US News - 29/04

The Real Harem Girls of Brunei

A Suburban Girl's Journey into a Prince's Palace of Pleasure

By Edward Ebbert - It could be the plot of a hit reality show: Forty beautiful women from all over the world living together in the lavish palace of a sultan, competing for the favor of a billionaire prince.

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The drama unfolds as these women work lavish, star-studded parties, charming their way into the hearts and wallets of some of the world's richest men. The prince's favorite girls get showered in jewelry, cash, and couture clothes. But how far will these women go to get chosen?

This isn't the next season of The Bachelor, though. It's the true story of a thrill-seeking New Jersey girl who found her way into the infamous harem of the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei. She is Jillian Lauren, 36, who tells all in her new memoir: "Some Girls: My Life in a Harem" (Plume, 2010).

"I was seeking adventure, an extreme experience of life," Lauren said in a recent interview, her wide smile glowing with red lipstick and impish charm. A brightly colored dragon tattoo winds up her left arm, and a scaly Pisces--her birth sign--swims on her right. They're for protection, she said -- but they also represent parts of herself you can't see.

Lauren described her young self as a wanderer with a soft spot for romance. Today, she lives a less glitzy life, complete with a (famous) rocker husband, two-year-old son adopted from Ethiopia and a house in the suburbs of East Los Angeles.

She bit her lower lip and swung her legs playfully in her chair as she tried to explain how a girl from the suburbs found her way into the harem of a sultan. "I wanted to see extraordinary things," she said simply.

And so she did. By the time she returned to the United States three years later, she reports, she'd scored upwards of $300,000 in cash and luxury goods.

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