Update: As if they weren't mesmerising enough on their own, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez turned up the Latinx power at last night's Super Bowl halftime show with surprise appearances from reggaeton stars J Balvin and Bad Bunny. If you were as hypnotised by the epic performance as the rest of us were, you may have overlooked a striking detail: Bad Bunny's shattered glass manicure, not unlike J.Lo's Swarovski crystal-adorned set.
If you're not familiar with Bad Bunny, statement nails are his signature: You can catch the rapper getting his nails done in his music videos, or inspiring fashion collections with an iconic mani. We spoke to the Puerto Rican star in 2018 about the significance of his nails and how they're a tool for breaking through society's expectations of masculinity. Our interview with him, ahead.
This story was originally published on August 31, 2018.
These days, it isn't out of the ordinary to see a male celebrity bending society's outdated gender rules. From Harry Styles' painted nails to Jared Leto's heavy eyeliner, more and more male celebrities are erasing the norms of beauty. This flexibility is even making its way into the hip-hop industry, a genre typically associated with uber-masculine players and toxic standards of machismo. Artists like Jaden Smith and Young Thug aren't letting those expectations stop them from being true to their personal style — and Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, better known as Bad Bunny, is right there with them.
There's no conforming to the so-called rules of masculinity for the Puerto Rican rapper: If he wants to dye his hair pink, show up to a red carpet dressed in a yellow, floral tuxedo, or show off his latest nail art, nothing — not even Twitter haters — is going to stop him. Scrolling down his feed, you'll see that Ocasio is always changing up his style. While you might assume that this unique spirit grew with his fame (creative looks are almost a requirement in Hollywood), Bad Bunny assures us it's always been in him. "I have always had my own style," he tells Refinery29. "It's an art for me, just as music is. I go off of how I feel, and that’s how I get dressed."
As comfortable as he is in his personal style, the artist, who you may recognise from Cardi B's chart topping hit "I Like It", is still surprised when he experiences society's toxic masculinity firsthand. Recently, Ocasio took to Twitter to share his anger when a nail salon in Spain denied him service because of his gender. He shared a photo of the location and called it out, tweeting, “I just wanted to tell you all that I went to this shitty place to get my nails done (manicure + colour), and they told me NO because I’m a MAN. I don’t know what to think, but it's very unfortunate. What year is it? Fucking 1960?” The rapper received lots of support from his fans, who praised him as a "gender norm-breaking icon," but with that came homophobic comments and questions about his sexuality. In response, he deleted his Twitter account completely.
Although he didn't clarify what exactly triggered him to get rid of his account, the rapper does have a message to anyone who questions why he gets his nails done. "Men also take care of themselves," he says. "There is no need to criticise why one decides to maintain themselves one type of way. Stop the ignorance and let’s think with a more open mind. We’re in 2018, and we are supposed to have equality."
It was an open mind that led Ocasio to his love of nail art in the first place. "It was something that happened very randomly. I was in Miami for an award show, I saw a nail polish, and I got the urge to paint my nails," he says. "It wasn't something that I planned." The look grew on him, and it became a signature style for the rapper, who can be seen giving himself a DIY manicure in the music video for his hit single "Estamos Bien."
These days, you'll see an array of manicure shots with designs and bright colours (plus, a photo of chipped nails as a reminder to schedule an appointment) on Ocasio's Instagram, where he has 13 million followers. The polish colours he picks are based heavily on his mood. "It depends on how I'm feeling that day. You'll usually see them in more vibrant colours that give off joy," he says. "I'm also experimenting with designs, but now that I'm on tour, I have just one colour."
As grateful as Ocasio is for the support in standing up for his individuality, he wants his fans to realise that they have it within themselves to do the same. "I make music. People see an artist who’s sure of himself, and that's what I want them to learn from me," he says. "I have always been confident in myself, even before I became famous. I believed in myself, I didn’t change who I was to get people to love me, and for that reason, my fans connected with me."