Photographed by Pheobe Chuason.
Nail salons are such an integral part of the modern American landscape, it's hard to imagine a time before they were a thing. But, it's an industry that came to be more recently than you might think — and its history is tied to that of Vietnamese-American women. Filmmaker Adele Free Pham covers all this and more with her work-in-progress documentary, #NailedIt.
As reported by InStyle.com, Pham says, “#NailedIt follows the nail industry from its earliest days and tells the tale of how a chance encounter between 20 female Vietnamese refugees and actress Tippi Hedren in 1975 changed the face of the trade, once exclusive to the jet set." According to the article, Hedren helped Vietnamese refugees come to the States and enroll in beauty school to be manicurists, which influenced the "big salon boom in the mid-'70s."
Since then, Pham says, Vietnamese nail salons have become "a linchpin between different cultures, Vietnamese economic autonomy, and a classic American dream story." In fact, a preview of the documentary notes that 48% of nail-industry techs are Vietnamese.
We're really interested to see this film once it's finished. We're also wondering if Pham will touch on the issue of human trafficking in nail salons. As we reported last summer, many salons in the U.K. are fronts for human trafficking operations, and a majority of its victims are Vietnamese women. And, Jezebel points out, "Human trafficking rings fronting as nail salons have been discovered in Boston; Springfield, CT; East Orange, NJ; Salem, VA; York, PA; and San Jose, CA — and all of this over the course of the past year." Not that there aren't plenty of legitimate nail salons out there — it just seems like an issue worth discussing in this context.
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