With stories of black market butt injections making recent headlines — complete with horror stories and police crackdowns — many are left to wonder how young women could allow themselves to be injected with unknown substances or potentially unclean needles.

30-year-old Vanity Wonder details her own experiences with butt injections and other life stories while working as an exotic dancer in Detroit in her new book, Shot Girls, out this week. She spoke with theGrio about some of those experiences and the surprisingly persistent trend.

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theGrio: Mainstream America tends to applaud smaller, less curvier frames. What made you want yours bigger?

Vanity Wonder: It was just something to do. I grew up in a predominately white area, and still do. There were five black kids in my graduating class. Growing up, the ideals were slender, petite, slender, petite. I was a size 00. It was never like I was around girls with big butts, and saw they got attention, so I needed it. I was young and I was stupid and it was something to do.

And then what happened?

Then, it morphed into something else. It morphed into, ‘Wow, people are now noticing me. People are now saying something about me.’ It morphed into pure addiction, without a doubt. It was bigger than ‘Oh, I’m getting attention.’

I had always been that person just cracking jokes and making everyone laugh. Then, I couldn’t walk into a Starbucks without people taking pictures.

For the first six, maybe eight months, it was the best. And then I was so sick of it.

How many inches did your hip circumference increase? And, after how many injections?

I didn’t really measure my hips beforehand. But, I was a size 1 at my biggest, and now I can’t fit into anything less than a size 15. I don’t know the exact number of injections. It was definitely no less than 16 times and no more than 20.

You gotta understand something about butt shots. The first time, you can’t tell. The second time, you can’t tell. The third time, ehh. The fourth time people start to say, ‘OK, I think she got butt shots.’ And, even with all of my education and feeling superior to the girls I worked with, I still didn’t understand anything about addiction. If you don’t know, how can you be looking for it?

Do you feel like pop stars like Nicki Minaj are putting an unhealthy image out there for young women to aspire to have unrealistically larger butts?

I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think Nicki Minaj is doing anything other than being Nicki Minaj. I am in a place of no judgment because I don’t like when people judge me. I don’t know her. I don’t know what she’s done to her butt.

I think that if somebody is mentally ill enough to watch you live your life and want to be like you, that’s not on you. People are gonna copy because they like her, she’s beautiful, she’s talented. That doesn’t make it her fault.

And, if a guy looks at Vanity Wonder and says, ‘You gotta compete with that in order for you to mess with me,’ you should move on to the next. But for you to instead get in the running with me, says a lot about you.

In the book, you talk about how the discussion of butt injections went from “a campfire to a small brush fire quickly” among the girls, once you first got injected. With the legal issues and deaths surrounding these injections, is interest dying down?

No, they’re gonna keep doing it. A lady who was shooting girls up here, she got indicted. She’s going to jail. After she was indicted, you could read about it online. It came out that she was shooting stuff from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

And, girls were still letting her shoot them up.

That is the sickness of this. They don’t care. Any time a woman looks in the mirror and says, “I don’t like this. I don’t like that,” the problem is inside each individual person. It’s so big.

This has been going on for an extremely long time. The lady who shot me up, got shot up herself in the 1990s. It was grown women back then. Now you have 16- and 17-year-olds stripping and getting shot up. The youngest I’ve ever seen was 17, and her mother brought her.

theGrio: Young women fall victim to deadly cosmetic procedures

The older generation of ladies feel like the younger generation is messing it up, saying “Y’all getting these crazy sizes. This is something we ought take to our grave. Our men don’t even know about it.” Now, younger women are out saying, “Yeah, I got butt injections, so what?”

As long as competition is around, women aren’t going to stop coveting better bodies. If we could break all the mirrors in the world, then maybe butt shots will go away.

Did you ever find out what was injected in you?

She told us it was soybean oil. Come on. I wanted to believe it back then. That was 2006. To this day, I don’t know what that lady used. It could be anything. It could be cat pee and hot dog juice {Wonder chuckles}. But, every time after that, I was injected with silicone [by a different woman].

Did you have any complications?

Yes, you can read more about them in the book. But, they were enough to make me go to the doctor.

You are rare for saying you got the injections for you, not to attract men or for what other people thought. Are you still happy with what you see in the mirror?

It was an adjustment process. When I first started getting them done, I would walk past a mirror and I would double take.

For a while, when I was out with my sons, I would have to dress in size 2X jogging pants and big shirts to make it look like I’m fat and not that I have a big butt so people will leave us alone. That was then. Even now, I’ll see something nice that I want to wear that I used to be able to fit.

But at the end of the day, I don’t have no beef with what I did. If I had beef, I would have left it how it was.

Is there anything anyone could have said back that would have made a difference in your decisions?

I don’t think so.

What do you want people to know [about Vanity Wonder]?

My book is 100 percent true. It took me two years to write this book because it took me two years to come to grips with what I put in it.

I’ve never done anything to my body to please a man. Ever. I focus on my two sons. We have soccer practice. I put 100 percent into my kids because there was zero time and effort put into me.

When you get the book, you will see. I had a problem with ecstasy. It was something to do. I didn’t grow up in a household where people were drinking or smoking. I just wasn’t around that.

But, having a void when you’re growing up does make you do certain stuff in the second part of your life. I’m not claiming victim. But, that does go into making you who you are. I learned my lesson, and I’m not going to be [to my sons] how I was done.

Last words?

[Butt injections] are not going anywhere. And I’m not the bad guy out here making everybody get more shots.

There’s a lot to be said for the ones that go get them, but there’s a lot to be said for the people who ostracize. It doesn’t mean you have to be so nasty and uncouth to let me know your displeasure. My butt shots don’t impact anyone who doesn’t live in my house.

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