Hourglass and coke bottle shapes: the prize and price



 The figure 8 is a number. The hourglass is a timer. The coke bottle is just a container that has solidified Coca-Cola as an international brand. And the “tapoli” is a local food masher in Ghana.

 But the meanings these items evoke are not limited to their usage anymore. They have become the yardstick or beauty metrics for the perfect female body.

There is no—and there might never be—any consensus on what constitutes beauty. In Ghana and most parts of Africa, however, curvy women and those with the right shapes and sizes at the right places carry very high price tags.

They trigger different emotions in both men and women. They attract lascivious looks from most men and paint some women green with envy, especially those whose sexuality is limited to the opposite sex.

In Ghana today, they are instant celebrities. They are influencers on social media. And in real life.  They influence many young women’s views on how they ought to look. The pressure to look a certain way is real.

Some curvy features are natural gifts, ascribed to their owners by nature. Others also acquire them. This is where some complications set in.

This “transformation” under the guise of “do what makes you comfortable” and the innate desire to look a certain way to be accepted as beautiful has its own challenges. But the benefits cannot be overlooked.

Some fine-shaped Ghanaian women who are into sales and marketing use their figures as marketing tools to sell their products. Rumour has it that some organisations, as part of their recruitment, require women of certain physical qualities to sell their brands. Automobile showrooms, and, to some extent mobile vending companies, make this obvious. But some don’t even need to be engaged by companies.

Do you want to become a celebrity? Enhance your physical features. Flaunt them on social media.  And you are good to go.

This seems to have become the easiest way out. Hard work appears to be for those young women—and in some cases young men—who do not have “anything” to show or cannot afford the cost of an enhanced body.

Physical qualities of women and some men are certificates to serve as influencers or brand ambassadors for products. Nothing appears to attract more eyeballs than a twerking celeb with a fat ass.

On TikTok, a chocolate-hued young Ghanaian woman has over a million followers, more than the social media followers of some big media houses. This has attracted the deep pockets of corporate Ghana. She advertises some products on mainstream media in addition to her social media pages.

Some people believe these so-called celebrities get featured in ads just because of their bodies. Whatever the argument, one thing is obvious. Those involved make money out of this business. It pays to have the shapes.

Why do some women need body enhancement?

A woman who enhances her body is definitely not content with or confident about what she has. A number of reasons account for the lack of confidence in one’s body.

Certain lifestyles alter body shapes and put excess fats in places that are not desirable.

Experts say health conditions such as fibroid and endometriosis, as well as, health procedures such as surgeries make women get bloated tummies and they may need to put in extra work to shed it off.

In a generation where body-shaming is a weapon used to attack women, especially on social media, some women enhance their bodies in order to enhance their confidence.

Childbirth has been known to be one of the ways through which women develop protruded bellies. This is due to the inability of most new mothers to effectively practice tummy tuck.

The obsessive desire for a curvaceous body has, therefore, increased across the world and pushed the demand for products and procedures in that regard over the roof.

The demand for botox, cosmetic and plastic surgeries have soared in recent times and that’s evident in statistics from the America Board of Plastic Surgery. This has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled most people to work from home.

Experts say the inactivity increased weight gain and the constant digital interactions made it easier for people to see themselves in the mirror and determine which parts of their body they found ugly enough to enhance.

While women tend to outnumber men when it comes to patronising these surgeries, some men do not want to be outdone. A recent revelation by a Ghanaian-born surgeon, Michael Obeng, indicates there is a surge in the number of men interested too.

He said men were getting perk implants to enhance their muscles. Potbellies which in the past was a sign of affluence is now seen as a sign of weakness and sickness. Gradually, one pack is giving way to six-packs.

How do people enhance their bodies?

The American Society of Plastic surgeons has rated the top five cosmetic surgeries to be breast augmentation, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tuck, with the first two increasing by 4% and 5% from 2017. As of 2018, these five surgeries remained the top five.

