Bettie Luciu, waxer: “When you’re at the point that you need another bikini wax, you sort of look like a sick cat.”

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First-person accounts from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford

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"I was born in Athens, Greece. My parents came to Chicago when I was about five months. I always was obsessed with hair and shampoo. All my dolls’ hair was perfectly done all the time. If I saw a Jhirmack or a Prell commercial, I made my dad buy it for me. After I graduated high school, I went to community college, because my father kind of forced me.

"I felt like I was wasting my parents’ money, so I decided to work in a salon full-time instead. My coworkers kept urging me, 'You do your hair and makeup so good, you should go to beauty school.' Once I put the scissors in my hand, I knew that was it. This is a trade they need anywhere in the world, and nobody can replace the human hand.

"As I was training at the salon where I work now, the waxer went on maternity leave. A coworker asked me if I wanted to learn how to do body waxing. I was having a hard time with the Brazilians, getting to certain spots, and she said, 'You've really got to stick your hand in there and move things around.' Like, sometimes if you’re trying to apply the wax to the inner labia, you have to take your finger and move the clit away so she’s not sticking to herself.

"The more I did it, the better I got. Fortunately, I have very quick hands. Now I can do a full Brazilian in ten minutes. As one of my coworkers mentioned, when you’re at the point that you need another bikini wax, you sort of look like a sick cat. Halfway hairy, with bald spots. It’s just a big eyebrow to me.

"If somebody wants to do a full Brazilian and they’ve never had one, I’ll do a regular bikini wax first, and then I’m like, 'Do you want me to do more?' so they don’t walk out of here lopsided. If someone cries, it makes me feel horrible, but I have to remind myself: They’re giving me money to do this to them. I’m not forcing them. Not everyone is meant to get a full Brazilian. There’s no point in putting yourself through the pain if you can’t handle it.

"Threading I’m not a huge fan of. I find it kind of gross because they put part of the thread in their mouth. My sister got her eyebrows threaded at some big corporate chain. The woman didn’t prep her skin with an antiseptic or use toner afterwards. She ended up getting an infection of the follicle and looking like Quasimodo.

"My husband and I are moving to Hawaii in November. I don’t know why. Why not? When I’m there, I feel connected—mind, body, and spirit. I am my best possible self. It’s one of those places where you feel like you’re seeing colors for the first time. Growing up in Chicago, I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in. There’s a push here to keep up with the Joneses.

"My parents have the Greek TV channels at home, Greek news and Greek MTV or whatever. One afternoon my husband and I were walking into my parents’ house, and someone on TV is singing in Greek, 'Come on, let’s go to Hawaii.' The last two times I went to Hawaii I heard Greek spoken on the beach a couple of times. There’s all these little signs everywhere. I like to think that they’re for me."

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