Cindy : The Girl With The Good Nails
Self made. Unapologetic, audacious & free spirited, our "Widows of the Month" are trail blazers who prove that authenticity and confidence are the fundamentals to success. Every month, Widow's Blow shines the spotlight on inspiring people who share our ideologies and love for vintage fashion. Introducing our collaborators through bold editorials and interviews is a great way for us to express our creativity and grow our beloved community.
At the age of just 22 Cindy is a powerhouse of a young woman. As a first generation immigrant who started from nothing. She quickly learned that in order to become successful in western culture she’d have to work hard. Utilizing sublimity allowed her to build up an empire in the beauty industry as a self taught nail artist. Amassing quite the following on social media and armed with a very impressive portfolio,this is just the beginning of her journey.
What are your zodiac placements (sun,moon,rising)?
[Cindy] “My Sun is in Virgo, my moon in Leo and my rising in Libra”
What are your favourite things to do outside of work?
[Cindy] “I’ve always loved to travel. I’ve been to Mexico, Vietnam, Amsterdam, Berlin, Portugal, Singapore, to name a few. I travel because I really enjoy trying new things that I don’t get to do in my day to day at home. Besides travel, I’m obsessed with food so I’m always excited to try new restaurants and dishes. During the pandemic I was forced to stay in and take a breather, so I started getting really into puzzles as a way to relax. Sometimes I’ll spend 13 hours of the day doing nails and the only thing that gets me to chill out is to sit down with a puzzle. The pandemic allowed me to discover a love for tropical plants, something that I think I’ll love forever now. I went from having 1 small dying plant to having over 20 different types and I love learning about all their particularities.”
Where were you born and what are your roots?
[Cindy] “I was born and raised in Ville St Laurent but my parents are both from Vietnam. My parents are first generation immigrants. My father arrived in Vietnam when he was 8 years old fleeing a refugee in a camp after the Cambodian war. My parents met in Vietnam at work. They dated for 7 years before getting married and immigrating to Canada together to build a better life for their family. When they arrived here my parents didn’t speak the language or know anyone really. They found jobs alongside other immigrants (my mother in the garment district, my father at a company) and eventually they opened up a restaurant. They really built everything up from absolutely nothing.”
Why do you love vintage?
[Cindy] “I really love vintage home decor and furniture. I’ve had a love for the aesthetic of vintage homes since I was young. The pandemic really allowed me to deep dive into the research part of vintage furniture, learning about the pieces and getting them for the best price. I enjoyed the hunt!”
Is Beauty Pain?
[Cindy] “Beauty is unique to each person.It’s importance in your life is solely up to you, however in our society in order to obtain beautiful things ex: nails, lashes, clothes, etc… We are forced to run ourselves ragged to make money to be able to afford what we want. For some it takes 6 hours of work just to be able to afford a mascara, yet our society expects everyone to look their best, follow trends and consume in order to be deemed beautiful.”
When did you start doing nails?
[Cindy] “I started working in a salon when I was 13. My mother’s friend opened up a nail salon. She hired me as her receptionist for the summer since she needed someone bilingual to interact with the clients. In Vietnam it is in our culture to start working young so it just made sense for me to work there during the summer. I started experimenting with the products and tools at the salon, that’s when I started really getting into nail art. It was cool because I was able to grow my independence through work at a very young age.”
What type of worker are you?
[Cindy] “I would say that I am passionately hard working. My upbringing played a big part in shaping my work ethic. I grew up as a first generation immigrant watching my parents work because they had to build a life for themselves from literally nothing. I carry that hunger and drive with me throughout every type of work I do. I’m very precise and I always want the work I do to be perfect.”
What advice would you give to aspiring nail artists?
[Cindy] ‘’Honestly I think the most important part of any nail set regardless of the artwork or jewels is the base of the nail itself. I think any aspiring artist wants to build a client base to have a steady work flow. You’ll achieve your goal faster by focusing on perfecting the base in order to provide the best quality, always keeping in mind that nail health comes first when choosing techniques and products. Once you’ve secured the base then you can start to develop your own personal style that will offer your clients something they can’t find elsewhere.”