The year 2020 recorded a 6.8million reconstructive procedures suggesting a 3% increase from 2019.

In Ghana, there are no statistics on how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the desire for body enhancement. However, the practice has been growing for some years now and there are no signs of it abating any time soon.

A popular Ghanaian actress, Kisa Gbekle, recently disclosed that she had travelled to Turkey for tummy tuck surgery.

She is one of the few persons to openly confess to undergoing cosmetic surgery. She has boldly spoken about how confident she is in her new body and has gone ahead to delete photos of her old self from all her social media platforms.

The Advanced Bodysculpt Centre at Weija is a controversial facility in Ghana where body enhancements take place.

The head of the facility, Dr Dominic Obeng-Andoh, has been arrested on several occasions and accused of not having the required licences to practice, but that has not stopped people from going there. Others such as Kisa prefer to travel abroad for the service.

Surgery is not the only means by which body enhancement is done. Some use cream, soap, oil, herbal concoctions and other unlicensed products that have flooded the market.

With as cheap as GH₵5, one can enhance the physical features of the body. Some people swallow pills.  I also know people who relied on creams to enhance their butts and breasts.

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In search of fancy body shapes, many young people are falling on unapproved pills.     Credit: Austin Chronicle

There are costs associated with this apart from the money. For some, the risk is the least of the worries. Their focus is on how they look. But whether one cares about the risk or not, it can’t be wished away.

Dangers Involved

According to Kisa Gbekle, a social media influencer,  cosmetic surgery stripped her of her entire savings. After padding her butt, she later said she was broke.

But, at least, she has her body the way she wants it. Others have not been that lucky.

In 2018, a deputy chief executive officer of the National Entrepreneurship Innovation Programme reportedly died after she went for a liposuction procedure at the Advanced Bodysculpt Centre.

In 2013, 47-year-old Rex Fafa Dagoe, also died at the same facility when he went there for liposuction.

Across the world, beyond the deaths, some have had their bodies deformed.

If one has an underlying condition such as diabetes, the probability of one developing a blood clot in the legs or lungs during cosmetic surgery is high. That is why, in most cases, the person’s health history must be known.

Infections may also occur at the incision area, which may require a further surgical procedure, requiring additional cost in the process. There could also be abnormal scarring of the skin or nerve damage. This can cause permanent numbness in the affected area.

There are many documented claims of people losing their lives in the process. Once you decide to undergo surgery, you carry the burden of the outcome. Cosmetic surgeons have found a crafty way of giving themselves immunity. You are responsible for whatever happens in the theatre, they say in their patients’ consent forms.

In Ghana, there are no statistics on the number of people who have been disfigured or lost their lives while undergoing cosmetic surgery, but there are known cases.

The dangers are real and could become a public health crisis if the sector is not well regulated. The reason is simple. The health delivery system in the country is very poor and Ghana can currently boast of just about 12 qualified cosmetic and plastic surgeons in the entire country.

Psychologists and surgeons fear that many patients do not fully grasp the gravity or potential risks of cosmetic operations.

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Whether face or butt, cosmetic surgeries do go bad sometimes.   Credit: The Sun

“People think it’s like going out to lunch,” said Anne Wallace, the Chief of Plastic Surgeons at the University of California. “Like any surgery, it needs to be taken seriously,” the Forbes Magazine quoted her as saying.

The way forward

Exercising is one key way to reduce body fat. It is about the safest means to improving one’s health and fitness, and not just the body shape.

Nutritionists advise good eating habits as one of the means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If it is extremely important to resort to body artificial body enhancement, properly licensed practitioners should handle it because it can be a matter of life and death.


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The writer, Adwoa Adobea-Owusu, is a journalist with The Fourth Estate.


  1. Good one there

    You said it all.

    “If it is extremely important to resort to artificial body enhancement, properly licensed practitioners should handle it because it can be a matter of life and death.”


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