As Nail Art Grows in Populartiy, the Crazier the Better


"I have a specific client who texts me (this is like the second time she texts me)… she says 'Ami, I know I keep saying this, but every time I look at my nails, they make me so happy. When I'm having a bad day, I look at my nails and it cheers me up'," Vega says, "and I'm like 'Good, that's what I set out to do – to make you happy and stir some emotion in you through nail art. That makes me feel good.'"

With regards to Vega's nail art designs, she has painted everything from the ever-popular leopard print to cartoon figures to the work of Keith Haring.

"I'm kind of obsessed with him," she says, "he's all over my house."

As she describes one of her most complicated nail designs that centered on the abstract work of the late graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vega's 2 ½ year-old daughter Kennedy interrupts our interview. We are interrupting her cartoons, actually.

"Baby, this is not the time to be a tiger or a dinosaur," Vega says in a very patient voice. "Be a dinosaur over there."

The curly-haired toddler ambles back to the living room, but her roaring can still be heard. Blue polish covers her small, pudgy nails. Vega laughs when she mentions Kennedy's perfected hand pose, which the pint-sized girl models when asked. It's the exact same pose Vega asks her clients to do for her Instagram photos. Kennedy has picked up a lot from her mother, even recently requesting a specialized design for herself – blue polish with a Mickey Mouse design.

Designing someone's nails can take anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on how difficult the piece is. And it can cost from 25 to 50 dollars -– depending on the work. Vega says she mostly keeps to herself; not many of her neighbors know about her passion for nail art.

"I think especially older Dominicans… they're not too in tune with the concept of nail art, so it's interesting to see their reactions," Vega says. "They don't understand it but they find it nice and interesting."

Vega's mother loves her work, "but she says for herself and for her age, it's a bit much, it's a bit loud."

But loud is what has gotten Vega's designs attention. Independent curator Rita Pinto stumbled onto Vega's blog and the two women have worked together on Pinto's on-going nail party called Getting' Nail'd. Pinto, Vega, and other nail artists are set to tour at the end of this month.

"To some people it might just be nail art, but to most people who get it, it provides this little gallery… this little work of art that's theirs for a moment in time," Vega says. "When you look at your nails, it brings you back to a moment… a certain feeling."

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