A fascination with the hind-quarters of celebrities like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian is fueling a booming market for undergarments that amplify the derriere, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
For centuries, women have wriggled into girdles and other slimmers to minimize their rear ends but, as 26-year-old Montreal wedding planner Azar Jazestani comments, "It's not so hot to have a pancake a** these days."
When Tara Rachel Benson went out on a recent night to an album release party in Los Angeles, she put on her makeup, a tight-fitting Herve Leger dress, stiletto heels—and a pair of padded panties.
"It's part of the whole outfit," says Ms. Benson, a 25-year-old assistant to a music manager. Wearing the Booty Pop brand of underwear, which contain egg-shaped foam pads to plump up the posterior, "I look better, I feel better, and as a result, I act better," she says.
For centuries, women have wriggled into girdles and other slimmers to minimize their rear ends. Now, a fascination with the hind-quarters of celebrities like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian is fueling a booming market for undergarments that amplify the derrière.
On Booty Pop's late-night infomercials, which began airing in December, viewers are entreated to "forget about doing endless squats—and cosmetic surgery, who can afford that?" as models prance around in tight jeans flaunting their backsides.
In May, Bed Bath & Beyond started carrying Booty Pop in most of its 967 stores and online. Drugstore Walgreens, which jumped on the Booty Pop bandwagon in April, is carrying the product at 1,000 of its 7,541 stores and mulling an expansion. Earlier this month, Target started carrying Booty Pop online.
Booty Pop projects it will sell close to 1 million pairs of padded underwear this year.
"I want one," the famously skinny reality TV star Nicole Richie wrote this month on Twitter, after which she posted a link to a "black licorice" cotton-spandex pair, on sale for $19.95. Through her publicist, Ms. Richie declined to comment.
Booty Pop isn't the only company seeking a boost from behind. Early next year, Maidenform Brands plans to introduce a "Jean Collection"—internally called "Project Injeanious"—containing bottom shapers.
"There are a lot of similarities between what you can do for the rear and breast—you can lift it, round it and shape it," says Maurice Reznik, Maidenform's chief executive.
At lingerie retailer Frederick's of Hollywood, the $28 "Booty Boy Short" (they're for women, despite the name) is currently the No. 2 top-selling shaping item online. Victoria's Secret introduced the "bum booster" in January in some outlets, and a spokeswoman says it is selling well.
"It's not so hot to have a pancake a— these days," says Azar Jazestani, a 26-year-old wedding planner in Montreal, who wears Booty Pop panties with jeans.
But the garments do have complications. Holly Homer, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom from Dallas, recently tested a pair and called the look "ridiculous."
"If you wear anything less than a really heavy denim with it, you can see where those oval-shaped things stick out," says Ms. Homer. She dubbed the situation "VBPL," for "Visible Booty Pop Line," riffing off the faux pas of VPL, "visible panty line."
The backside has a complicated back story. Large behinds historically have been celebrated as sexy in Latin American and African cultures, even as they were viewed with suspicion further north.
In the 19th century, pronounced posteriors were associated "with having a smaller brain, less intellect, but being more sexually promiscuous," according to Myra Mendible, a professor of English at the Florida Gulf Coast University and author of "From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture."
In the 20th century, Latin American stars like Carmen Miranda and Lupe Vélez became known for their signature curves. It wasn't until about 10 years ago, when the shapely Jennifer Lopez became a mega-star, that the current round of rump fascination really began.
"If Jennifer Lopez can cross over and be celebrated for her butt, then women think, 'Well, what about my butt? Maybe it's not so bad after all,'" says Ms. Mendible.
Beyoncé's group "Destiny's Child" sang in 2001 about the wonders of being "Bootylicious." Footwear manufacturers, including Reebok and Skechers, have sold thousands of sneakers that promise to perk up the posterior.
Booty Pop was the brainchild of Susan Bloomstone, a former television producer, and Lisa Reisler, a fashion merchandiser.
The two women, who met in college, were on vacation with their families in Miami in 2008 when Ms. Bloomstone read a newspaper article about the popularity of the Brazilian butt lift—a surgical procedure that injects fat between the buttock muscles.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were nearly 5,000 butt lifts performed in the U.S. last year, a 37% increase over 2008. Such procedures can cost from $8,000 to $15,000.
Ms. Bloomstone recalls thinking there had to be a cheaper solution. "What do you think about a pair of panties that replaces what a padded bra does, but for your booty?" Ms. Bloomstone recalls asking Ms. Reisler, who in response "just looked at me and said, 'Oh, my gosh! Yes!'"
Back home in Montreal, Ms. Reisler removed foam inserts from one of her padded brassieres and glued them into the backside of a pair of panties. She sent the sample to a manufacturer in China and tested iterations on a friend. She eventually hit upon a prototype that had the just right amount of puff. The first major retailer to bet on Booty Pop was Kitson, a Los Angeles boutique known for celebrity clients. "We saw the product and two words came into my head: Kim Kardashian," says Fraser Ross, the store's owner, referencing the voluptuous reality television star. Ms. Kardashian had no comment.