Nails, Gals, & Details: Female Nail Artists Take Over The Bronx 

By Grace Cardinal, Staff Writer

All around the Bronx area, female student nail artists are setting up businesses to explore their passions while getting their degrees. With nail art trending on Instagram and Pinterest boards, there doesn’t seem to be a better time to set up shop in the industry. 

Nail art has had a resurgence in popularity during the last ten years, however has always been an integral part of feminine culture and “girl-world” throughout history. There remains a rich culture surrounding nails, as a way for people to express themselves and their femininity, explained Bronx-based nail artist Shanya Soto, who goes by @infamousnails_ on Instagram.

“Wearing nails and nail designs has been a trend for years. I always remember my aunts and my mom wearing acrylic enhancements in the early 90s and I was always so fascinated with them. I think as time moves forward the nail industry, designs, and nail technicians continue to evolve, trends go in and out of style and we continue finding ways to advance them and make them our own,” said Soto, who is completing her master’s degree in early childhood education at Grand Canyon University.

The history around nails is a deep one. African and Asian culture especially have long histories with nails, and used them in ancient times to represent wealth and social class. Manhattan College sophomore and nail artist Michaela Scully, who goes by @nb4snails on Instagram, explained her own research into the history.

“Long nails definitely stem from African culture. I did research on the Chinese culture behind nails, and how red nails used to be a symbol of profanity,” Scully said. “Red nails were saved for higher classes, otherwise they would be seen as something out of the ordinary. It was not socially accepted to have these elegant colorful nails.”

Today, nails serve as a creative outlet for many, regardless of social standing.

“I feel like as a woman, especially getting your nails done, it’s so unique and creative. For my client, I’m able to encapsulate what they want,” Scully said. “It’s a way to express yourself and show who you are to the world, and say you don’t care about what anyone else thinks.” 

The thought of doing your own nails can be daunting to many, however is a very attainable skill with patience. Muna Rahman, @nailedbymuna on instagram, is a Bronx based artist attending Hunter College. She shared her own experience getting into nail art.

A nail set by Shanya Soto, @infamousnail. @INFAMOUSNAILS /COURTESY

“I watched so many YouTube videos, reached out to whoever I could, and I kept practicing and practicing,” Rahman said. “When I first started, I thought I was amazing, but more than a year and half into doing nails, my work has definitely gotten better. I am still not there yet nor will I be any time soon! Practice makes improvement and I hope to perfect my craft even more and learn new skills whenever I can.”

Running a business while still in school can be a daunting task, but balance is the key to preventing burnout and finding success. 

“It is definitely hard managing my social life and classes along with my business. Overtime, I learned that I have to make sure that I separate the days I do nails from the days I have classes,” said Rahman. “I also leave Sundays free for myself just to take a break because we all need a self care day!”

Many of these artists started at a young age, however emphasized that it is never too late to start experimenting with doing nails. 

“Practice makes perfect, so find your craft and make it your specialty,” said Soto.

The experience has proved to be a rewarding one for the artists. 

“The point of doing nails for me isn’t even about getting paid, it’s about creating art that both me and my client are pleased by. I love making them feel more confident about themselves,” said Rahman.

Scully emphasized that her biggest lesson learned was patience with the craft. 

“I cannot tell you the amount of times that I’ve messed up a set and totally did not want to do anything ever again,” Scully said. “Take your time with things, it’s okay to mess up. You just have to try again.”