Many questions have been posed about the woman behind the once-famed, now-infamous biotech company Theranos — including why she always wears that turtleneck, why she really talks like that, and her dog Balto's well-being. But just as important to her image as the Steve Jobs-inspired wardrobe is her signature beauty uniform. And it is, indeed, a uniform: For years, Holmes has sported a consistent look that involves frazzled blonde hair lightened from her natural mousy brown — possibly inspired by the fact that female politicians and executives are disproportionately light-haired — and, yes, a French manicure.
Considering how carefully calculated Holmes' image has been, it's hard not to connect the dots that her go-to nail art has roots in a scam of sorts. While the term French manicure makes you automatically assume that it is, in fact, French, it's actually not French in origin at all. As WWD reported in 2013, the two-tone mani was allegedly created by Jeff Pink — the creator of nail polish brand Orly — for Hollywood as a response to the tedious task of changing an actress' nail color with every costume change. The entertainment industry quickly caught on to this time- and labor-saving style, and it soon appeared on the nails of everyone from Cher to fashion models in France, which is how it really gained notoriety and its name.
But as it stands now, despite the best efforts of Kim Kardashian West, French manicures have a reputation of being outdated, bringing to mind high-school proms in 1995. And that's something that image consultants have plenty to say about.
"I would say that a person who adopted an old-fashioned or outdated nail style might be a person who is kind of like an ostrich that puts their head in the sand and doesn’t want to see the distractions around them," says Michael Christian, an image consultant based in Yonkers, New York. "Someone who wants to dig in and not look around and think about the past, when things were a bit better for them." Adds Carol Davidson, a New York City-based image consultant, "She's part of this state-of-the-art technology, and then she's got this manicure that's so outdated. When she would speak, she spoke a lot with her hands. That was always on display, so I do think that the image and appearance was intentional."
On the other hand, New York City-based image consultant Amanda Sanders isn't convinced that Holmes' manicure says all that much about her motives. "She did it once and she stuck to it," she says. "I think she probably feels like it’s fancy and it looks nice and classy."
Whether she was really trying to send a signal with those nails or not is up for debate — but there's no denying the fact that our generation's most high-profile scammer wearing a nail design with a misleading misnomer is an amusing footnote to Holmes' case.
This story has been updated.