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Nail Art Was Shameful For This Drag Queen — Now, It’s A Form Of Self-Expression

Achieving a flawless manicure is often considered something only a professional can do, but innovative formulas and nail products are making it easier than ever to get a grade-A mani at home. As part of our Manicurated series, and in partnership with Dashing Diva, the premier DIY nail source, we teamed up with two influencers — a New York-based fashion writer-slash-drag queen and an L.A.-based model, activist, and transgender prom queen — who use nail art as tools of self-expression. We tasked them with trying out the brand’s GLAZE gel manicure strips, which are cured under LED light in just 45 seconds. With Dashing Diva, masterful manicures are finally achievable at home.
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For Andrew Nguyen, manicures are a form of self-expression — powerful symbols of freedom, beauty, and creativity — but it wasn’t always that way. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but spent his summers in Florida working at his father’s nail salon at the age of 12. “I hated nails when I was a kid because I associated it with my dad forcing me to work there,” he remembers. “Of course, being a bratty kid, I was like, Absolutely not.” 
What’s more, prior to working in the nail salon, Nguyen, who’s Vietnamese American, recalls the humiliation he felt in second grade, when his cousins dressed him up, put makeup on him, and painted his nails sparkly. “At the time, it was so embarrassing,” he says. “I was like, Oh my god, this is so shameful.” 
And then there was pre-school, when his aunt, who used to watch him at times, painted his nails black (much to the chagrin of his mother). “I thought it was so cool, but my mom picked me up and she was so upset,” he recalls. “I mean, my family’s supportive now, but she was so mad that my aunt painted my fingernails because I was ‘a boy.’” 
Despite the negative feelings he had toward nails in his early years, Nguyen, 26, now embraces all things manicure-related. A fashion writer by day and a drag artist called Dynasty by night — “a classic New York multihyphenate,” he laughs — Nguyen considers nails akin to art. “When I started doing drag, I began appreciating [nail art] more,” he says. “I met this entire beautiful community of queens who loved nails and I met queens who had such cool, intricate nail art. That’s when I started to appreciate it as an art form and a mode of self-expression.”
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His nail color of choice? A fierce gunmetal. “I love when my fingernails look like they’re metal claws,” he says. “I feel like a bad bitch.” Nguyen adds that although he may occasionally change up his ring finger “if I’m feeling spicy,” he typically opts for the same shade across the board. “I’m a uniform kind of girl. I like it cohesive.” 
To achieve such a look, Nguyen prefers to leave it to the pros, admitting that he’s “so bad at painting my nails.” That’s why, when tasked to try out Dashing Diva’s innovative GLAZE DIY gel manicure strips, he was elated. “I watched the video tutorial on how to apply them and I was like, Oh my god, this is so freaking cool and convenient.” Of the dozens of color options and patterns available in the collection, Nguyen reached for red and black French tips, teal and purple metallic shades, and metallic silver. The results? Flawless.
Watch the video, above, to learn more about Andrew Nguyen’s approach to nails and how he channeled his inner diva with Dashing Diva’s GLAZE. 
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