Faster Pussycat, Wax! Wax!

A Brazilian bikini wax changed Gwyneth Paltrow's life; it can change yours, too!

By Christina Valhouli

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September 3, 1999 | I am lying flat on my back, naked, holding my butt and legs up in the air while a middle-aged Brazilian woman peers at my crotch. She leans a little closer and moves her fingers between my flesh. While this is a position normally reserved for bedroom activities, it's business as usual at the J. Sisters International Salon in midtown Manhattan.

The salon is named for seven Brazilian-born sisters: Jocely, Jonice, Joyce, Janea, Jussara, Juracy and Judseia Padilha, whose claim to fame is introducing Americans to their hometown phenomenon of "Brazilian bikini waxing." What it is: a very thorough waxing where every bit of hair -- and I mean every last bit -- is removed except for a thin landing strip. Think porn star. Think pain. But also think fanatic devotion.

Celebrities love this procedure. Kirstie Alley has said, "It feels like a baby's butt, only all over." Paula Yates, the widow of INXS rocker Michael Hutchence, flies over from London to have it done (salons in the U.K. refuse to do it for hygienic reasons). The salon's walls are covered with celebrity photos and their signed testimony to the miracles of waxing. "You've ruined me for anyone else!" scribbled Jennifer Grey (or is she talking about her plastic surgeon?). "You've changed my life!" crowed Gwyneth Paltrow.

So I decided to see how a Brazilian bikini wax was going to change my life. I knew it was going to be a funky experience from the get-go. When I called to make an appointment, the "hold" music was the Wu-Tang Clan. And inside the salon, which is housed in an elegant townhouse on West 57th Street, thumping Brazilian music fills the air (probably to mask the screams of the clients).

I'm led into a small room by Juracy, my J sister of the day. She doesn't speak much English but she knows enough to tell me to take everything off and lie down. She runs her hands down my legs and pulls them away abruptly. "Ohhh, you shave!" she says, clucking and frowning at me in disapproval. She makes me feel like I've just been caught cheating on a test. "Well, I'm Mediterranean, you know, and shaving is just easier." The frown deepens. "You let it grow and come back see me in three weeks." This woman means business.

Juracy grabs my legs and bends them toward my chest, and plants a hand under each knee. It's hard to act nonchalant when you're bare-assed, twisted into a yoga position and giving a stranger a bird's eye-view of your nether region. As I'm concentrating on the cherubs and moldings on the ceiling (just like being at the doctor's!), Juracy spreads baby powder all over my crotch and butt. And I mean all over, inside and out. This woman is not shy about touching strangers. She tilts me up slightly, frosts my butt with warm wax and wham, bam, there goes the hair. I didn't even know I had hair down there. (Yup, everyone does. Butt waxing is part of what differentiates a Brazilian wax from a regular wax.) The pain isn't bad at all but I become alarmed when she grabs my labia, folds them back and spreads wax on them. Riiiiiiiip. I gasp and my eyes bug out. "Owwwwwww." Juracy grins.

She twists my body from side to side as she works her way up, and at one point my leg is thrown over her shoulder. I feel like she's going to cart me off to the woods, cave-man style. The waxing is over in about 15 minutes. Then Juracy goes over my body with tweezers, plucking stray hairs. And for the grand finale, she grabs my pubic hair between two fingers, pulls it up, gives it a good whack with scissors and dusts me off with more baby powder. I've been too afraid to look until now. I peer down at my body. It's a mess, glowing red and swirled with baby powder. Ugh.

Next page: What it really boils down to is sex

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