Before Cardi B made history pumping out one chart-topping song after another, she was just a girl from the Bronx with a big dream—and a fab nail artist. Anyone who follows Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, on Instagram knows that the rapper doesn’t feel like herself without the long acrylic nails, completely blinged out with crystals, that have become part of her signature look.
“No matter how much money I make, no matter where I am in my life, I will always do my nails like this,” Cardi B said in a Instagram video last year. And for the past five years, she has trusted her hands to only one woman she lovingly calls “Jenny from the Bronx.”
Cardi B was working as a stripper when Jenny “Queen of Blings” Bui first started doing her nails. The pair quickly became close during biweekly appointments at Nails on 7th in New York. Even as Cardi B evolved into a superstar, she kept coming back to Bui (though the nail artist says she now comes more like once every month because of her demanding schedule).
“She’s really close with me and I always treat her like family,” says Bui, who adds that the two of them can talk about anything and everything. “Whenever she feels hurt, I’m hurt too,” says Bui. She considers herself like a “second mom” to the star.
Knowing Cardi B that well comes in handy since Bui says she doesn’t plan any of her elaborate nail looks in advance.”I never think about what I’m gonna do for her, but every time I see her face I just know,” she says. That’s pretty impressive given that each look is unique and incredibly creative.
Though some fans might think Cardi B’s nail style is over-the-top, according to Bui the star has toned down her style in recent years. “Back in the day, I used to put giant diamonds on her nails. Now she don’t want that no more.” Cardi B’s past looks also included 3D bows and attachments hanging from her nails, but now Bui says she goes for a fancier look such as the rainbow-crystal nails that were inspired by “Bodak Yellow”—a manicure which took a reported two hours to complete.
Bui has literally held Cardi B’s hand at various stages of her career and watched as she hit platinum single status, breaking new ground for female rappers. When Bui first saw Cardi B’s music video for “Lick,” featuring her now-fiancé Offset, Bui said she was moved to tears by how beautiful Cardi B looked. “I never see her dress up so nice, I always see her just wearing anything. But that day she looked like a princess! Like a queen! I cried for real that day,” says Bui.
Five years after the manicurist first started doing the nails of a 20-year-old girl from the Bronx, Bui and Cardi B reunited this week to create a fresh nail look for the GRAMMYs, where the artist is up for two awards. While the circumstances may have changed, their close and loyal relationship has remained the same.
“I know you’re gonna become very, very famous!” Bui remembers telling Cardi B while the rapper was still trying to make it in music. “And I say ‘When you become very, very famous, you gonna forget about this Jenny!’ And she tells me ‘Never!’ And she did, she never forgot about me.”
Anne T. Donahue on Authenticity, Taylor Swift and Cardi B
Victoria’s Secret Models Sang the N-Word in “Bodak Yellow”—Here’s Why That’s Not OK
Best Nail Art Places to Try Across Canada
Dear Vogue, Please Don’t Make “Manicure Sculptures” the New Boxer Braids