fast manicure
The Price of Nice Nails
Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse, The New York Times has found.
By Sarah Maslin Nir

This article is worth a read, but it’s incredibly disturbing. It also completely validates (for me), the way that I approach getting my nails done. 


My mother started having her nails done on a weekly basis when she was in college. At the time, all of her friends smoked, and she didn’t, so she felt that justified spending money on a weekly manicure. 

Fast forward to the mid-1980′s. She had just moved to Cincinnati with my dad and started going to the salon around the corner from our house. There she met Betty. For years, my mom would go see Betty every Saturday, and I would tag along. 

Over the years, Betty moved salons, 4 or 5 times over a period of 20+ years. The interesting thing is my mom, and many of Betty’s other clients, followed her as well. There was (and still is) a group of women who have quite literally seen me and my sister grow up - one Saturday at a time. 

During those two decades, I would have my nails done on a semi-regular basis. It started out as a quick coat of polish when I was younger, and morphed into more of a “full” manicure as I got older. Betty taught me how to take care of my nails, but more importantly she taught me about life. Betty was always the one that I could chat with about school, love, my relationship with my mom and sister. She was never judgmental, but always knew (and knows) just what to say to put life into perspective.  

Even now, years after I’ve moved away, going to see Betty and having my nails done is the one thing that I MUST do when I’m in Cincinnati. Spending that hour with her is a ritual, one that I cherish more every year. 


As soon as I graduated college and made the decision to stay in DC I realized that I had to find a manicurist who I trusted. My relationship with Betty was never going to be replaced, but I was on a mission to find a clean spa or salon with dedicated, well-treated technicians. 

After exhausting many of the convenient options in and around the city, I was lucky enough to find Gina. She was professional, fun and loved to chat and the spa was clean and welcoming to boot. Sure, the manicures were more expensive than Mimosa in Dupont or the small shop near my place on H Street NE - but I was willing to pay extra  for the knowledge that my manicurist was trained, happy and well paid.  

It’s been over five years since I first started seeing Gina on a bi-weekly basis  for a manicure. She is no longer at Bliss, but I have followed her around the city, just like my mom followed Betty. Gina has seen me through a handful of jobs, countless interviews, life events and more - and for that I’m grateful. 


To some, people like Betty and Gina and the women in the New York Times article are just manicurists. Faceless people who you won’t ever see again. I’m here to tell you that they aren’t. These are people with lives and families and dreams.

At the end of the day, spending an extra $5 or $10 is worth the piece of mind that your manicurist is properly trained, licensed and compensated.