I Tried This Controversial $250 Manicure

On Wednesday night, I texted a friend...

"I had a tarot card reading and I got the devil as my key card..."
"Uh, what does that mean?" she replied.
I paused, then typed: "It means I need to remove the chains that Satan has on my life... I think."
"And how are you going to do that?" she inquired.
"A manicure."
Photographed by Lexy Lebsack.
Officially launching this month is the most mystical manicure trend we've ever tried, courtesy of two L.A. powerhouses teaming up: Melinda Lee Holm, a tarot reader, jeweler, and crystal expert; and Natalie Minerva, a celebrity and editorial manicurist and owner of Downtown L.A.'s Nail Swag salon.

The service is simply called "tarot nails," but it's different from the kind you may have seen online. Unlike the versions that dominate a Pinterest search with those keywords, this one includes a crystal component. (We are in L.A., after all.)

This is how it goes: You have your tarot cards read, then Holm assigns crystals and symbols to each nail to counteract, or enhance, the vibes from each card. The goal? To strengthen your aura. Once Holm is done, Minerva carefully paints the symbols onto each finger, places the crystals, and then seals it all with one thick coat of gel polish.
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If this sounds a bit nuts, that's because, well, it kind of is. But it was also sort of wonderfully self-indulgent in the way that only a tarot card reading immediately followed by a luxe manicure could be.

If you want to get really witchy with it, then you should bury [the crystals].

Melinda Holm
Before I get too far, I'd like to preface this account by saying that I am a spiritual novice. My only experiences of this nature have been in the name of journalism, like the time I got a nail-color reading or took a hot and oily (too oily!) dive into Ayurveda. Before this week, I had never had my cards or my aura read; I'd never even had a psychic reading or done anything with crystals. (I know, and again, I live in L.A.)
Photographed by Lexy Lebsack.
Here's how it all went down:
Part I: The Reading
Like I said, I had never had a tarot card reading before this week, so this was a treat for me. Sit with a stranger while we talk about my life, how great I am, and all my hopes for the future based on cards that are very open to interpretation? That, my friends, is downright therapeutic.

Holm has been working with tarot cards and crystals for a long time — we're talking somewhere in the ballpark of 25 years — and when she explains the cards, it makes perfect sense. But more than that, the way they all hit the table was weirdly eery. Fret not: I watched her shuffle the deck many times, and I cut the deck before we began.

We talked about me: I'm someone who emotionally provides for others. (I like to think so.) I have my shit together, and I am finally in the position to help others who are less fortunate. (Thankfully, yes.) Everything in my deck points to the verge of a huge life change. (Yep, I've been manifesting that for months.)

But not everything was so great: I overthink things more than most people, and it's hurting my life. (Probably.) I am very mature, but it all gets muddled by teenage urges to go out and get wild. (I plead the fifth.)

Then there was the devil card, or my "key card." Luckily, the devil card doesn't mean I am the spawn of Satan or have some bad shit coming my way; rather, that I am being weighed down with something that I need to release in order for all the blockages in my life to open. (Yep, I got one or two of those in my pocket.)

The reading was something I'll listen to again, and maybe even again — which brings me to some advice: Record the reading on your smartphone or other device; it's a great way to go back and meditate over it once more.
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Photographed by Lexy Lebsack.
Part II: The Manicure
Minerva is a longtime editorial and celebrity manicurist, and opened Nail Swag in the heart of the burgeoning DTLA neighborhood earlier this year. She's obsessed with all things Japanese nail art, and travels to Tokyo every six months to source the latest and greatest. She has a steady hand, a keen eye, and a welcoming aura — the three biggest prerequisites for a service like this.

Needless to say, this manicure wasn't a quick soak, file, and paint job — it took almost two hours. First, she applied two layers of a clear, gel basecoat; then, two more of the color. The Japanese lacquers she used came in little pots and needed to be painted on with a separate art brush. The result was a meticulous manicure with serious staying power.

I chose a dusty, mauve color, and she finished with a dreamy, white ombré design on my tips before hand-painting the symbols onto each nail. Another coat of clear polish came next, followed by the stones, ordered by Holm to counteract the symbols. Each element — the colors, the art, the added touches of gold or silver — is tailored to the client.
The whole experience is pricey ($250), but the manicure, including the crystals, won't budge for a month. My final advice? Follow Holm's lead, and really go for it.
Holm told me that it's best to leave the gels on for three or four weeks to let the crystals be with me and help strengthen my aura. And while the removal is just like your average gel experience, there is one final (optional) step: "If you want to get really witchy with it, then you should bury [the crystals]," she told me. "You can also throw them in the ocean — but remove the gel first, for the ocean's sake. This closes the circle for you and clears the energy on the crystals, so they can send their vibrations to the next person that needs them."

Appointments available by calling Nail Swag at (213) 458-5989.
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