many days I Contemplated suicide. My friends and husband didn’t even know how I truly felt. What I did behind closed doors. Alone. Those are thoughts I don’t wish on anyone... Its serious. ???????? I’m thankful I made it to the other side of this with the help of @albertogalleranimd • Love you @murrrogers
The lawsuit names as defendants Mendieta, his affiliated medical practices, and Stage 29 Productions, which produces The Doctors. Stage 29 did not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit and has not yet responded in court. In a statement emailed to New Times, Mendieta denied the accusations.
"The allegations made about me in the Jenelle Butler lawsuit are rife with inaccuracies, as will be established in court," the doctor wrote. "I will vigorously defend myself and the reputation that I have carefully built over 30 years as a board-certified plastic surgeon. I do not plan to make any further comment about the pending litigation."
(The Hollywood Reporter first reported on the lawsuit earlier this month.)
After the surgery, Butler shared her recovery process with her online audience. She appeared on a 2018 segment of The Wendy Williams Show to warn viewers about the dangers of silicone butt injections. Butler told Williams the injection-removal surgery had left her "like a handicapped person."
"Most doctors cut at the top near the lower back," Butler said on the show. "The way that I was cut, it went down the middle under the cheeks, and he opened me up like a book. So [he] scoop[ed] the silicone out, but he also took a lot of fat and tissue that I really needed, that was my natural stuff. So it left me really messed up and then I had infections, I had necrosis, and they had to dig out more dead tissue."
Butler's lawsuit contends that Stage 29 should have been aware Mendieta had been sued by a handful of former patients unhappy with procedures they'd undergone. In 2007, a woman who went to Mendieta for a facial rejuvenation procedure filed a lawsuit saying her face was disfigured in the process. (The case was dismissed in 2010.) A few years later, in 2012, another patient sued the surgeon for leaving behind a piece of medical equipment inside her left breast during surgery. (The parties reached a settlement in 2013.) And in August 2013, Miami radio DJ Betty Pino died after undergoing a butt-injection removal performed by Mendieta.
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Two months after Pino's death, Mendieta told New Times the silicone injections — not the removal surgery — were the true cause.
"The real story isn't the plastic surgery," the doctor said. "It's these injections."
He also defended his record of past lawsuits: "If you haven't been sued, you haven't been practicing long enough. It's a high-risk profession."
To date, no court hearings have been set in Butler's case. The suit was filed in Miami-Dade County but has since been moved to federal court in the Southern District of Florida.