In the US, nail artists charge over double the price of what you charge here in Montreal, why is that?
[Cindy] “There are a few different factors at play that cause such a steep price decrease in Montreal as opposed to In the US nail industry. Firstly in the US there is a much larger” market for customized nail art, therefore the nail techs can permit themselves to charge a base rate that adequately matches the quality of their art, whereas in Montreal nail artistry is much less sought after which makes it difficult to find regular clients that are willing to pay 400-700$ a set. Secondly, the clientele is different in places like L.A. where the clients are mainly influencers, musicians, actors and such who make much higher salaries. I also have to take into consideration the fact that nail sets are temporary, they need to be changed once a month so I have to offer a reasonable base rate in order to keep a regular income. I make my prices accessible to the market Montreal has to offer.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re painting a new set
[Cindy] “That depends. For my press on kits, draw inspiration from the things or people who inspire me, sometimes it can be as simple as waking up and wanting to draw strawberries. When I’m painting sets for clients then usually it’s a collab between our ideas or client’s specific request.”
How did you start stripping?
[Cindy] “I was open and aware of my sexuality from a really young age. I think when you grow up with the internet there’s something intriguing about sexyness or sex because you see all these influencers and youtubers making money just by being pretty. Stripping was something I saw as a powerful way to own your beauty. As a woman of color, western culture offered me all the rebellious freedom I was craving. Stripping opened that door for me.”
How did you manage your time working a day job while working in the nightlife scene?
[Cindy] “When I started working I had just gotten sober so my view of the clubs was a lot different than that of my coworkers. I went into it with a survivor’s mindset. I wanted to get out of debt, then make as much money as possible. Growing up I didn’t have the privilege of doing or buying the same things my friends had so I associated money with freedom. I had also promised myself that if my mental health started to slip I had to stop dancing. That kept me grounded because I knew I didn’t NEED to work both jobs.”
What motivated you to stop dancing?
[Cindy] “When I started dancing I was really young and still figuring myself out, so I sort of built my life around my stripping persona. As I moved through my career I had gotten to a point where I was beginning to lose my way. I was using my work as validation for myself. The more money I made, the more clients I had the hotter I felt. I just wanted more and more. When the pandemic started I was able to find myself again, re-adjust my lifestyle and put my priorities into perspective. My relationship was really the deciding factor, I was missing out on so much quality time with my partner so I just decided to focus on my nail business and refine my art.”
What was your experience as a POC in the sex work industry?
[Cindy] “As an Asian woman entering the sex work industry I quickly realized that my ethnicity would be an advantage for me. In western culture Asian women are highly fetishized so I built my persona around my heritage. Unfortunately, it is not the case for most women of color in the exotic dancing scene. I witnessed my dark skinned co-workers being singled out and mistreated by club management simply due to their ethnicity. In many clubs when dancers call to inquire about work the managers will ask them how dark their skin is before even looking at the work they do. People of color in the sex work industry often have to make the choice between working and their families, for example in my culture it’s extremely taboo to turn to sex work, there are hundreds of stories about women who are completely disowned by their culture and families when they’re caught dancing.”
What do you wish for in the Future?
[Cindy] “ Honestly, I don’t have a clear cut goal in mind for my thirties. I definitely want a family with my husband in the future. I would love to have a farm full of animals for sure at some point in my life too. Personally, when I think about my future the main thing I want to achieve is to just live my life to the fullest. I want to be able to tell my kids that when I was 21 I was a full time nail artist in Montreal, and then tell them that I went to live somewhere else for a while and worked in a cafe or that I bought a farm when I was 27 and now I have a whole bunch of animals. I don’t want to keep my life focused solely on my career. I love what I do and I wake up every day excited to go paint a new set but if one day I decide I want to try something else then I want to have the option to do it.”
Creative Direction : Neve Kerry
Photos: Jf Galipeau / JFGALIPEAU.CA
MUAH: Ann-Frederic Tremblay
Model : Cindy