Karissa Rajpaul was a 26-year-old aspiring social media star. She’d come to California from South Africa to pursue a career in the adult entertainment business. In 2019, she sought out the services of a mother-daughter team who were offering discounts on butt lifts via their Instagram accounts. The procedure, which is not the same as the increasingly popular but extremely risky Brazilian butt lift, involved injecting silicone and other chemicals under the butt muscle to give it a lifted appearance.
However, unlike the Brazilian butt lift, this silicon-injection procedure did not have FDA approval, and the mother-daughter team, Libby Adame, 51, and Alicia Gomez, 23, were not licensed to perform any kind of surgical or medical procedure.
The first two of Rajpaul’s procedures went off without a hitch. The third, tragically, ended in her death. During the procedure, Adame and Gomez realized something had gone terribly wrong and called 911. But then they left, which meant that when EMTs arrived, they didn’t know what had happened to Rajpaul and therefore could only guess at how to help her. The young woman died in an emergency room, where the doctors trying to save her never knew what she’d been injected with, or where.
The medical examiner’s office listed Rajpaul’s cause of death as a homicide due to “acute cardiopulmonary dysfunction and intramuscular/intravascular silicone injections.” Investigators reported that injecting liquid silicone into the body can cause embolisms. It’s extremely dangerous and not approved by the FDA.
Unapproved And Unlicensed — With No Training At All
“Silicone is not meant to be injected into the buttock or the breast, period. And the FDA says that,” plastic surgeon Dr. John Timothy Katzen told CBS2 News Los Angeles.
“These things are done by people with no training,” LAPD Detective Robert Dinlocker told CBS2 News. “There’s no standards, there’s no contingency if something goes wrong,”
Adame and Galaz had been performing the butt lift procedure since 2012, charging $3,500 to $4,000 per session and typically pushing clients to agree to commit to three sessions. Police said the pair had no training whatsoever, from what they could tell. Major arteries flow beneath the butt muscle, making it extra dangerous to attempt to inject anything in that area — especially uncontained silicone that Adame and Galaz had mixed with what investigators said were common household chemicals.
How Common Is This?
There are plenty of similarly horrific stories of women in particular getting various cosmetic procedures in an attempt to achieve a desired “look.” A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology noted that in 2013 alone, 28 lawsuits were filed reporting illegal cosmetic procedures that had resulted in injuries or death. Most of the 28 cases took place in Florida, Texas, and California, with procedures ranging from liposuction to face injections to butt injections, and injuries ranging from hospitalization to death to amputation.
28 seems a small number, but remember, this number only accounts for lawsuits filed. The study’s authors noted it’s only a “small snapshot of a much larger problem, as many cases are presumably not taken to the news or courts.” And this is still happening.
The Ugly Side Of Cosmetics Procedures
Though these illegal procedures performed by unlicensed amateurs are awful enough, the truth is, even a procedure performed by a skilled, authorized professional can go horribly wrong. In 2019, the same year that Rajpaul was conned into a procedure that killed her, Danea Plasencia of south Florida went in to a licensed facility with a qualified provider for a Brazilian butt lift and wound up dead. The Brazilian butt lift is a procedure in which fat is taken from an area of the body where the patient doesn’t want it and injected into the patient’s rear end to make it appear fuller and rounder.
But, according to Plasencia’s autopsy report, she died of a fat embolism — when a piece of fat enters the bloodstream and causes the person to stop breathing. And Plasencia wasn’t the only woman who died after receiving a Brazilian butt lift. More than a dozen other women had died following the procedure, according to NBC 6 News in Miami.
The series of deaths has at least brought forth a new law that would allow the state to immediately suspend a doctor’s license in the event of serious injury or death. The Florida Board of Medicine also voted to ban doctors from injecting fat into a patient’s muscle.
It’s Not Just Brazilian Butt Lifts That Are Harming People
Breast implant illness is also starting to become more recognized as people who have undergone breast augmentation suffer unexplainable, treatment-resistant illness — illness which mysteriously disappears upon removal of their implants.
Supermodel Linda Evangelista made national headlines recently when she spoke out about the Coolsculpting procedure that, due to a rare side effect called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), left her disfigured to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. She’s suing Zeltiq Aesthetics for $50 million, accusing them of negligence, misleading advertising, and failing to warn customers of potential side effects.
No one should be judged for wanting to alter their body or face in a way that will make them feel better. But please, please, if you’re looking into a procedure, do the research to ensure your practitioner is licensed and experienced. Don’t allow your excitement over the hoped-for outcome to keep you from looking at all the potential side effects. Make sure you’re getting the cosmetic procedure you’re actually paying for from someone who is qualified to do it — because, as we’ve seen, some of these procedures can literally kill you if done incorrectly. And sometimes, even when done correctly, you can still end up with a bad result. Any ethical plastic surgeon will be up front with you about this.
As for Adame and Galaz, the mother-daughter pair were released in the days after their arrest; their first court dates are this December.