Why Are There so Many Vietnamese Working in Nail Salons and What it Means?


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The nail salons have long been a common stereotype when it comes to Vietnamese community. However, not too many people know how the story got started or what it really meant to a lot of Vietnamese immigrants. This project is an attempt to bring the history and the story of many in light. I've also done some research on how the industry has transformed over the years and where it is going in the future.

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Why Are There so Many Vietnamese Working in Nail Salons and What it Means?

  1. 1. Nails, Nails, NailsA brief look into the history of Vietnamese nail industry, what it means, and where the business is going. byThao Bui
  2. 2. Xin Chào! NYC Strategist for Hire //Thinker // Closet Writer www.thaominhb.com http://buidoinewyork.tumblr.com THAO BUI
  3. 3. Vietnamese-owned businesses have been dominating the nail industry.
  4. 4. 48% of nail technicians are Vietnamese. The nail business provides a stable income for many Vietnamese-American families.
  5. 5. The Vietnamese nail techs, where are they located? California (The Top 10 Most Populous States for Vietnamese Nail Techs) Texas Florida New York Pennsylvania Georgia Illinois Virginia New Jersey North Carolina
  6. 6. The nail salons have become a common stereotype about Vietnamese-American community. Honey, why you don’t like??? Pedicure, it makes look nice. It’s so sexy. It’s better for you. Oh alright. Sure then. I’ll get a pedicure too. Thanks. If you don’t understand this, do yourself a favor and watch Nail Salon by Anjelah Johnson here.
  7. 7. But...
  8. 8. Why are there many Vietnamese working in the nail industry?
  9. 9. After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, millions of Vietnamese refugees had no choice but to leave everything behind and flee the country. Some arrived in the United States of America. First, let’s look at what happenned 38 years ago.
  10. 10. To many of them, it was like being born again in a new country with a new language and culture.
  11. 11. People worked any jobs they could get to raise their families.
  12. 12. 20 Vietnamese women met Tippi Hedren, a Hollywood actress in Hope Village (Sacramento). Hedren realized that these women were very good with their hands. She offered them some trainings with her personal manicurist.
  13. 13. After, Hedren helped them get a job at nearby salons. Successful stories soon spread in the communities.
  14. 14. People helping people, doing nails became the main occupation of the Vietnamese immigrants (because it requires no English).
  15. 15. The abundant source of Vietnamese manicurists made manicures and pedicures affordable.
  16. 16. Hedren and the Vietnamese women from Hope Village have transformed the nail industry.
  17. 17. In 2012, the nail industry is worth about $7.47 billion. 46% have been doing nails for more than 10 years. Most are married with children. Over 50% of these nail workers never or rarely wear protective gears (eye wear, mask, gloves). The average income is $420.98 per week.
  18. 18. Today, it does not stop at manicuring...
  19. 19. A significant amount of materials and equipment for the nail industry is from Vietnamese merchants.
  20. 20. Some successful owners open their own beauty schools that offer bilingual trainings.
  21. 21. Also, the largest global manufacturer of cuticle nippers is Vietnamese.
  22. 22. The nail business brought a voice to a silenced collective of refugees who fled from a war-torn country. Print fromVietnAmerica by GBTran.
  23. 23. To many, it led them to achieve the American Dream.
  24. 24. Transitioning to the future, where is this business going next?
  25. 25. Now is actually an exciting time to be in the nail industry.
  26. 26. Gel-polish has been generating much hype. It creates a new standard for the nail business.
  27. 27. Plus the endorsement from celebrities and famous self-acclaimed nail aficionados, nails are getting its spotlight. Celebrities’ endorsement Famous nail aficionados
  28. 28. Nail polish recently dethrones lipstick.
  29. 29. Econommy watchers used to say that: When times got tough, women would buy a lipstick, because it was an affordable pick-me-up.
  30. 30. Now, nail polish rules the economic barometer, which means...
  31. 31. “When times are tough, women buy a bottle of nail polish. And when times are good, they buy lots of polish and go to the salon.” Lipstick, you’re going down!!!!
  32. 32. The rise of nails on social media also contributes to its popularity.
  33. 33. DIY culture has a big impact on the nail industry in general. People are contributing to a vibrant and growing nail arts community every day.
  34. 34. Outside Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, there are about 35,000 blogs dedicated to nails, nail arts, and nail polish.
  35. 35. Monthly, there are about 2.5 million Google searches for “nail art.” Sales of polish and nail products have increased tremendously: polish sales are up 59%, 36% increase in natural nail products, and a 100% increase of top and base coats.
  36. 36. The world’s most expensive nail polish costs $250,000 and contains 267 carats of black diamonds.
  37. 37. Nails become more than just a canvas for artistic expression of self.
  38. 38. “Nail art… might be the only form of primping and grooming that isn’t rooted in making oneself more appealing to men or exploiting women’s insecurities. It transcends skin color and hair texture and face symmetry and body type.” Jezebel.com - 08.2012 Photos from Kathleen Tran at http://kathleens-corner.tumblr.com
  39. 39. All these numbers and information prove that people are paying more attention to the industry.
  40. 40. And customers are willing to pay more for high-quality manicures and pedicures. Competition is getting stiff for the nail salons, especially the Vietnamese businesses that mostly rely on low-price services.
  41. 41. It’s time for the Vietnamese nail salons to make a step up, take advantage of new technology and social media to engage with their customers.
  42. 42. On a side note...
  43. 43. If you want to watch the history of the Vietnamese nail industry in action, watch it here. (I wrote the play and helped direct part of it)
  44. 44. Sources: 2012-2013 Industry Statistics from Nails Magazine. 2008-2009Vietnamese Demographics from Nails Magazine. Nailing the American Dream, with Polish from NPR.com. Nail Art, the Last Bastion of Female-Centric Beauty from Jezebel.com. The Fall fromVietnAmerica by GBTran. More of his work can be found at gbtran.com. Photos from Google Images. Photos from my friend KathleenTran from kathleens-corner.tumblr.com.
  45. 45. Thank You!
  46. 46. NYC Strategist for Hire //Thinker // Closet Writer www.thaominhb.com http://buidoinewyork.tumblr.com THAO BUI