The Story Behind Those Cool Manicures On Claws

Photo courtesy of Augusta Sagnelli.
What comes to mind when you think of your first manicure? Do you recall the smell of acetone lingering in the air, or that risky, wet-handed walk out of the salon? Celeb manicurist Gracie J knows exactly what prompted her lifelong passion for nails: the color wall.
"My mom used to get mad because I'd get into her polish stash all the time," she says. Fast forward to 2017 and the tables have turned: she has her own collection and a passion that landed her a dream job as the lead manicurist on TNT's new show Claws, a scripted series about five nail artists-slash-criminals that also subtly fight for equal pay and gender expression.
Of course, that same tenacity is something that Gracie had to inherit in order to get where she is now. "My family is from a Caribbean background, and Haitian parents think that anything that you do that has to do with beauty is for boys," she says. "My mom thought I wanted to do nails because there was a boy that I was trying to impress, but I just liked [doing my nails]!"
Read on to hear more about how Gracie clawed her way to the top.
Reporting by Sesali Bowen.
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Photo: Via @theeditorialnail.
How She Got Her Start

"I've been doing nails for five years, but it's been a hobby of mine since I was 13-years-old. I used to be an assistant beauty editor at LoveBrownSugar, and went to events to cover for my editor when she was pregnant. During that time, people started to notice my nails and something clicked.

"A photographer noticed my nails and invited me to come work on set with her. It felt like I was home — it felt like my place was on set. Everyone kept telling me that I should pursue this and do it for a living. I did a couple of test shoots here and there, whenever I was available.

"After LoveBrownSugar, I ended up working on the corporate side at M.A.C. Cosmetics, 9 to 5, five days a week, then I would go to school from 6 to 9 PM so I could get my license. I said I would try it out for a year, and if it worked out, I was going to push on. If not, I'd go back to plan B. A year turned into two, then turned into three — and now, it's been five years."
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Photo: via @theeditorialnail.
Setting Up Shop

"I did a shoot with Essence last summer where they featured me alongside other talented nail artists. Claws saw my spread and reached out. I was a little skeptical at first, because I didn't believe it was true. After I learned more, though, I didn't hesitate. This was on my vision board. In 2017, I wanted to break into TV and film, and a week later it happened.

"We're on set for 12+ hours, and then we go home and create nails. There are times when we are working five to seven days a week creating nails, and only getting a few hours of sleep...then showing up on set and kicking ass. My team works well under pressure, and we get things done really quickly. You have to be a chameleon in the TV and film industry because things happen quickly, and in order to keep up, you have to work effectively and efficiently. There are a lot of sleepless nights and stressful times, but it doesn't come without reward."
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A post shared by By Gracie J (@theeditorialnail) on

Photo: Via @theeditorialnail.
Fighting Tooth And Nail

"I've noticed that there aren't enough Black women in this industry. I want to sprinkle that Black girl magic all around. There are so many of us that are talented with hair, makeup, nails, and beauty in general — and I just want to see more of us represented.

"I love Pat McGrath. The first time I was assisting at Fashion Week and saw her I broke down because I want to be like her. I want to be the Gracie to nails the way that Pat McGrath is to makeup. I tell people not to call us 'nail techs,' because we are nail stylists. It's more than just slapping on acrylics. We care for your nails. It's art."
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Photo: Via @theeditorialnail.
Still Dreamin'

"I want to style Miss Solange Knowles and Sasha and Malia Obama. They're on my vision board. Solange is very minimal, but just to get the chance to touch those hands, I'd put a clear polish on if she wanted me to."
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Photo: Via @theeditorialnail.
More Than Just Manicures

"Sometimes, I feel like I'm kind of a therapist to my clients — and they're like my therapist, too. My clients have become friends of mine. I don't even call them clients anymore. I feel like they know more about my life than my close friends and family. I'm a strong believer in the exchange of energy, and when you're close and intimate with someone, you're touching them and touching their being you have to be gentle and show care. As much as that person respects themselves and their body, you have to respect their body and their space as well. You have to make them feel comfortable and welcome. The last thing you want to do is have a client walk out and not feel beautiful. Since I work in the service industry, I expect exemplary service, and that's what I try to provide my clients."
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