Nailed It? Black Women Express Their Frustration And Experiences With Asian Nail Salons

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Kimberley James is a working mother who also enjoys jetsetting around the world. She goes to Asian nail salons, like many black women, because of convenience. She explains, “Where I live Asian nail salons are a dime a dozen and have a monopoly on the market. Realistically speaking in the US and even in Europe, Asian nail salons are the norm!” She’s right about this, according to Nails Magazine, a leading publication in the industry, as of 2015, there were around 130,000 nail salons in the United States and over 50% of all manicurists working in those salons are Vietnamese. Vietnamese dominate the Asian nail salons and their prices can be 20% to 30% less than luxury or Black-owned nail salons.

Photo courtesy of Kimberley James.

James likes them because they are “fast, efficient, and usually have all the new products and innovative skills you require for a simple nail job or an elaborate stunner.” She has no problem frequenting these salons and tells me matter of factly, “It has become a part of the culture. Dare I say it? Nail salons being synonymous with Asians.” She thinks a little and adds, “The only place I do go to a non-Asian salon is home in Trinidad and the same lady has done my nails since I was in high school.

While James is aware of the salon in Brooklyn charged with assaulting Black women, it did not change her behavior. “I’m painfully aware of the world we live in with all its stereotypes, radical prejudices and a plethora of other ideals and ignorant thoughts that fuel the tension-filled world we live in.”


Nevertheless, she was bothered by what she saw. She explains, “I don’t care what creed or race a person is…settling a dispute with violence is not the answer. Harming another human being over something as trivial as this is ridiculous. Beating people with brooms…anybody else blackout and have a slavery flashback?! I sure did.”

James’ discusses both positive and negative experiences she has had in Asian nail salons. She’s down to support the ones that have become part of the community and don’t only employ Asian nail techs. These are the salons she goes to and reveals, “They are happy to see you when you come in, give your kids candy, remember your name and it’s like catching up with old friends.” Not all Asian nail salons are bad and James’ reminds us of this. “It’s an experience, one that does not feel as though it’s a business transaction and all about the money.” Nevertheless, she has also been to Asian nail salons that are “rude, aggressive, rough, speak in their own language, poke fun of you, refuse to make changes, and are less than sanitary.” You know the feeling, you go into these salons and you can’t wait to leave. However, she thinks it goes beyond race. “Asian nail salons are a reflection of those who run them just like any other business run by any other ethnicity. We are all humans but not all humans reflect humanity!”

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