A billion-dollar industry, nail salons provide nail care services ranging from manicures to pedicures to nail enhancements, overlays, and extensions.
Because there is no one path to becoming a nail professional, individuals’ nail stories are diverse and unique.
Opportunities and aspirations can include becoming a business owner, working with celebrities, or simply caring for a wide range of clients.
A few things nail professionals do have in common include their creativity, positive attitude, and perseverance.
Let’s explore a few inspiring nail stories and their creative journeys to fulfilling their dreams.
Darnell Atkins of Washington, D.C., United States
This 32-year-old nail technician, who goes by Nen10doe on Instagram, began his journey when he was expelled from the U.S. Navy due to his synthetic marijuana addiction.
Upon his return home, he had difficulty finding work, so as he told WUSA9 in 2020, “I resorted back to a couple of hustles.”
As he took to the streets to make ends meet, however, he kept finding himself “in front of a Black-owned nail salon.”
He said all the hustlers would “gravitate toward that area because that is where all the pretty girls were.”
One of the times he found himself in front of the nail salon, he decided to treat himself to a manicure and pedicure. To his surprise, he found it would cost him $70.
When he realized how much a nail technician could make, he decided to train to become a nail professional that day.
Battling Gender Norms
According to Statista, the nail industry is mostly dominated by Vietnamese women. And the UCLA Labor Center states that 2% of nail salon owners are Black, with even fewer being Black men.
However, Atkins says, “I was hungry, and I was motivated to find a way out. I didn’t have anything else, so I dumped all of my money into learning how to do nails.”
Within a few days, Atkins started training in secret.
Being worried that people would think he was gay for going into the nail profession, he would go into the nail shop with a hood over his head, praying no one would recognize him.
The fear of society questioning his masculinity weighed heaving on Atkins and brought on feelings of shame.
Inspiring Other Black Men
However, with loyal customers who support his defiance of gender norms, Atkins hopes to inspire other Black men to pursue their passions, without shame or reservations.
He says, “I want to do good work and be noticed for that, rather than the guy that just started doing nails and people are like ‘That’s normal.’”
He wants to “make a big impact out of not being normal.”
With his nail story being featured on Good Morning America, ABC News, AfroTech, Black Enterprise, and Yahoo News, he is very well on his way to making a big impact on societal norms.
Kelly Christie, Owner of Jewels Not Tools by Kelly in Montrose, Angus, Scottland
In 2006, Christie’s car smashed into a minibus head-on.
As a result of the terrible accident, she died three times and remained in a coma and on life support for five days.
As told to Nail Pro, she “Suffered severe brain damage, a fractured skull, severe internal bleeding, broken ribs, and a punctured lung.”
Her tragic accident left her unable to leave her home, she suffered an overdose and found herself in a toxic relationship.
Retraining Her Brain
However, she says that when she started training with CND to retrain her brain, her life changed.
She says she’s “Now an award-winning CND Grand Master Stylist, with honors that include Best Nail Salon in Angus and being a finalist for Best Scottish Nail Salon.”
Of her creative nail journey, Christie says, “Nails saved my life. I have good days and bad, but I’m still fighting.”
Summer Olson of Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Olson’s nail story began with her as an esthetician. However, when her salon closed, she decided to focus her career on the nail industry.
She enrolled in nail school, where she developed the idea for Stash House.
An Artist Collective
Hoping to bring a new culture of nail art to her area through her artist collective, she now employs nine highly talented artists.
Located in a unique, trendsetting, and unpretentious setting, each of Olson’s artists has their own signature style, specialties, booking process, and policies.
Olson avoids booking confusion by featuring each artist on Stash House’s Instagram Story Highlights.
As she told Sarah Waite of CND in 2019, “I want people to know that my story isn’t special. Anyone can start up a business or brand and tell their story as long as they know how to communicate and have a vision of what they want to do.”