True Life Story: My Life in a Harem

Jillian Lauren quit New York University her freshman year to become a "party guest" for a "wealthy businessman in Singapore," and ended up spending a year-and-a-half in the harem of the Prince of Brunei.
A lifelong nonconformist who chafed against her upper-middle-class upbringing, Lauren was living in the Southeast Asian sultanate by age 18, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts as one of the prince's 40 girlfriends.

With the release of her memoir, Some Girls, Lauren - now 36 and living in Los Angeles with her husband, Weezer bassist Scott Shriner, and their young son - talks prostitution, empowerment, and how, even when money is exchanged, feelings are always a factor. Find out if Lauren has regrets in her full interview here.

MC: How'd a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs end up in a harem?
JL: I'd had a bad relationship with my parents. They were overly concerned with appearances, and I knew I wanted something different. I was doing theater and supporting myself as an exotic dancer and, briefly, as an escort - which I'd resorted to since waiting tables wasn't covering the bills. A friend took me to an audition to be a party guest in Singapore - $20,000 for two weeks of work! Then I was told the real job was to entertain Prince Jefri, the Sultan of Brunei's younger brother. My curiosity and sense of adventure made me pull the trigger.

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MC: Weren't you afraid that something awful might happen?
JL: I wasn't. Part of it was being young and wild, and part of it was just really poor judgment.

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MC: And you stayed for 18 months. How did that work, legally?
JL: There were no contracts. I was a guest at the prince's house, and he chose to give me gifts - jewelry, duffel bags full of cash. But I wasn't an employee.

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MC: What were the living arrangements?
JL: It was like a parallel-universe sorority. Forty of us lived in eight guest houses surrounding the main palace. The decor was so over the top, with rugs and fabric and silk flowers and mirrors everywhere, my roommate said it looked like the home of a Persian rug salesman. I grew very close with some of the women, but with others, there was a competition and cruelty that I'd never experienced before.

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MC: How often did you see the prince?
JL: He threw frequent parties in this disco room in the palace, where he'd sit in the corner with one or two of his favorite women. He was probably sleeping with between two and four a day, so at times I'd be foremost in his mind and I'd see him daily; at others it could be once a week. When I traveled with him, it meant staying overnight together, which felt more intimate. But actual sexual encounters were fast and furious, and you never knew when they were going to happen.

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MC: You write in the book that you developed feelings for him, even though you were paid to be there and he was married to three women and dating 40 more. How can that be?
JL: It was complicated. I was so naive, and he tested me, showing me attention and then ignoring me. One day I found myself sitting next to him in the big room where we partied every night, and I realized I'd climbed to the top of the pecking order without really knowing what I was doing.

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MC: Tell us about the shopping trips.
JL: There was an insane spree in Singapore - I was running through an incredibly chic mall, throwing $10,000 Dior and Chanel dresses on the counter without even trying them on. In a single day I'd bought enough clothes, bags, and shoes to fill 15 suitcases. Part of me was disgusted. But at the same time, it was thrilling. I felt drunk.
Read the rest of Lauren's full interview here

How have the decisions you made in your teen years - extreme or not - affected your adult life? Would you be able to emotionally recover from an experience like this?


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Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.