4 Women Share Their Stories in the Nail Industry This Women’s History Month

Four nail professionals share their journeys in the nail industry, from what inspired them to enter the industry, their biggest mistakes and what changes they want to see in the industry going forward.
Four nail professionals share their journeys in the nail industry, from what inspired them to enter the industry, their biggest mistakes and what changes they want to see in the industry going forward.
Image from zinkevych via Adobe Stock

March is Women’s History Month, a time to spotlight all of the amazing contributions and achievements women have made throughout history and in contemporary time.

Here, we are spotlighting four amazing women who have made an impact on the nail industry through their phenomenal work. They share their stories with us, including how they got their start in the industry, what keeps them motivated and what changes they want to see in the industry going forward.

Getting Started

Every nail tech finds their way into the industry in their own unique way, whether it’s knowing their passion from a young age or stumbling into it by surprise. 

For Teryn Smith (@shape.with.teryn), Luxapolish educator, it was the latter.

“When I had just quit college, I felt like I did not know where I was going in life. I gave myself one year to find my ‘calling,’” Smith recalls. “During this time I was getting my nails done regularly, and out of nowhere it just clicked– This was it: I’ll be a nail tech. The next day I was looking into enrollment and started working more waitressing shifts to pay for my schooling.” 

Celina Rydén (@celinaryden), a now nail entrepreneur, had a similar experience of stumbling into the industry by accident. 

“Back in 2005, when I was just fresh out of Swedish ‘high school,’ I started to work at a café where I became friends with a girl who had really beautiful gel nail extensions. This was something that I had never seen before, and she told me that she had been modeling for a nail school that was located just five minutes from where I lived,” Rydén remembers. “She helped me get in contact with the school, I got my nails done by a student and I completely fell in love with the whole thing – everything from the tools, to the products, techniques and the overall vibe. I decided then and there to become a nail tech. Back then, it wasn’t very common to actually wear nail extensions, so I knew nothing about nails or the nail industry. I just knew that it would match my needs for being creative, so I pretty much jumped head first not knowing anything about the professional nail industry.” 

Jenny Bui (@nailson7th) decided to become a nail tech because of the flexibility it offered her. 

“When I arrived in New York, I attended cosmetology school,” Bui shares. “I had a family to raise with small children, so I had to do something with flexible hours with decent pay. Becoming a nail tech allowed me to have time for my kids while making a great living.” 

The Accomplishments 

Upon entering the industry, these nail techs and artists made big strides in their careers, breaking barriers and helping the industry to grow and evolve. 

Gloria Williams (@footnanny) went on to become the CEO and Founder of Footnanny Inc., specializing in wellness products for the feet. She is also Oprah Winfrey’s personal pedicurist. 

“My proudest accomplishment is finding my purpose through touch and how to scale that TOUCH into a business,” Williams says. 

Bui developed her own signature style as the Queen of Bling, sharing why this moniker is so important to her: “Teaching upcoming generations about bling techniques and the nail industry is most important. I love that I’ve influenced the nail industry and hip hop culture. I’m so proud to be the first nail pro to introduce blinged out nail art to the industry!” 

Rydén has launched three different companies and brands that she is equally proud of: 

“I am most proud of my three companies/brands that I’ve loved and cherished for many years: “My Nail Academy,” which is my online platform for nail education; “Moonflair,” which is my nail brand where I have my “Nail Cards” and books that I’ve designed; and my latest project “Switch Nails,” which is a press-on nail brand.” 

Passion and Motivation 

In order to keep working each day, you need something to keep you motivated and inspired. For these ground-breaking artists and entrepreneurs, it’s the people around them and how they can make a difference in their lives. 

“Loving my career and the interactions I have daily with other like minded artists in the industry keeps me motivated,” Smith shares. “This all helps with my personal growth and experiences as well as theirs.” 

Bui similarly echoes this sentiment: “My family and supporters keep me going. Without them, I wouldn’t be here or as successful. Most of all, I’m so thankful for my clientele who keep believing in me and pushing me to the limit.” 

For Rydén, it’s all about problem solving, which makes sense considering her strong entrepreneurial spirit. 

“I just have a natural urge to come up with solutions to people’s problems, so regardless of the company or brand I’m working with, it has to either help or inspire people (or do both),”she shares. 

Williams is proud that the industry is still accessible for up and coming nail techs. 

“‘How to Open a Nail Salon with $1000’ is still achievable and scalable,” Williams shares, reflecting on a book she wrote in 2019.


Of course, any great nail tech knows that you can’t make any strides without a few setbacks. Mistakes are inevitable, but it’s learning from them that matters. 

“My biggest mistake is allowing haters to affect me at one point, but now I always say that ‘if you have no haters, then you’re not poppin,’” Bui shares. “In other words, just love yourself and your skills. That all it matters. I also keep telling myself to stay true to my heart and never be fake about it!” 

Rydén has a similar experience navigating her relationships with other people in the industry, sharing that her biggest mistake was starting a company with the wrong person and letting people into her life who were only there to use her. 

