By Cindy Atoji Keene
Being a nail technician was a career path that Vivian Ong never questioned. “It’s in my blood for sure,” said Ong, 21, of MiniLuxe, a Newbury Street nail and beauty lounge. With more than a half-dozen relatives in the nail business, Ong grew up helping out in her aunt’s salon, and the day after her 17th birthday, the minimum age for state licensure, she was already applying for her nail technician license.
One nail industry survey found that that nationally, 45 percent of nail technicians, like Ong, are of Vietnamese descent, and in Massachusetts, one report identified more than 4,000 licensed Vietnamese American nail technicians in the Boston area. “Many Vietnamese Americans have found good employment at nail salons, even though they may not be fluent in English and or have a high education level” said Ong, who is studying business at Suffolk University and training to become a customer service manager at MiniLux. “It’s a profession that requires proficiency but still can be learned quickly.” Ong loves cosmetology and especially doing nails because it’s not a lengthy process and offers a lot of variety. “Nails are not a pricey luxury service; getting your nails done is affordable, and a lot of my clients find it relaxing,” said Ong. “A $19 dollar manicure is not a whole lot of money for a whole lot of heaven.”
Q: When you first were training, what was the most difficult thing for you to learn?
A: A lot of people think that being in the nail industry is easy, but some aspects of the business can be demanding. One huge aspect is just being able to multitask – engage in conversation with a client while giving a really good manicure and still finishing on time. Creating a relationship with clients is vital to our success. The other factor is precision. Nails come in different, shapes, and sizes, but no matter what the type, they need to look good in the end. This can be a challenge. If nails have ridges, for example, sometimes you buff and smooth and the ridges still show up.
Q: What’s your favorite gadget to use?
A: It would definitely be the cuticle nipper. I can go without cutting or filing nails, but I can’t go without cutting cuticles. With a manicure, when the cuticles are cleaned up, hands feel lighter and breathe. Take my buffer away – I don’t care as long as I get cuticles trimmed.
Q: Any regular at a nail salon knows that the lacquers, like those made by OPI, have catchy names on the labels, right?
A: Whoever gets paid to name these nail polishes is the luckiest person in the world. The nail polish colors are so creative and so cute. I like Elephantastic, which is a bubble-gum looking pink, or Cajun Shrimp, a popular coral orange. In the winter, a hot color is a deep burgundy called Wicked; another nice shade is a dark purple, Lincoln Park After Dark.
Q: What is required to get your nail tech license?
A: It depends on what state you live in. In Massachusetts, you must attend a licensed school, complete the minimum required 100 training hours, then pass written and practical exams required by the State. Nail techs learn about sanitation practices, nail and skin diseases, protocols and services, and, of course, the fundamentals of manicures and pedicures. It’s a tough 100 hours and you may not leave the school as a perfect manicurist, but the rest is perfected while on the job.
Q: What new trends are you seeing?
A: Nail art is definitely growing lately, as well as nail candy, little sparkly beads glued onto the nail, which is a 3-D type of art. Women are also painting just the ring finger on each hand a contrasting color, which shows a lot of personality.
Q: Can you share one of your favorite tips or tricks with us?
A: When you’re giving yourself a manicure at home, add a little bit of glitter to the base coat. This creates a bond that helps polish to last longer.
Q: Whose celebrity nails do you most admire?
A: Definitely the Kardashians. I follow them on Instagram and they always have the perfect manicure. Kim and Kourtney always post pictures of their nails. Unlike a lot of celebrities, they don’t have artificial stiletto nails. I’m not a huge fan of those.