PACIFICA (KPIX5) — Every woman knows, behind a good set of nails is a good manicurist like Kimberly Do.
Every day, she creates beautiful nails for her clients, all the while, chatting in Vietnamese with her sisters, and doling out good advice to everyone who comes to the Pamper Me Nail Spa.
“To me it’s the matter of how you manage yourself, how you set yourself,” she says, chatting with the woman in her chair. They’ve become fast friends already.
Kimberly runs this thriving nail salon. Her family is among the thousands of Vietnamese-Americans who make up the estimated 80% of nail technicians in California.
“For this job, you’re not required to speak fluent English,” says Kimberly. “It’s quick… only 6 months you can become a manicurist. You can get your license, yeah. It’s a short period of time to support your family.”
But in this Bay Area tale of how the Vietnamese came to dominate the American nail industry, economics and language are only supporting characters. The star of the story is a Hollywood legend.
Think back to 60s movie star Tippi Hedren. She was best known for her role in Alfred Hitchcocks’s classic thriller, ‘The Birds.’ She is also known as the godmother of Vietnamese manicurists.
After the fall of Saigon, Hedren visited Hope Village near Sacramento with an interest in helping the refugees. She’s been photographed with Vietnam’s former Prime Minister Nguyen Cao, who was also a refugee resident at Hope Village.
The star’s signature coral nails caught the attention of the women in the camp.
“They loved my finger nails so I thought, ‘I am going to bring my manicurist,’” recalls Hedren. “She came up once a week and gave them a lesson. They would all practice on each other they would practice on me.”
Inspired by Hedren and her fabulous nails, twenty women branched out and taught others. They even started their own schools. To this day, Hedren is credited for revolutionizing the industry and making manicures an affordable luxury.
Kimberly Do built her business from the ground up. It’s families like her’s who’ve taken the profession and used it to write their own script for achieving the American dream.
“I can say that I am really proud of myself right now,” says Do. “I would say to my community, my Vietnamese community, I am so proud.”