We’re barely into 2018, but some of last year’s trash is still causing a stink on Twitter—specifically, a Vogue article that claims “manicure sculptures” are a new trend. What are manicure sculptures, you ask? According to Vogue, this layered, bedazzled look is the “most extreme nail art yet.”
— Vogue Runway (@VogueRunway) December 29, 2017
But as numerous Twitter users pointed out, “manicure sculpture” is just a new name for a well-established fashion trend in the Black community. Of course, the connection between this type of cuticle care and Black culture is completely absent from Vogue‘s article.
This has been black culture for a while… stealing something and calling it a different name doesn’t make it a trend
— Amber Ruby (@BrandingAmber) December 31, 2017
Seriously, @VogueRunway, did you do ANY research? This style of nail art has been a staple in urban communities for YEARS.
— Miah Ed.D (@dst6n01) December 31, 2017
And this attitude is widespread. As a 2012 Buzzfeed article highlighted, as nail art gained mainstream popularity, the one thing that seems to consistently be missing from the coverage of this trend is a nod to the Black communities that popularized them in the first place.
“Nail art really isn’t a budding trend. It’s something that’s been around forever in the black community,” freelance beauty and fashion writer Aja Mangum told Buzzfeed. “You used to associate it with being a little ‘hood’ or ‘ghetto fab.’ Now white women are tricking out their nails and it’s not seen that way.”
In Vogue‘s article, which was originally published in March 2017, they spoke with New York City manicurist Sarah Nguyen about her “next-level manicures, layering jewels and shiny objects to create 3-D, cuticle-friendly bling.” This isn’t to say that Nguyen’s work isn’t bomb, because let’s be real, the sparkly Swarovski-laden designs incorporating gold, mounted jewels and the occasional bedazzled mini bridge, sceptre or sculpture of Nefertiti are straight-up stunning. But there is absolutely no mention in the article about where the nail art that Nguyen showcases on Instagram originated—and that is the very definition of appropriation.
Will you be revealing from where the inspiration came? #StealingCulture
— TiffanyPayne-Griffin (@TheRealTPayne) December 30, 2017
Rebranding pieces of Black culture as new trends seems to be a regular occurrence these days. Remember when the Kardashians donned cornrows and attempted to rename them “Boxer Braids” or “KKW Signature Braids”? But just because you give something a new name does not make it a new trend. Like, we do all understand that taking something from someone else and claiming it as your own is wrong… or did people somehow skip that day of kindergarten?
Every time we get some, here y’all come trying to steal it, putting some blonde hair on it and calling it something different. pic.twitter.com/iwuzd6o7Sc
— The Reign of the Goats (@iitsdbook) December 31, 2017
As Bustle points out, when it comes to other trends, Vogue gives its readers historical context. For instance, when covering the high necklines and lace looks that dominated the spring runway in 2016, the fashion mag mentioned the Victorian era, which these looks reference, in their coverage. Their story on “manicure sculptures,” however, lacked any such historical context or mention of the iconic women who have made such nail art possible. Think, Janet Jackson’s iconic pierced nails from her 1998 “What’s It Gonna Be?” video (which were later obvs copied by Kim Kardashian) or Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner, a.k.a. Flo-Jo, and her signature long and decorated manicures.
“Black and brown girls wear their nails like this to prom, for weddings, and yes—for regular degular slayage,” wrote beauty reporter Marquaysa Battle on The Revelist. And yet, all five of the photos in the Vogue article showcase Nguyen’s creations solely on white hands. (Note: her Instagram does have pics of nail art on non-white skin tones)
In addition to the lack of reference to the roots of this type of nail art, the Vogue also fails to mention stars like Rihanna and Cardi B who have sported these creative claws for years.
Belcalis Almanzar, better known as the hilarious and endearing “Bodak Yellow” rapper Cardi B, regularly showcases her absolutely blinged out nails on her Instagram, crediting her longtime Bronx nail tech Jenny Bui for the creations. Bui told Refinery29 that Cardi B became her client when she was still as stripper at Sue’s Rendezvous and continued coming back even after releasing multiple Top-10 songs. But while Vogue held up manicure sculptures as a chic new trend, Black women like Cardi B have endured criticism for sporting this very look.
Y’all call black people ghetto for having anything other than a plain color on their hands but when the hands are white it’s “manicure sculptures” …. Lmao trash
The hood been doing long nails jewels and creations since the dawn of time. Catch the fuck up https://t.co/f3RGOWV8nx
— Alluring Ivy (@Drebae_) December 30, 2017
When Tasha did it “omg so ghetto, absolutely no class” but Becky does it and it’s “manicure sculpture “ ….. pic.twitter.com/5Pm4IfInyL
— cozygirlruru (@africanruru) December 30, 2017
In The Managed Hand: Race, Gender, and the Body in Beauty Service Work, women’s studies scholar Miliann Kang writes, “women’s choices of nail styles and services reflect the social construction of beauty, which is not based on natural or biological traits but upon socially conditioned tastes that are deeply entrenched in gender, race and class differences.” Translation: nail trends, whether it’s long bedazzled acrylics or a simple french mani, mean something to and reflect the community from whence they came. The fact that one is often seen as “ghetto” while the other is seen as “chic” is not really about the look of the nail at all, but instead, about how society views the communities that have popularized those trends.
Cardi B has made it clear that she has no intention of forgetting her roots, and that means maintaining a mean manicure courtesy of her girl “Jenny from the Bronx.” Because let’s not forget, according to the rapper herself, she’s been rocking over-the-top nail art since she was 13 (i.e. way before Vogue proclaimed it to be a new trend).
So friends, let’s learn from our mistakes in 2017 and this year, stop repackaging the longtime fashion from certain communities as new trends for the masses. Vogue may have called this “manicure sculptures” but really, it’s just appropriation.