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For This Transgender Model, Manicures Are More Than Aesthetics — They Shaped Her Identity

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 — an L.A.-based model, activist, and transgender prom queen and a New York-based fashion writer-slash-drag 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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Corey Rae was 5 years old when she got her very first manicure. What started out as a routine visit to the nail salon with her mother ended up becoming a memorable — and deeply transformative — experience for Rae, a 28-year-old transgender model, activist, writer, and actress. “I remember trying to occupy myself while my mom got her nails done, but I was just so excited that I went over and asked the nail technicians to do mine, too,” remembers Rae, whose mother was extremely supportive. “My mom affirmed that I could do as I pleased, and nothing was weird about that. It was a very cool moment.”
But a cross-country move from her native L.A. to New Jersey several years later put an end to their salon visits. “I’ve always loved using vibrant colors, like pinks, growing up, but when I moved, I started noticing other people’s judgment toward me,” says Rae, who then stopped doing her nails for nearly 10 years. “And if I did get a manicure, I just got them shaped and had very natural nails. Maybe, if I was daring, I’d get a clear coat of polish.”
Her transition at 16 years old reignited her love for nail art. “When I started [the journey], I saw an opportunity to do things I was naturally drawn to do again, like my nails,” she explains. “Over time, I started to get bold again and instead of clear polish, I went with pinks and blues and greens — really experimenting with colors I thought matched my skin tone, my vibe, and also the season.” 
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Speaking of seasons, Rae says holiday-friendly shades on nails in particular excite her. “I’m very big on being festive. A lot of my nail choices are based on whether it’s Hanukkah or Christmas or Halloween.” But her favorite nail look of all time was the rainbow-colored French tips she sported during Pride this summer. “That was a big proud moment for me,” she says, “to have what I felt were long enough nails for that [kind of look].”
For most of her manicures, Rae visits the salon (like mother, like daughter), preferring gel polish due to its long-lasting nature. But she admits that seeing a professional regularly isn't the most economical. An alternative she loves? Dashing Diva’s GLAZE, a collection of DIY gel manicure strips that can be cured under LED light for 45 seconds.
"They're so cute," Rae says. "I’m always a little reserved when it comes to putting any kind of nails or tips on, but [they have] a remover that makes me feel more comfortable and [I love] that they're all evenly shaped." She added that GLAZE is easy to apply — and remove — without doing any damage to her nails. She opted for Pink Wave, a soft iridescent pink, in trying them out for the first time, but says she plans to wear Saffron Flower — a shimmery burgundy — for the holidays.
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Ultimately, Rae sees nail art as a way to express herself. “Showing yourself authentically to the world is the best thing you can do," she says. "Although some people might not notice them, I always notice nails. I love nails. I love seeing cool manicures. It’s like an extension of you — quite literally.” 
Watch the video, above, to learn more about Corey Rae’s approach to nails and how she channeled her inner diva with Dashing Diva’s GLAZE. 
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