In a 2010 YouTube interview, Katy Perry was asked to relay one shocking thing about herself that most people didn’t already know. Her response: “Well, my boobs are real.” The interviewer applauds. At the start of this decade, apparently, a natural bosom was still a badge of honor for a young starlet.
Fast forward to 2015 and Iggy Azalea doesn’t care who knows about her new boob job. In a recent interview with Vogue, the Australian rapper comes out about her breast augmentation. She says that she has thought about having “bigger boobs” for her “entire life” before getting the implants a few months ago.
Something big is changing in the world of female celebrity and, no, it’s not just their cup sizes. After decades of disrepute, the boob job might no longer be a big deal. Finally.
For women who are damned if they do, damned if they don’t—shamed for not having the perfect shape and shamed for trying to acquire the perfect shape—the destigmatization of the boob job is a definite good thing.
But we’re not quite there yet. Azalea seems to be making headlines this week not necessarily because she got cosmetic surgery but because she is being surprisingly forthright about it. That bodes well for things to come but, for now, we’re still getting used to the idea that famous women can be open about breast augmentation.
“Four months ago, I got bigger boobs! I’d thought about it my entire life,” she told Vogue.
For Azalea, the decision to go bigger seems simple: she wanted something and she got it. No guilt, no shame—just boobs. That’s a kind of candor we’re not used to hearing from female celebrities when it comes to questions of breast augmentation.
It wasn’t long ago that the accusation of fake breasts carried more weight. Gossip blogs have long been full of speculation about who did and who didn’t modify their bodies in what way.
There were those vicious rumors, for example, that Britney Spears had breast implants at age 16 to help jumpstart her career. For a star like Spears, who first built her image as an authentic girl next door, the rumor had more bite to it than it does in the present age of postmodern glamor.
In a sense, then, Azalea’s admission is a brilliant strategy for a new era of pop culture: no one can accuse you of something to which you’ve already confessed.
But it’s more likely that the Aussie rapper is simply more comfortable being unguarded than the Southern pop princess. As she told Vogue, she’s not “into keeping secrets.”
And Azalea’s honesty about her boob job may be a refreshing new norm for rising female stars. Last year, Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco was loud and proud about her controversial choice to get breast implants at age 18, calling it “the best decision [she] ever made.”
And Kourtney Kardashian speaks about her own implants with the level of transparency that has come to be expected of her surname. A few years back, she told Nightline, “I have had breast implants, but it’s so funny 'cause it’s not a secret, I could care less.”
What is this strange new world where pop stars are so blasé about something that was once a shameful secret? Why are they speaking so openly about a subject that they once left to the tabloids?
It would be too easy to chalk this new boob job honesty up to millennial narcissism or to the rise of confessional culture. Charges of vanity aren’t exactly novel when it comes to criticizing the Kardashian clan and Iggy Azalea is no stranger to charges of self-obsession—the New York Daily News, for example, called her first hit “narcissism masquerading as independence.”
But let’s cut through that thinly-veiled misogyny and call this cultural shift what it is: women finally being open about what they want after years of being shamed for not achieving perfection through natural means.
However you feel about their music, for instance, Iggy “I Got Bigger Boobs” Azalea seems a lot more friendly than Katy “My Boobs Are Real” Perry. Based solely on their attitudes towards their own boobs, Azalea seems like someone you’d want to share a Cosmo with and Perry seems, well, more like someone you’d secretly want to throw a drink on at a party.
Last year, Perry continued to brag about her natural bosoms in a GQ cover story that now seems almost moralistic next to Iggy’s earnest Vogue profile.
“I’ve never had any plastic surgery. Not a nose, not a chin, not a cheek, not a tit,” Perry told the magazine. “So my messages of self-empowerment are truly coming from an au naturel product.”
But talking about “self-empowerment” while bragging about being “au naturel” in the same breath sends a dangerous mixed message. Women are under just as much pressure to be natural as they are to be perfect. If anything, it might be more comforting to hear that Perry had some work done so that we could rest assured that her beauty truly is out of reach.
Elsewhere in the GQ interview, Perry says that she “prayed to God” for bigger boobs before looking down and adding, “God answered my prayers.”
Not all of us can rely on the grace of God to grow an ample chest. When it comes to beauty, a lot of women feel like Left Shark: we’re not perfect, but we’re trying really hard. Perry claiming that she’s a Right Shark without even practicing isn’t “self-empowerment.” In fact, it runs the risk of shaming the many women who do want some extra help in the breast department.
According to FiveThirtyEight, women in the United States have received an estimated 300,000 or more breast augmentation procedures every year since the early 2000s. Based on these figures, they estimate that about 4 percent of adult American women have had breast implants at some point. That’s not a huge percentage but it’s a lot more than just pop princesses.
Wanting breast augmentation might not be “natural,” but it is certainly normal.
And that’s why hearing Azalea talk about it like it’s no big deal is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Pay no attention to the old-school feminist hand-wringing over body modification: If you don’t want a boob job, great. If you want a boob job, also great.
Observing the residual shadow of shame around admitting to having breast augmentation surgery, let’s not forget women were once also stigmatized for using hair dye.
As The New York Times noted in an obituary for Shirley Polykoff, the ad writer behind the famous ''Does she ... or doesn't she?'' slogan, only 7 percent of women dyed their hair in the mid-1950s. Now, almost everyone’s hair color depends on a bottle.
If Iggy Azalea shouting “I got bigger boobs!” takes us a step closer to a world where getting a boob job is as unremarkable as dyeing your hair, then bring on the bigger boobs.