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Brazilian Wax to pick up in Jakarta

"I love it. I swear by it." Those words, attributed to Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, were painted on the ceiling of a new shop in a south Jakarta mall.

Why are the words there? To convince the woman lying in bed and staring up at the ceiling that she had made the right decision to get the oh-so-daring Brazilian Wax.

And if the stinging pain makes her doubt Eva, words from other celebrities (Gwyneth Paltrow: "Brazilian Wax changed my life!") also adorn the ceiling for added conviction.

"Those words are for moral support for the woman," said Singaporean Cynthia Chua, 35, the mastermind behind the new grooming shop Strip and Browhaus in Senayan City.

Strip: The Ministry of Waxing is Cynthia's grooming shop, focusing on hair elimination, especially Brazilian Wax, while Browhaus focuses on eyebrow construction. Both are owned by Cynthia.

After opening four Strip shops in Singapore and one in Kuala Lumpur, she decided that it was time to bring professional Brazilian waxing to Indonesia.

Joining two different shops into one, Strip and Browhaus, Cynthia envisions a revolution in the grooming industry in Indonesia.

"The trend of grooming evolves. It used to be that no one does manicures, now it is like a normal thing to do. That same goes with Brazilian Wax," she said.

Cynthia might be a very bold businesswoman or a very crazy one, opening up a store which focuses on removing hair from a woman's privates in the religiously conservative Indonesia.

But Cynthia brushed aside any concerns.

"It's all about education. Once the women here know how smooth it feels and how hygienic it is, especially in Jakarta, where the air is humid, there will be wide acceptance," she said.

"The same doubt was present in Singapore where the women are considered more conservative than western woman, but the results were remarkable. Just two months after the first Strip was open the trend picked up really quick. Now, four years later, we had pruned 350,000 bushes."

The store in Kuala Lumpur, which she opened last year, has done about 40,000 Brazilian waxes.

"A woman in Penang took a two-hour bus journey just to get to Kuala Lumpur to get a Brazilian Wax by us," she said.

"We are targeting 40,000 for the Jakarta market," she said.

Her stores in Singapore also target men, but she said in Jakarta, she wanted to see the demand first.

What she refers to as education is a actually a well developed campaign, carried out by one of her clients herself. Strip's campaign in Singapore is edgy and straightforward, though one of the posters had classic sexist concepts objectifying women.

One of the posters shows a hairy chimpanzee next to two women in bikinis about to jump into a lake. Another poster was a classic, showing cartoon line-drawings of women, showing various types of unsightly hair, such as hair popping out from under the armpits and the pubic area and comments on how men would not like the sight of it.

No campaign for Indonesian market has been carried out yet. However, Cynthia said that campaign adds in Indonesia will be less straightforward and more modest, adjusting to the culture.

The Brazilian Wax was first introduced by six Brazilian sisters of the J Sisters international salon in Manhattan, and became popular in the past few years among Hollywood stars and bikini wearers. Cynthia learned the method in New York before opening her store.

Strip is the first shop in Southeast Asia focusing on the practice. Cynthia said there are plans to open up stores in Dubai this year and in London and New York next year.

She said the Strip's method was more hygienic, faster and hurt's less than other places.

She explained that the secret of Strip was the use of two types of wax, a soft lavender scented wax and a hard wax. The hard wax is less painful and is used on the sensitive parts of the skin.

"That way it does not hurt as much," Cynthia said. The procedure takes around 15 minutes.

Despite its popularity in the west, Strip will likely have to work very hard to penetrate the generally modest Indonesian population. Bikinis are not popular among Indonesian women, despite the country's numerous beaches and year-round sunshine.

Cynthia, however, said the wax is not only for bikini wearers.

"It is actually liberating to take it off. It's hygienic," she said.

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