Monday, February 7, 2011

Blonde island resort raises eyebrows

THE jury is out on a Lithuanian company that plans to build a "fantasy resort" staffed only by blondes.

Olialia has created a business empire in Lithuania, using its troupe of glitzy models with platinum hair to market just about anything from potato chips to pop music. There's Olialia pizza and Olialia cola, even Olialia computers.

With the Maldives resort - and plans for an airline linking it to the Baltic republic - Olialia is taking its blond ambition to a new level.

"Blond is light. It attracts people like sunshine," the company's blonde, 24-year-old brand manager Lauryna Anuseviciute explained at the Olialia office in downtown Vilnius.

In Lithuania, where a big chunk of the population shares Ms Anuseviciute's light hair colour - naturally or aided by peroxide - such unabashed glorification of blonde beauty doesn't raise many eyebrows.

It remains to be seen how the Olialia concept will be received in the Maldives, a more ethnically diverse archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which requires foreign developers to hire at least 50 per cent local staff.

Maldives tourism officials said they had not received any details about Olialia's plans and had not yet issued any permits.

"We welcome any serious innovations and investment for discussions so long as it is backed by serious finance with a robust and realistic business plan," Simon Hawkins, director of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation, said.

He underlined "realistic." However, he didn't appear to see the blonde requirement as a major hurdle for employees from the Maldives, saying "perhaps they could work behind the scenes, or dye their hair?"

No need, Ms Anuseviciute says. "Staff who are not blonde will wear a blonde wig to make everyone look similar."

About 65 per cent of the staff will be women, she said.

The resort plans are still in their infancy - the tentative launch date is 2015 - but Ms Anuseviciute insisted Olialia already has secured financing for the project.

Back home, the small women's rights movement is cringing in disgust. Not only is the "blonde island" idea demeaning to women, but borderline racist, said Margarita Jankauskaite, director of the Lithuanian Centre for Equality Advancement.

"It is not discrimination," Ms Anuseviciute said.

"If a ballet is casting for a male-only dance performance, is it discrimination against women when they only hire men?"


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