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How Vietnamese Americans Took Over The Nail Business: A Documentary

Most likely, if you've recently got a manicure, it was performed at a nail salon managed by somebody with Vietnamese ancestry.

The salons can be found almost in every American city, state, and strip mall. How did Vietnamese business owners eventually control the multi-billion dollar nail industry?


The goal of the documentary Nailed It, directed by Polish filmmaker Adele Free Man, was to provide an answer to that query. She recalls noticing that all the nail salons nearby when she was a child in Portland, Oregon, were managed by Vietnamese people.

In an interview, Pham said, "So I understood that there was lacking something in the mass media regarding this item, this nail thing. "As a result of my constant curiosity about why so many Vietnamese people work in the nail business, my father, a Vietnamese refugee who immigrated to the United States in 1975, encouraged me to join the field as I was finishing up high school as a side job and perhaps to maintain my Vietnamese identity.

"But it was just something that, because of my own internal classism, I was utterly opposed to. I've been revisiting that since I was 18 years old. Being Vietnamese, I immediately knew that this sector had a whole other aspect to it.

1. Interview highlights

Tippi Hedren worked as a humanitarian in 1975. For the purpose of resettling 20 Vietnamese refugee women in the United States, she oversaw a program. They were impressed by how well nail technician supplies wholesale near me she took care of her nails, and she had the idea to have Dusty Coots, her personal manicurist, visit the refugee camp in Northern California and educate these women how to provide manicures like they would be given in Beverly Hills. And because women had previously always obtained licenses for both hair and nails, they are actually the first manicuring permits in existence.

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2. On how she portrayed the viewpoint of the Vietnamese community in her movie.

As a person of color, I believe that our history is frequently not recorded, reported, or simply seen outside of the white gaze. The Tippi [Hedren] narrative is therefore quite alluring; after all, she is a stunning actress who starred in classic movies. But I was pleasantly delighted to find that the more I looked into it, the more certain I was that this was the original impetus behind the Vietnamese people's entry into the nail business. Also, it was crucial to demonstrate how they seized control of — or founded — this $8 billion sector. The narrative and how it came to be an important part of our society have numerous dimensions.

3. In South Los Angeles's black neighbourhoods, Mantrap salons operated

In my opinion, black culture is where all fashion originates. So, I've always wondered how these nail salons got to the black areas, which was another reason I made the movie. ... I learned about the Mantrap myth in this way. Vietnamese and African American women, respectively, made up the [two co-founding] group of women. I firmly feel that the Vietnamese gained traction in the nail salon sector at this point. Since they reduced the price to a level that working-class women could afford this luxury, and black women simply added an artistic touch to it, isn't that right? 

Black women and Asian women are never portrayed sharing personal areas. Now, I discovered something amazing about the two intertwined cultures while producing this movie, and it has to do with the original Mantrap nail salon. Where else on Earth, except from a nail parlor, do you see black American ladies and Asian immigrants holding hands? I think it's important for people to really understand the nuances of this industry and the people that made it pop.

4. About the possibly hazardous working conditions in nail salons (regarding exposure to toxic chemicals)

Yes, and that's where you really need to do your research on these movies because someone who works in the nail industry would take issue with this. Of course, not every employee in the nail business feels that way. However, no comprehensive nail beauty supply store near me investigation of the health effects of men and women employed in the nail salon sector has yet been conducted. In order to monitor the air quality in these enclosed places, I would like to see true scientific data collected for all the reporting and advocacy on this subject. The lack of study and lobbying being done to truly produce measurable results so we can say, "Yes, this is happening," surprised me as I started to really peel back the layers.

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5. About how the Vietnamese American community reacted to the movie

There is a lot of support, but it mostly comes from folks of the working class, who aren't necessarily actors but nonetheless feel like their story is finally being told. And, you know, that's been the most touching part. So sometimes, when you see yourself on screen, you might not even be aware of the lack of representation until you really see it. And so what type of nail polish lasts the longest I've gotten really emotional emails from people from all over the country. For how unpolitical it seems to me, it's very political. 

Despite the fact that we are all fleeing the Vietnam War, our identity has actually been established in blood. But who else will do it besides us, besides their descendants, if we don't have the voice to even record it — the fact that boat people died in their numbers to flee Vietnam and they established civilizations abroad known as the Viet Kieu people? My daughter probably won't react to Vietnam with the same intensity of feeling as I do. And I'm only one generation away.

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