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Wax Job

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If screams pierce the doors of Manhattan’s J. Sisters International Salon, don’t fret. It’s just another satisfied customer exclaiming over the sisters’ trademark Brazilian bikini wax, which strips the female nether regions cleaner than a clear-cut rain forest. Relieved laughter usually follows. Says sister Jonice Padilha: “It’s natural and it makes you feel sexy.”

The Padilhas are feeling pretty spiffy also. Since opening their salon in 1987, the seven sisters (Judseia, 56, Jussara, 53, Juracy, 51, Jocely, 47, Janea, 46, Joyce, 41, and Jonice, 39) have watched it grow into a $2.3 million-a-year phenomenon. Zipping through 230 clients a day—often including Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanessa L. Williams—the sisters are taking a look once sported mainly by Playboy bunnies to a wider—and for the most part grateful—world. “It’s perfect,” says Kyra Sedgwick of the $45 Simonizing, noting that hubby Kevin Bacon is “into it. Definitely.”

But Allure editor-in-chief Linda Wells voices a caveat: “It’s painful.” Well, admits Janea, “you need to be relaxed.” She developed her technique in the early ’80s by pouring warm pine wax on herself and yanking with muslin strips. She and her sisters learned their trade in an aunt’s salon in Linhares, Brazil, where they and five brothers were raised by their meat supplier dad and homemaker mom. Over time all the women moved to New York City, pooling $15,000 to open J. Sisters.

These days, even with 25 employees, the sibs still handle the sticky stuff. And they’ve turned down offers to open branches. “We don’t want to split up,” explains Jonice. “People come here because it’s like coming to our house.” After all, it’s not as haunted as it sounds.