Plastic surgery draws locals and tourists to fine tune their looks in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO –– Dr. Rodrigo Mangaravite’s face lights up when he talks about giving someone a new nose.
“I love nose jobs,” Mangaravite, a prominent plastic surgeon in Rio, says. “One millimeter makes a big difference.”
Like so many others in Rio, he is fixated on aesthetics.
Based in Rio’s chic Ipanema neighborhood, Mangaravite specializes in rhinoplasty, more commonly known as the nose job. He says he adores making someone feel better about his or her appearance, no matter what the surgery may be.
Along with giving patients new and improved noses, he performs tummy tucks, facelifts, liposuctions and more. Even though nose jobs are his specialty, he gets gratification from any procedure as long as the patient leaves feeling better about him or herself.
Often referred to as the plastic surgery capital of the world, Brazil’s surgeons are seeing more residents and tourists than ever before –– especially in the wake of a rising obesity trend.
Though in the U.S., cosmetic surgery is commonly regarded as a procedure for the well-to-do, in Brazil plastic surgeons feel that people have the right to beauty regardless of socioeconomic status. At the Santa Casa de Misericordia hospital in Rio, all it takes is filling out an application, and a Carioca – as natives of Rio are known – can obtain low-cost cosmetic surgery, says Mangaravite.
He believes that as Brazilians become heavier, more will seek out gastric bypass procedures, and in turn, tummy tucks afterward. Along with surgeries to make people appear thinner, breast lifts and implants are extremely common, he adds.
Some public hospitals will perform plastic surgery on Cariocas without any cost, he says. At these hospitals, students from colleges specializing in plastic surgery perform on patients with the supervision of a professional surgeon, Mangaravite says.
“People don’t get nervous getting surgery from students,” says Mangaravite, who has been performing plastic surgery for 12 years. “It’s not a student that just came out of school. Whoever is performing the surgery has already done two years of general surgery and is now specializing in plastic surgery.”
A matter of attitude
Though the thought of free plastic surgery would probably make some American jaws drop, Rio residents insist it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Plastic and cosmetic surgery here is seen as a casual procedure, says Tauska Santos, a fitness instructor and personal trainer at Ipanema’s NBfit gym.
“People are not embarrassed by it,” Santos says casually. “It’s normal, at least with the people I’m around all the time. They’ll go, ‘oh, which surgeon did you do that with? Which doctor do you go to?’ It’s really common here in Rio.”
So common, in fact, that young couples in Rio often do something called the “sand test,” says Michael Boeckle, owner of Cosmetic Vacations –– a plastic surgery company that schedules and organizes appointments for tourists and Brazilians alike.
“When you date, there’s a test called the sand test,” Boeckle says, explaining that in Rio, seeing a boyfriend or girlfriend in a bathing suit for the first time is a significant moment. “You take your date to the beach, because you want to see the whole thing.”
Though the concept might seem strange, Boeckle insists the sand test is normal in Rio, because the body shape and fitness are a primary concern for the coastal city’s beach culture. He says that most often, Brazilians look for a “big” behind, large breasts and a petite waist.
And Boeckle loves giving people that ideal Brazilian body with plastic surgery. Through a virtual consultation process, Boeckle helps foreigners and Rio residents set up appointments with plastic surgeons.
During the virtual consultation process, potential clients are required to send an online form and photos of the areas on their bodies that need “fixed,” Boeckle says. From there, Boeckle helps set the patient up with an ideal doctor and resort/hotel if the patient is not from Rio.
Boeckle touches base with the patient once he or she arrives in Rio, and after several physical examinations, the patient undergoes his or her surgery –– which could be a tummy tuck, liposuction, butt or breast implants, just to name a few. After the procedure is complete, the patients relax at a beach resort or hotel for several days to recover.
Getting a vacation and plastic surgery all in one, Boeckle says, allows for the ample recovery time and relaxation needed after a plastic surgery is performed.
Many Rio residents prefer to find a surgeon on their own and are completely satisfied with the results and recovery time at home.
One of Santos’ clients at NBfit gym, Allegra Ceccarelli, is open to sharing the fact she had breast implants 3 years ago. She said the surgery was a major self-esteem boost.
“When I did mine, I did it because I didn’t have anything,” Ceccarelli says, casually pointing to her breasts. “It really bothered me. But I didn’t have any complications [in the surgery]. It was perfect.”
About the Contributors
2012 Graduate / Journalism
Erika Spicer is a senior journalism major at Penn State University. A member of The Daily Collegian—Penn State’s independent, student-run newspaper—she has experience in reporting and copy editing. Along with newspaper journalism, Erika is also interested in magazine writing, which she is exploring at an internship at Campaigns & Elections magazine in Washington, D.C. this summer. Traveling to Rio de Janeiro for a reporting trip this past spring break proved to be a challenge, but the extremely rewarding qualities of the trip has her hoping to resume traveling and reporting internationally in the future. In her spare time, Erika also enjoys photography, hiking, blogging and trying new foods.