November 2nd, 2016

Did you ever wonder how Vietnamese immigrants to the US got into the nail salon business?

Appraently it was due to Tippi Hedren, the actress who starred in Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” and the mother of Melanie Griffith.

Yes, that Tippi Hedren:

“The Vietnamese just happened to be the immigrant group that was willing to do anything, that was new to this country,” Osborne says.

Actress Tippi Hedren was instrumental in helping Vietnamese immigrants to California get started in the nail industry.
Kent Gavin/Getty Images

“And the suggestion for them to see this niche actually came from a Hollywood actress.”

That actress was Tippi Hedren, an elegant blond who starred in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in the 1960s.

When she wasn’t onscreen, Hedren was an international relief coordinator with the organization Food for the Hungry. After Saigon fell, she was working with Vietnamese women in a refugee camp near Sacramento when several admired her long, glossy nails.

Hedren had a manicurist named Dusty at the time and asked her if she would come to the camp to meet with the women. Dusty agreed, and Hedren flew her up to Camp Hope every weekend to teach nail technology to 20 eager women…

Le and her sister manicurists have transformed the nail business, which is projected to pull in some $7.3 billion this year. Today, affordable manicures have become so synonymous with the Vietnamese that Nails magazine offers a Vietnamese-language version.

Le says the constant demand for affordable manicures has given a steady stream of Vietnamese nail technicians work across the country — and the globe.

Even, ironically, back in Vietnam. “If you look around, you see they go everywhere — and they start from California!” Le says, laughing.

I thought I’d also put up a clip of Hedren in “The Birds.” But the one I watched was just too too creepy.

9 Responses to “Did you ever wonder how Vietnamese immigrants to the US got into the nail salon business?”

  1. KLSmith Says:

    Yeah, that movie made me afraid of birds that fly anywhere near me. Still like eagles though.
    My internist is a Vietnamese immigrant. Many years ago a co-worker at the store I worked at was a Vietnamese immigrant. Instead of walking around our frequently empty store whistling he made bombing sounds. Kind of disconcerting, but I just presumed that unfortunately it was a significant background noise of his childhood.

  2. Fact Bully Says:

    “That actress was Tippi Hedren, an elegant blond who starred in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in the 1960s.”

    Since when are two “several”?

  3. son of mother with nasty toenails Says:

    She was right about that “willing to do anything”. My 87 year old mother has the ugliest looking toes I’ve ever seen, in fact I tell her to keep those hideous digits covered. But she got it into her head to get a pedicure for the first time in her life. I said, “don’t be surprised if they shake their heads and show you the door”, (that’s what I would have done). But not only did they do a good job but they were happy to do it even to the point of saying “Please, come back soon”. I guess there is a lesson here for us all.

  4. Janetoo Says:

    That is so fascinating! I can’t wait to tell my sister. We always have mani-pedis when we are together.

  5. Ross Tullis Says:

    Having spent time in a couple of the larger cities in South Vietnam in 67-68 one thing very noticeable was the pride the Vietnamese women took in their nails. I don’t recall any nail color other than red. It was a cultural thing with South Vietnamese women long before Tippi Hedren

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    A case of serendipity for sure. The Vietnamese’s willingness to do whatever it took to survive and prosper met opportunity when it knocked.

    But isn’t it amazing that they succeeded despite the inherently racist society to which they emigrated?

  7. CV Says:

    I get my nails done at a Vietnamese family-run nail salon. Extraordinary work and attention to detail, and half the cost of other beauty salons. The owners are married immigrants and their children are college students in engineering and other STEM fields at local universities. On the weekends the college kids are in the salon doing manicures and pedicures alongside their parents. They all work hard, support each other, and provide a high quality service at a fair price. They have many loyal customers as a result.

  8. huxley Says:

    Cool story.

  9. kalneva Says:

    I used to be a fish farmer, in my younger days, and that is another area where Vietnamese people excel! That is, the cleaning of the fish. They, generally speaking, are excellent at tasks requiring manual dexterity and quickness. As well as jobs that are “beneath” others. And good for them! They’re the epitome of the American dream.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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