The nail industry is mostly owned, run by Vietnamese men and women. Bit now the nalon salon business seems to be gathering attention and ownership amongst Black men.
Darnell Atkins, is a 29 year old Black man nail technician from Washington, D.C. When he returned home from serving his country, finding a job was a struggle and then look towards Streets.
“I resorted back to a couple of hustles,” Atkins said. “But in the midst of me resorting back, I always found myself in front of a Black owned nail salon. All the hustlers would gravitate towards this area because that is where all the pretty girls were.”
Atkins nail technician journey begins when he walked in a nail shop to ask how much was for manicure and pedicure, shockingly surprised when finding out it would cost $70. That would become the moment Darnell Atkins decided to begin training to become a nail technician
“I was hungry, and I was motivated to find a way out,” Atkins said. ‘I didn’t have anything else, so I dumped all of my money into learning how to do nails.”
Atkins began training in secret, hoping no one would recognize him as he would walk inside the nail salon. Afraid that people would think he was gay for wanting to do nails.
“I didn’t want anybody to see. I was kind of ashamed,” he said.
Atkins realizes there is a heavy stigma that comes with being a black man doing nails. Black men in his neighborhood don’t do nails. most decide it’s not worth society questioning their masculinity
Ogundele Cain, a 25 year old graduate from Virginia State University, has aspirations to enter into the nail industry but notices the lack of Black male nail technicians.
“I never saw a lot of Black men doing nails, and I definitely never saw a lot of Black straight men doing nails either,” Cain said.
“I’ve always been vocal about breaking out of the patriarchy and away from society’s viewpoint of what masculinity should be,” he said. “The goal is to break the mold.”
Ekatarina Bender, a customer of brings her daughter to get her nails done by Atkins. Atkins was the was the first Black male nail technician she ever saw and met and the best technician she has ever had. The fact that he is not afraid to be different, she said.
Atkins’ goal is to inspire other Black men to pursue things they are interested in without feeling ashamed.
“I want to do good work and be noticed for that, rather than the guy that just started doing nails and people are like, ‘that’s not normal,’” Atkins said. “Let’s make a big impact out of not being normal.”