“I’ve always been very naïve when it comes to people and I always think that everyone wants the best for the other person simply because that is my own mindset in life. I have a tendency to invite people in and give a bit too much and unfortunately that can attract the wrong type of people,” she explains. “I’ve taken a couple of really bad punches but at the same time I’m extremely thankful for them because they were amazing life lessons and they made me into the person I am today. If I had the chance to go back and avoid it, I actually wouldn’t change a thing because it helps me so much today when it comes to running several businesses and it acts kind of like protection. I see the signs so much clearer now and can avoid getting myself into those type of situations.” 

Smith, conversely, regrets that she didn’t have other people to rely on in her beginning years as a nail tech. 

“My biggest mistake was doing this alone. By that, I mean leaving school and having no mentor or nail bestie to glide through my initial years as an artist,” Smith says. “How I overcame this was by putting myself out there and meeting other artists. Putting myself out there gets me further in my career, and you also do not know who you’re helping along the way. You’re a vital person in someone’s growth.” 

Advice for Their Younger Self 

With such whirlwind careers and ample experience under their belts, there’s plenty of opportunity for reflection. Here, these techs reflect on the advice they would give the younger version of themselves.

“Give your gift full focus and stay away from negative people,” Williams advises. 

Bui shares a similar sentiment: “I would tell my younger self to be patient and focus on the love from the community. Don’t let negativity ruin my mood. Always push forward, never stop and reach for the goals.” 

Rydén emphasizes the importance of self-care, saying “Don’t forget about yourself. I know it’s so easy to get lost in serving others and putting yourself last, but you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. There’s a reason why the flight attendant tells you to put your own mask on first before helping others. It’s not cool to skip lunch, skip taking breaks to breathe and stretch or not shutting your work phone off after working hours. It’s necessary for you to be able to perform and to last a long time in this industry. Schedule self-care during the week (like taking a bath, going for a walk, reading a book, etc.) and don’t reschedule just because a client asks you to ‘fit her in.’  The new cool is to put yourself first and make time for things that are fun!” 

Smith sums up her advice quite nicely: “I would tell my younger version that patience is key, growth is uncomfortable but necessary and to never go at this alone. I would also tell her that every goal you want to accomplish is only moments away, so just enjoy the ride – It all works out in the wash.” 

Changes in the Industry 

Now more than ever, the industry is rapidly changing, meaning nail techs have to be constantly evolving and adapting with it. But what changes have these techs seen? And where do they want the industry to go next? 

“I see that the nail industry has become very advanced, especially with the tools and products. For example, Gel X,” Bui explains. 

Williams echoes how she’s seen the industry advance with YouTube tutorials and the explosion of nail art, which is something Rydén has also noticed as well. 

“When I started back in 2005, people didn’t know about nails in the sense that we do today. The clients were mostly older rich women and they all wanted a French manicure or a solid color like red,” Rydén explains. “When I got back into the nail industry in 2012 after working as a professional dancer for ten years, I started creating different designs on different fingers in the same set, and people thought I had gone completely crazy! I love that we can express our style and personality in a completely different way today and that we can inspire each other through social media. Today, trends and new techniques are quickly shared globally, which allows us to push our own creativity, both as clients and nail techs.” 

While the nail industry has advanced with new techniques and styles, these techs want more respect and recognition for their work. 

“I would like to see more consistent change for artists' self worth. Despite how far we’ve come, I believe there can be more,” Smith says. 

Bui also dittos this sentiment, saying “I would love to see the nail community gain more respect for our artistry, but we are going in the right direction so far.” 

Advice for Other Nail Techs 

With the ample time these stylists have had in the industry, they’ve learned plenty – from mistakes made to experiences had throughout their careers. Of course, they’re going to have advice to share for the next generation of nail techs. 

“Put yourself out there, say yes to more opportunities and open up your mind to allow more to come in,” Smith advises. “Stay consistent in everything you choose to do. You have to want it, work for it and be patient for when it happens. Just know you’re always impacting someone somewhere, regardless of a flopped IG post or an undersold class. If one person finds you valuable, then two will and then four. 

“You have to focus on becoming better every day,” Bui adds. “Practice makes perfect. Love yourself and your art. Don’t let negativity affect you, let it motivate you.” 

Ryden emphasizes the importance of passion, saying “I think everything comes down to loving what you do. If you don’t have the passion, then your passion is waiting to be discovered somewhere else. Find the things that make you forget about time and focus on that. It might sound cheesy, but ask yourself how your passion can help others and make the world just a tiny little bit better. Other than that - be kind, have fun, support your fellow industry colleagues, always continue to learn new things/new techniques and surround yourself with positive people who support you!” 

Williams sums it all up quite nicely: “Find your LANE and smash it! Be the best at whatever you do!” 

Happy Women’s History Month 

These are just a few of the amazing stories of women in the industry who are making a difference through their unique contributions. We are so thankful they shared their insight with us! 

You can follow them here: 

Jenny Bui (@nailson7th)

Celina Rydén (@celinaryden)

Teryn Smith (@shape.with.teryn)

Gloria Williams (@footnanny

You can also read more stories our followers shared with us below. 

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