beat around the bush

What Even Was Vajazzling?

Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg/Photo Getty

The printing press was invented in 1439. Sliced bread, 1928. The first programmable computer came along in 1941. But it wasn’t until around 2010 that humanity was struck with both the ingenuity and boldness to try to glue a bunch of crystals to our genitals.

Vajazzling, a cursed portmanteau of “vagina” and “bedazzling,” barged into the public sphere following a decade marked by precariously low-slung jeans and MTV reality shows featuring copious black light use. It involves meticulously applying small crystals onto someone’s bare pubic area — design options include hearts, butterflies, or even the word “virgin” — essentially rendering their vulva into a denim jacket from the ’80s. Though the trend was brief, it was absurd and perplexing enough to be memorable. Which is why I’m still wondering, almost a decade later: what even was vajazzling?

Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) is widely credited with popularizing the practice through her 2010 dating advice book, The Day I Shot Cupid. In a brief chapter titled “It Was Vagazzling,” (the far less popular spelling) Hewitt discusses a particularly difficult period of post-breakup boredom and ennui. While she’s getting a restorative spray tan, her aesthetician mentions a more unconventional beauty treatment that might lift her spirits. Hewitt is intrigued but hesitant:

The lack of traffic on my hoo-ha highway at that moment and my fear of lying sober and naked while a woman puts crystals on my little lady made me hesitate.

But she goes for it, and both she and her hoo-ha (help!) are delighted by the results:

The once pale, sad girl who couldn’t figure out how to move on from her breakup had transformed into a bronzed sex goddess with the prettiest hoo-ha in my neighborhood.

So delighted, in fact, that she brought it up during an appearance on Lopez Tonight. After being bestowed with the knowledge of vajazzling, host George Lopez drops to knees and effusively kisses his guest’s hands. “It looks like a little disco ball down there,” Hewitt tells him. “It’s hot pink today, for you.”

Jennifer Love Hewitt declined to speak with me for this article.

But which brilliant mind actually dreamt up the first vajazzle — who, exactly, was the Thomas Edison of pube rhinestones? This is highly disputed. Completely Bare spa in New York City was perhaps the most popular place to get the procedure done during the vajazzling heyday, with founder and former owner Cindy Barshop claiming in a 2010 interview that they started offering it “years ago” as a service called “Completely Bare With a Flair.” British television personality and beautician Amy Childs is known for spreading it in the United Kingdom after appearing on the reality show The Only Way Is Essex; in 2011, she boasted that she’ll “always be known as the Vajazzle Queen.” The Persian-born beautician Arezoo Kaviani scoffed at the latter suggestion in a 2012 interview, saying, “oh, I invented ‘body jewelry’, as I call it, 15 years ago.” She added that Childs “can’t have been more than about five years old when I first came up with the idea.”

But no matter where vajazzling originated, Google searches — one way to quickly track the rise and fall of a trend — immediately took off after Hewitt mentioned it on national television in January 2010:

Barshop — who is also a former Real Housewife of New York — told me that, around that time period, she saw hundreds of women come into Completely Bare each week asking for the service, which costs $75 and lasted up to 5 days.

It also briefly became a point of cultural fascination. After a wave of articles about Hewitt’s revelation, it became fodder for service and stunt journalism alike; the practice even served as inspiration for South African multimedia artist Frances Goodman’s “Vajazzling Series” in 2012. Her project entailed vajazzling various strangers with remarkably intricate designs, and then photographing them. “What fascinated me about vajazzling was the process of revealing your pubic area in order to then conceal it again,” Goodman told the Cut in an email. “But the vajazzles (which are sold as a dating ‘tool’) are made up of stones and reminded me of armor; I thought of how getting ready for a date is like getting ready for battle — a blinged up vulva is just the latest weaponry we’re sold.”

These days, the vajazzling business has more or less dried up. Bridget Bergin, the owner of Brazil Bronze Soho — one of the only places in New York City where you can still get vajazzled — says she sees about ten or so people come in per week. “Now we see more girls doing it for special occasions: before their weddings, before their honeymoons, bachelorette parties, things like that,” she said. “A lot of flowers and hearts and initials.”

As to why it died down, Barshop, who now owns the VSPOT medi-spa, has a theory. “I honestly believe that the whole trend from then has completely changed with the feminist movement,” she said. “More of equality, more of self-pleasure that we’re going to.” Personally, I see it more as something pushed out of the way by the wellness wave; its widespread aesthetic of soft muted tones and emphasis on natural living don’t exactly vibe with having a glued-on disco ball in your pants. (Plus, Brazilians have gone out of style, which poses an immediately logistical problem.)

Regardless, it hasn’t escaped the public imagination. “I’m trying to learn more about vajazzling,” pop-star Halsey tweeted in June, before clarifying, “Not because i wanna do it. Because I’m so…..intrigued.” Will vajazzling ever actually come back in style, though? I wouldn’t bet my tiny sunglasses on it, but never say never.

What Even Was Vajazzling?