12 Inspiring Tech Comeback Stories

Techs from around the world share their amazing comeback stories, and how the industry helped to shepherd them through hard times.

Illustrations by Lovisa OlivIllustrations by Lovisa Oliv

Looking for a great comeback story? Anyone who has been around the beauty industry long enough knows all too well the creativity, positivity and resilience of its members. Whether they’re transforming clients’ looks, raising money for charitable causes or simply lending an ear, nail technicians are remarkable for their ability to give. But what happens when personal tragedy strikes? Not surprisingly, nail pros fight back—and find strength in their communities of clients, friends and families. Here, 12 techs from around the world share their amazing stories of overcoming obstacles, offering a strong testament to the power of will, the possibility of redemption and how the industry helped to shepherd them through tough times.

1. Head Strong 

“Eleven years ago, I was in a car that collided head-on with a minibus and I suffered severe brain damage, a fractured skull, severe internal bleeding, broken ribs and a punctured lung. I died three times and was in a coma and on life support for five days. After the accident, I never left my house, took an overdose and was in a bad relationship. Then, my life changed. I started training with CND to help retrain my brain. I’m now an award-winning CND Grand Master Stylist, with honors that include Best Nail Salon in Angus and being a finalist for Best Scottish Nail Salon. My doctors use my story to help others, and I’m in the process of writing a book with my teenage daughter about living with a parent with a brain injury. Nails saved my life. I have good days and bad, but I’m still fighting.”

—Kelly Christie, owner, Jewels Not Tools by Kelly, Montrose, Angus, Scotland 

2. Body Positive 

“I’ve struggled with body image issues my entire life. I always saw something wrong [with my weight], my nose, my skin, my hair, etc. I created self-hatred and became depressed. I even stopped sleeping because I had so much anxiety about my appearance. Now that I’m working in the beauty industry, my outlook has completely changed because I make people feel good every day. It’s such a special feeling.”

—Brooke Lindsay, nail designer, 20Lounge, San Diego, CA

3. Survival Skills 

“In 2016, I posted an opinion on the local newspaper’s Facebook page and gained a stalker. As a result, I was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was in complete denial; I thought only people in the military suffered from PTSD. After 20 years as a nail professional, I went into retirement. I sought professional help and returned to work full-time in December 2016. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.”

—Lucia Etchamendy, owner, Lucia’s Hair and Nail Salon, Barstow, CA

4. Stroke of Luck 

“In 2009, I had a stroke at age 36, damaging my right side. I couldn’t walk or think, I slurred my words and I needed help with everything. I spent months in a depression and lost my clientele. I went back to work, only to suffer another stroke; in total, I suffered four, my last one in June 2014. One year later, I was hired to work at an upscale salon and pushed to rebuild [myself]. I’m so thankful to still be here, making a difference daily and doing a job that I love. I’ve been stroke-free for almost three years and going strong!”

—Kristine Rivers, nail tech/manager, Wisteria Salon, Texarkana, TX

5. Hard as Nails 

“My sister, Vicki Peters, gave me an opportunity that changed my life forever. We opened a successful nails-only salon, but I had to work really hard at acrylics. When Vicki passed away in 2015, our salon ended and I felt like I was headed for failure. But I realized that she left me with a great gift: the nail industry. While I’m not a ‘natural’ at nails, that doesn’t mean I can’t succeed. Vicki changed lives in the industry and she showed me I could change mine.”

—Natalie Peters, nail tech, Hair by Shair, Placentia, CA

6. Dream Job 

“I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; my body does not produce keratin the way it should. I’ve had 46 surgeries and I have five deformed fingers. I’ve always been very creative and, since I was a teenager, I have collected nail polish. My dream was to become a nail tech, so two years ago I enrolled in [nail] school. It was such hard work because of my hands, and I practiced all the time. After graduating, I set up a small home salon and have a steady client base that’s still growing.”

—Janes Skoglund, owner, Janes Negledesign, Trondheim, Norway

Illustrations by Lovisa OlivIllustrations by Lovisa Oliv

7. Push Back 

“I spent years trying to cover up my physically abusive relationship, ashamed to turn to anyone for help. In 2009, I found enough courage to separate myself from the relationship, and two months later I met my future husband. I sold everything and began a new life as a military wife in Nebraska. I have since earned my nail license and spend every day pursuing my artistic passion.”

—Evangelina Jenkins, nail tech, Beauty Brands, Bellevue, NE 

8. The Road to Recovery 

“I started drinking when I was 13 and got sober at 19. I was always angry and mean when I was sober, until the day my employer read me the riot act after I brought a new employee to tears. She suggested I get help. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t realize it was the result of my alcohol abuse. I’m grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous for what the 12-step program has taught me. I’ve lost loved ones to the disease. It’s brutal, and most don’t recover.”

Amy Becker, owner, Masterworks by Amy Becker, Cedarburg, WI

9. Giving Back 

“I am inmate number 07294-045, a.k.a. @thenailboss. I was incarcerated on December 14, 1992, and released on February 6, 2004. When I started doing nails, I never imagined that I’d be able to affect so many lives in such a positive way. For me, making the nail industry a better place is like a penance.”

—Phuong Luu, owner and master educator, Jersey City, NJ

10. Hope Floats 

“Last August, a 500-year flood hit southern Louisiana, producing 40 inches of rain in days. I was forced to evacuate my house with my two dogs and a lightly packed bag. In a matter of hours, my home was flooded and thousands of dollars worth of product, consumables and equipment were underwater. Without my knowledge, a friend and fellow nail tech, Elisa Jones, put a photo of my house on Facebook and asked for help. Before I knew it, I was receiving boxes of supplies and equipment. What’s more, Salon Centric in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, created an online group so that everyone in the flood area could receive supplies sent by people from all over the country. With the donated goods, I helped open The Salon and Spa at The Blake at Lafayette, an assisted living facility.”

—Tabitha Van Kerckvoorde, nail tech, esthetician and makeup artist, Sargeant Bluff, IA  

11. Five-Alarm Fortitude 

“In 1999, I ran out to do errands and when I returned to my home/business, I noticed a strong smoke smell. The lint trap in my dryer was clogged and it caused a fire, and just like that, my business and home were destroyed. I didn’t have fire insurance, and as a single parent I couldn’t afford to pay for the damages. When my clients showed up to help, I was shocked! In addition to material items, they showered me with love and kindness. I’m grateful and fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best people, doing what I love to do.”

Pattie Yankee, celebrity nail designer and owner of Pattie Yankee Manibar, New York, NY 

12. Career Change 

“I was a machinist for the majority of my life, which left me with a degenerative disk in my back at the age of 38. I spent a year with orthopedic doctors, but every path led to pain medication or surgery. My younger brother is a nail professional, so at 42 I took a leap of faith and enrolled in a nail technician program. There I realized I had a passion for working with people. I’ve been in the nail industry for six years now and hope for many more to come.”

—David Currier, nail tech, Dave’s Creative Nails at the Nail Nook, Knoxville, TN

-Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS. 

What challenges have you overcome in your professional or personal life? Tell us in the comments, below. 

[Illustrations by Lovisa Oliv]

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of NAILPRO.

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