The Arizona Republic
To get to the below-the-belt beauty shop, tucked by those mischievous strip mall gods between Desert Pain & Rehab Specialists and Floor Décor, you'll also pass an injury attorney, a sign if ever you wanted one.
And yet streams of women aged 17 to 70 still walk bravely inside Suddenly Slimmer Day Spa in Phoenix, slip out of their skivvies and have hot wax pasted onto their nether regions. The wax goes drip, the technician goes rip, and then, well, things are suddenly trimmer.
There is wincing, yelping, stinging, crying. There is also begging for appointments, waiting lists, freaking if wax queen Dannielli Marcelino goes on vacation. She's got the fastest rip in town, her clients say, and clearly speed matters. She can talk your ear off so you don't notice she's ripping your hair out.
She helps you forget that though you've spent much of your life trying to be discreet about your unmentionables, here you are, baring it all under fluorescent lights, subjecting yourself to smarting pain, and that you're paying someone $55 to do it.
Wrinkle your nose if you like, and squirm in your dining chair imagining such a process, but ever since Cosmopolitan wrote about it, Gwyneth Paltrow raved over it, and Carrie tried it on Sex and the City, the average American woman has decided she is going to do it, too: doctors and lawyers and "lots of teachers," says Marcelino.
They've been doing it all summer, for their trips to San Diego. They're doing it this week, one last hurrah for those Labor Day pool parties. TV newswoman Robin Sewell does it, and wrote a thank you note on a glamour shot pasted up in Suddenly Slimmer, which is high in life's category of things you never wanted to know about people you see on TV.
About 15 times a day, four days a week, Marcelino puts on her gloves and does it. She even waxes herself. And her mother.
Ew And Ow
"It's like getting your nails done," explains Marcelino, 34, of Goodyear, who is actually from Brazil. "You just feel done. Once you're manicured down there, too, once the hair is gone, you feel so clean. You feel really smooth, somehow sexier. You just feel done, you know, pretty."
The first time you meet Marcelino, you feel like you can tell her everything, which is good, because you're about to show her everything. That's what makes a bikini wax Brazilian.
The normal bikini wax involves wearing paper undies to allow only the removal of anything that might show while wearing a swimsuit. A Brazilian involves coming into Marcelino's beauty room, past the relaxing candles glowing on the lobby coffee table, past the pamphlets for Relax & Wax No-Scream Cream on the front counter, and taking off anything you might be wearing below the waist.
The aromatherapy is pumping, all pepperminty and fresh. The soothing seafoam walls and fake orchid are doing their Zen thing. An air purifier buzzes in the corner for a little background noise.
It's all very lovely, but what you really need is a drink, hence the "Double Martini Bikini" wax that was offered this summer at the Phantom Horse Spa at the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix.
Up on the table goes Jennifer Farner, a pot of pink wax, heating on the counter nearby. Farner gets a washcloth to cover up down south, which Marcelino gently folds back, and gets to work on the first half.
First she sanitizes. Next, she powders, to protect the skin. Then, Marcelino has Farner pull the skin taut, while she spreads on a small patch of pink wax, rubs it with a strip of paper, and finally, with a carefully practiced flick of the wrist, pulls off the paper and everything underneath with a quick rip.
Farner, a brave 25 year old who has been doing this every four weeks for four years, lets only a wince escape.
"The pain is quick," she says. "It's just like going to get a haircut - just the price of beauty."
Marcelino spreads and rips. Talks and rips. Rip, wince, rip. She's getting to the tender place.
"This is where I just, like, brace myself," says Farner. Deep breath, rip.
Marcelino shares a wall with the receptionist. She's drawn curtains over the windows. The receptionist is brand new and hasn't heard anyone screaming. Yet.
At one point, Farner curls her legs up into her chest, and Marcelino waxes a place shown only by the most eyebrow-raising swimsuits. Apparently, they wear thong bikinis in Brazil.
In the end, she leaves a small two-inch strip for some clients, a triangle for others. Finely trained in the art of topiary, Marcelino can do initials (popular for weddings), hearts (oodles of those around Valentine's Day), an exclamation point (for someone's honeymoon), or even a lightning bolt ("that one was weird," she says).
Why, oh why
There is, of course, a why here: why on earth do women (and a tiny sliver of men) do this? And of all the jobs in the world, why this, for Marcelino?
Well, says Marcelino, one woman came to her because she'd lost a bet with her husband. Some come, pregnant, so as to feel more dignified when facing the ob-gyn. Others come to surprise boyfriends and husbands: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. Ah, the gift of pain.
Sometimes, when Marcelino meets the husbands, they hug her. One guy even introduced her to his friends.
"He said, 'Oh, guys, this is the girl who, you know.' He was so happy to see me," Marcelino says, giggling.
But the women come back for themselves, she says - low maintenance, spicier bedroom, that kind of thing.
A trained aesthetician, Marcelino can wax a mean eyebrow, give a lovely facial and knows all about microdermabrasion. But nigh about the time Cosmo and Carrie Bradshaw were exposing America to the customs of Brazil, the spa started getting calls.
Marcelino went home to Brazil and got a friend to show her the drill. Down there, taking it all off is de rigueur.
"In Brazil, we grow up with Carnival," says Marcelino. "People paint their private parts and go dancing in the street."
A bare bikini area is no big deal. So back in Arizona, she practiced on her mother, herself. "My sisters were my guinea pigs," Marcelino says. "It probably hurt."
Finally, she went on the radio, and announced herself open for business.
"The phones rang off the hook," she says. "Everybody wanted to do it."
And really, Marcelino doesn't mind. She waxes friends, her teenage daughter ("but only a bikini wax"), tries to coax strangers right onto her waxing table. The only person she won't wax is a man, and that's not because they don't ask her.
"I'm not comfortable with it, and my husband is definitely not OK with it," she says, but a woman? Eh, she's seen it all before.
"I'm a woman, they're women - we become really good friends," Marcelino says. "Waxing is like my social time. We catch up - 'what's going on in your life?' Talking is very important. It gets your mind off what's going on. We keep it nice and fun and light - not serious. That would be weird."
Sometimes, if Marcelino has been on vacation for a long time, she starts feeling it in her fingers - that need for a good rip. Once, she saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus at a Sedona spa, naked, and had to seriously resist the urge to give her a card. She needed it, apparently.
"I miss waxing. I need to wax," she says, laughing. "I really like the results. It's instant before and after - extreme makeover."
Paris and privates
It's time for another client.
"You shaved, I can tell," clucks Marcelino to Trisha Pacheco, 30, a Phoenix real estate agent. Pacheco has come prepared today: She's taken the Ibuprofen Marcelino recommends before each appointment. She's made sure not to come right before that time of the month - the pain is worse then.
"I'm a big wimp," announces Pacheco, who broke down and got a Brazilian because, well, she was going to Brazil.
"I was sooo sick of shaving," she said, and she wanted to wear a Brazilian-style bikini, so here she is, a regular convert now.
Pacheco relaxes against the table, and the chatting - and ripping - begins.
"Right before I pull a tough one, I'll ask them a hard question to get their mind off it," says Marcelino.
Marcelino and Pacheco talk barbecues. Rip. They talk about getting Pacheco's husband a pedicure. Rip.
Almost done now, Marcelino busts out the tweezers to capture a few stubborn strays. The talk turns to Pacheco's upcoming first trip to Paris, and how nice it will be.
"Hanging out at cafes, drinking a little wine," coos Marcelino, tweezing away.
"The Louvre," sighs Pacheco.
Anywhere but here.
To Book Your Reservation.