Cosmetic procedures were once viewed by many as superficial and a luxury reserved for the rich and famous – and were thought of as a rarity in the Caribbean.
But BodySculpTT founder Chanelle Talma-Da Costa said she is proud to be part of the wave of Caribbean-based companies specialising in cosmetic procedures, especially making them available to the wider population. She sees her function as going beyond the aesthetics – she says transforming clients physically can help them “reinvent” themselves.
Talma-Da Costa, who is from Diego Martin, said the birth of the business was organic: its inspiration came after she had a baby.
She is a mother of two sons, 13 and four.
“After having my second son in 2015 I realised I wasn’t losing the weight around my tummy, and my body was not looking like it did before. I felt like I needed my body to be back to where it was, because I was always an active person.
“I started looking for options and came upon this non-invasive procedure.”
After thinking about her own emotions, she assumed there must be other women, especially mothers, who felt the same about the inevitable body changes.
“Women have to carry children. So our bodies change so much. I could not keep it to myself. I felt a need to share what I discovered.”
Talma-Da Costa worked in marketing, sales and consultancy at a chemical company for about seven years before starting her own business. She worked with people from all walks of life, from presenting in corporate meetings at energy companies to supermarkets, prisons and rehabilitation centres.
Her new-found interest in body contouring was the nudge she thought she needed to change from that stressful, fast-paced career, which she believes limited her self-care and personal time.
Her new career allows her to feed her love for interaction and hear many stories about a range of experiences. She used to be mostly surrounded by men, but now she deals mostly with women, though men account for about 30 per cent of her clientele.
To become a non-invasive body sculpting practitioner, she completed a three-week immersive course at the Fort Lauderdale Academy Medical Aesthetics in Florida. The training was followed by months of practice and further technical research before offering her services to clients.
“I signed up for the non-surgical body contouring course online, and soon after jumped on a plane, leaving my baby for three weeks. This happened one day after his first birthday.”
After completing her course Talma-Da Costa returned home, excited about her new professional possibilities. But she had limited funds to explore her new skills.
“I did not know how I was going to afford the machinery and everything necessary for the setup of the clinic.”
The week after she came home, while she was driving, someone randomly asked her if she was selling her car.
“I was not selling it, but then a lightbulb went off and I thought, maybe I should sell it to help start the business.
“So I sold my first car to start BodySculpTT. I eventually grew the business enough to a point where I could afford a new car. It was a worthwhile sacrifice.”
That was a challenge in setting up her business,
“I always used what I had...I did not even go to the bank for a loan. Whatever I had, I made it work.
“Thankfully, I had the support of my husband during slow times. I did a lot of work to promote the clinic through word of mouth, social media and advertising.”
After her equipment arrived, Talma-Da Costa practised procedures, mostly on her family.
“I practised on everybody for three months. So everybody in my family has transformed at this point.”
After that she opened her clinic in Woodbrook. When she started, she had two cavitation machines, a sauna blanket, wood therapy tools, a glutes lift machine, lymphatic drainage tools and gels.
“People think I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I didn’t have any savings set aside to open this business.” She took the chance, she said, because she was sure as long as she did not give up she would succeed.
The procedure Talma-Da Costa uses is known as ultrasonic cavitation. It’s used to dissolve fat stored in the body and is less invasive than traditional liposuction.
“The ultrasound waves/ radio frequency causes the fat to vibrate and heat up, after which it detaches from where it is stored and melts. The radio frequency also rejuvenates the amount of collagen, which is responsible for the tightening of the skin.
“We then use a vacuum to transport the fats to the lymphatic system, where it is then drained, using my hands to massage the lymphatic system, so the fat is excreted when the client uses the bathroom.”
BodySculpTT also provides sauna therapy and wood therapy, which is the use of wooden tools for massaging to reduce cellulite.
Talma-Da Costa, who many people now know as “as the body sculpt girl,” said both forms of treatment assist in ensuring a healthy lymphatic system and the breakdown of fat deposits.
Asked the typical time frame within which a client might see changes in their body, she said, “Everybody and each body is different.”
“Everyone reacts to the treatment differently. Different skin types and complexions react differently. Each person has a different health situation.
“For example, women who are breastfeeding or lactating should not undergo procedures such as ultrasonic cavitation, while men come in who are just bloated from beer drinking. Those men usually just require a cleansing of the lymphatic system. A number of clients also come in with hormonal issues – so it really varies.”
Talma-Da Costa said she emphasises an “inside-out” approach with clients. The focus is not merely superficial. The team at BodySculpTT helps clients to ensure they have healthy organs and internal systems.
“I also talk to my clients about stress regulation and seeking ways of managing stress, because in many cases where people struggle with weight gain and hormone imbalances, stress and mental health tend to be factors.”
Carnival is usually the company’s busiest period.
“Carnival is the best time in this clinic for me. We don’t eat and sleep – just to ensure all those bodies look amazing in their costumes. It is surely a hard hit for us, there being no Carnival this year.”
But she’s hopeful, following the boost she witnessed during 2020, when many businesses saw dramatic inactivity even after lockdowns were lifted.
“We saw a silver lining after being hit during the lockdown. When we reopened, many people who were unable to go to the gym, exercise outdoors, or ended up eating a lot of comfort food needed our help.”
At least once she’s been deeply touched by the experience of a client.
“I bounced up a client in a mall one day. She had tears in her eyes and hugged me. I just stood there in shock.
“She told me that her experience at BodySculpTT and the results transformed her life and boosted her confidence. She felt so much better about herself. A new job came, her relationship transformed. And in that moment I was reminded my job is so much more than the superficial.”
Asked if there are any risks linked to the procedures she said, “There aren’t any risks in doing the procedures. They are safe. Honestly, if there were risks I would not have done it myself and worse offer it as a service to others.”
Talma-Da Costa enjoys bonding with her clients; she says that’s transformed her own life and contributes to her drive.
“I want to help people, especially women, heal, more than just body contouring.”
She is excited about the future of the business and looks forward to making an announcement in the near future. Without giving a spoiler, she said BodySculpTT will soon become a one-stop-shop for healthy weight-loss programmes for people all over TT.
“A criticism we always get is that our social media does not show people who would have had a lot of weight on them.
“But that is not the case,” she explained.
“We are not particular about the size of our clients. I have hundred and hundreds of photos on file, but client confidentiality is very important. We cannot share photos if our clients are not comfortable sharing them, and if we do not get their explicit permission to do so.
“The beauty industry is still a very sensitive one. There is no client that we turn back, unless they are under the age of 18, because their body would still be developing.”