One of the most prominent features of the Vietnamese American journey is how many individuals navigated making a living in the United States. The biggest common trend is how the Vietnamese eventually became the dominant force with the nail industry within the United States. The origins of this field of employment date back to life in the refugee camps for Vietnamese Americans. In 1975, Tippi Hedren, an infamous actress of the time, was doing humanitarian work where she assisted in the resettlement of various Vietnamese women in the United States. Upon receiving compliments from the women of her nails, Hedren got her manicurist to teach the Vietnamese women how to do a manicure. Through the passing down of those skills, manicuring has become a viable pathway to go into for many Vietnamese Americans as the industry offers high profit potential but also the existing Vietnamese-American community also provides support for any newcomers to get into the industry. Today, many Vietnamese-American nail technicians still operate nail salons across the United States, by both men and women.
These immigrant-owned businesses are signs of the impact and the mark that Vietnamese-Americans left on the country. They illustrate their resilience and determination to make a living for themselves that emphasizes the importance of survival. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the various stereotypes that have developed in the United States about this particular trope. While it is common for many Vietnamese-American families to know of or be apart of the nail industry, this is not indicative for all Vietnamese-American families. The nail industry definitely is made up of a majority of Vietnamese American in the United States but has become a stepping stone for future generations of Vietnamese-Americans. Given the nature of the job, many parents (especially of immigrants) hold values of education for their children, hoping that they will move beyond the nail industry with their higher education.
Involvement, within the industry has its drawbacks as health hazards arise when mentioning the harmful chemicals are are involved in the manicuring process. Furthermore, with a large immigrant composition within the industry, various language barriers also act as an obstacle between staff and customers. However, the profit margins, the low barrier of entry as well as the available connections makes entry into the industry appealing especially if it means one is able to support their family through these means.
What started as a small gesture to teach a new skill eventually grew to become a common feature of the Vietnamese-American identity. The nail industry has become a trademark of the Vietnamese-American and showcases their entrepreneurial success in the United States but also the levels of hardships that continue to affect them as they battle with harmful depictions of their lifestyles.