It's thanks to the genius of saline and silicone.
To be sure, breast implants are on the rise everywhere. In 1992 there were 32,000 breast implants in the United States. Last year that number had soared to more than 300,000. But in beauty-obsessed Miami, the trend is even more pronounced. After all, the place was inspiration for plastic surgery television shows like Nip/Tuck and Miami Slice. Get-a-free-set contests (like one run by this newspaper) are oh-so-ordinary here. And bargain-basement deals and financing plans are pitched used-car style: The average price of an American breast job was $3373 in 2005; in Miami you can find them for $1999!
Although the American Society of Plastic Surgeons doesn't keep stats on the number of implants in each city, some local implantologists believe Miami might even exceed traditional silicone hotbeds like Los Angeles and Las Vegas as the Fake Breast Capital of the United States.
For one, we're stuffed with plastic surgeons there's one for every 28,500 of us (in La-La land, they make do with one per 43,000). Moreover we're a fake-boob destination. Dr. Onelio Garcia, a Hialeah cosmetic surgeon and former president of the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons, who has performed breast augmentations for more than twenty years, says women from all over the world come here to have their breasts done.
Garcia also notes that Mentor Corp., one of two major implant-makers, has a sales rep dedicated exclusively to Miami-Dade County. In some parts of the country, Garcia says, a rep covers a four- or five-state area. (Mentor declined to comment about its sales force staffing, but a spokesperson acknowledged that Miami is a good market.)
Here in the Magic City, fake breasts went mainstream long ago. They aren't just for strippers, party girls, and wannabe actresses. Some parts of the area might have, in fact, passed the tipping point. Local pornographer and breast aficionado Jay Steele says if you're at some top-drawer clubs in Miami Beach, "it's weird not to have fake breasts...." He estimates that, in such scenes, more than 80 percent of the breasts are fake.
There is an obvious explanation for our exceptional love affair with the implant: Skimpy clothes are de rigueur in our steamy clime. We're beach-oriented, body-conscious. "Why would you get them in Minnesota?" Garcia asks. "You're all wrapped up for nine months of the year."
This is true for all of Florida, of course. But Garcia adds there's another reason why Miami might be uniquely implant-friendly even more so than Orlando, Jacksonville, or Tampa. It's the Latin factor. "Miami is part of Latin America. And in Latin America, cosmetic plastic surgery is enormously popular."
Or, says Steele, a native New Yorker, "Let's put it this way. If you live down here for two years, there's a good chance you'll have fake breasts."
Before talking about basketball-size breasts, the spike in teenage breast jobs, and the pros and cons of silicone versus saline, he first needed to explain how he got his nickname, Doctor Boobner.
"I didn't intend to do this...," said the Coral Gables plastic surgeon, whose real name is Dr. Leonard Roudner. And no, Roudner added, shaking his head emphatically: "I don't have any particular interest in breasts."
The sequence of events that catapulted the Melbourne, Australia native to Boobner status began in a Chicago hospital in October 1978. Since then, he's completed more than 10,000 jobs, breasting up celebrities, centerfolds, socialites, and porn stars. Clients have come to Coral Gables from Latin America, Europe, Asia.
It all began when Roudner, then a resident in cosmetic surgery at Cook County Hospital, attempted a new way of inserting silicone implants. Instead of making an incision under the breast, the usual method, he entered through the nipple area and under the muscle. It was a breakthrough. The benefit: minimal scars. The practice, called periareolar submuscular augmentation, now standard in the boob business, was heralded in a medical journal. (He didn't invent the process, but was among the first practitioners.)
And a few years later, after Roudner moved to Miami ("Not because it was a good plastic surgery town," he says. "I just like Miami."), he quickly gained a reputation for his then-novel technique. "I was the only one doing this at the time," he says.
The approach was particularly popular here. "Think about it," Roudner says. "Girls sunning at the beach.... When they're laying down, you could see a scar underneath their breasts. They didn't want that."