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On one level, this should have been a good development – especially for black women.

Ever since Sir Mix-A-Lot made a rap song praising women with figures that didn’t resemble an adolescent boy’s, ever since Jennifer Lopez’s butt began to attract more attention than her acting, and especially since Serena Williams and First Lady Michelle Obama’s curves changed the game on healthiness and sexiness, having a shapely backside has become something to be celebrated.

As I said, this should have been a good thing – especially since over the ages, black women’s posteriors have been the stuff of freak shows and racially-tinged ridicule.

In Cuba, figurines of coal black women with protruding, cartoonish backsides are still sold. And who can forget about Saartjie Bartmann, the Hottentot Venus?

I wrote about Bartmann four years ago. A British ship captain brought the South African woman to London in the late 1700s, dressed her in a skin suit, and put her on display where spectators could touch and inspect her protruding backside.

Bartmann ultimately wound up in Paris where, according to information compiled by, she was further exhibited until the Parisians grew tired of her. She turned to prostitution to survive, and it is believed that she either died of alcoholism or syphilis.

Bartmann was only 25. And the humiliation didn’t end with her death. Her remains were preserved and put on display in a Paris museum until the government finally returned them to South Africa for a proper burial in 2002.

All of which brings me to today’s column.

In an era in which black women’s natural curves are being celebrated as part of being natural, it’s disturbing to see how some black women are doing unnatural things that could kill them – all to turn themselves into the freak show that Bartmann was forced to be.

Last year Shatarka Nuby, 31, died as a result of complications from being injected with cement, mineral oil, Super Glue and flat tire sealant to get a larger butt. The fake doctor who injected her, Oneal Ron Morris – a transgendered woman with fake, cartoonish-looking hips and buttocks – has since been charged with manslaughter in her death.

Another black woman also became extremely ill after being worked on by Morris. According to news reports, the woman sought a bigger backside because she wanted to work in a nightclub.

In other words, to be on display.

Dying For Curves  was originally published on

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