1 Unless otherwise noted, all translations of Portuguese quotations from inter-
views and published material are my own.
2 Names are mostly pseudonyms. Exceptions are made for participants such as
Ester who appear in a photograph and agreed to be identiﬁed by name, for celeb-
rities discussing their public persona, and for surgeons who were interviewed
in their capacity as chief surgeon of a plastic surgery ward in a public hospital.
Fieldwork was conducted in Brazil during two extended periods in 1998–99
and 2000–1, as well as during shorter visits in 2003, 2006, and 2009.
3 Brazil subsequently slipped to second place in the rankings (after the United
States), though according to Veja, it has higher per capita rates of cosmetic sur-
gery than European countries. In 2004, 616,287 plastic surgery operations
were performed in Brazil, of which 59 percent were cosmetic (SBCP 2005).
4 By “beauty” I mean several related things: beauty industries broadly understood
(including plastic surgery, fashion, sexual allure as a central commodity in mass
media, advertising, the star system, etc.), beauty culture (the historically variable
traditions surrounding the aesthetics and erotics of the human form), beauty
work (body practices aiming to improve appearance), and physical attractiveness.
5 This comment was made during a seminar held at the Museu Nacional in Rio
6 Perhaps because many of these practices are so violent or harmful anthropolo-
gists seem to have felt a particular burden of interpretation. An image of a dan-
gling lip plug threatens to resurrect the image of the savage laid to rest by sen-
sitive ethnographic description.
7 The very plethora of commodities can also suggest a “feminine” extension of
pleasure and material prosperity. Jean Baudrillard argues that, “Utopian conti-
nuity and availability can only be incarnated by the female sex. This is why in