Confessions of a mani virgin
Johannesburg - The last time I really cared about chipping a nail or how far back my cuticles were pushed I was torn between roses or bows to add drama to my matric dance dress.
These days I think my nails are fine – they’re neat, short, clean with no nail polish and it’s what I say when I show them to Getty Gizaw, founder and owner of the Soho nails/beauty salon.
For the last two years the Sandton salon’s been named salon of the year at the Professional Beauty Industry Awards. It’s also where RiRi went to give her talons some TLC when the pop sensation arrived in Jozi recently.
“They’re not bad,” she says as I present my hands to her. I feel vindicated, not too embarrassed to admit I’m something of a mani virgin.
Getty, an Ethiopian-born American, lets me have my moment of smugness. She gestures me inside the salon in the Sandton shopping centre with a smile and a flourish of a hand that ends with pale gel tip nails that extend well into the empty space between us.
She waves me towards what looks like a business class seat. They’re specially designed and come with vibrating back massagers, built-in basins, individual storage cubicles and a retractable swing-desk with all the charge points you can imagine. There’s free wi-fi in the salon and funky lounge music plays in the background – no pan pipes.
Getty insists on these because Soho is the manifestation of her New York dream salon in Jozi.
“I used to travel to South Africa for business when I was in marketing and events (bringing out the likes of Beyoncé, Samuel L Jackson and Bill Clinton) and also to visit my dad who’s lived here for about 20 years,” she says.
When she got R&B crooner R Kelly the gig to sing Sign of Victory at the 2010 World Cup ceremony, she started spending extended periods in the country. On one of those trips she really needed a mani.
“The salon recommended to me had green carpets, pink walls and they wanted to soak my hands and feet in a plastic basin the kind your granny would have used, it was so off-putting, and I had to put my handbag on to a floor that probably had other people’s nail clippings on them. It was horrible,” she says.
This opportunity to close the gap in the market by delivering a different mani and pedi experience to South Africans was motivation enough for her to switch careers, leave America and set up shop in Joburg. She will open a Cape Town branch next year.
I take a seat as nail technician Patience Mlotshwa examines my hands. She brings out a sealed sterilised manicure pack and helps me decide on a French manicure as she presses the button on my massage chair.
“But I think wildfire red for your toenails – everybody wants this colour because Rihanna was wearing it in SA,” says Patience.
She starts filing my nails and asks what shape I’d like. I look at her confused.
“There’s more than one shape?” I ask. She laughs and I say she should decide.
People keep coming into the salon. Soho works on a walk-in only basis except for parties larger than five people. It’s a concept Getty says is new for South Africans, but works because many people make spot decisions about getting their nails done or having a quick massage while they’re shopping. She has 24 staff, so no one gets turned away.
Also new to South Africans is her offer of a runner service for clients, getting someone to stand in a movie queue or to pop out for a errand while her clients get “me” time. She’s also negotiated three dedicated parking spaces to accommodate clients squeezed for finding a parking space in the massive mall.
It’s this kind of innovation and service level that keeps traffic through her doors. One of the walk-ins is Dean Siebert. He takes up the seat next to mine.
“Is it your first time here?” I ask.
“No, I’m here about every two weeks to get my hands and feet done. They remove my cuticles without hurting me and I like how they buff my nails,” he says.
I’m shocked, truly.
“Let’s see your hands – wow, you’ve even got nail polish on them,” I say, feeling the glossy surfaces of his nails.
“No, everyone thinks it’s nail polish, but they’ve just been buffed,” says Dean.
I’m impressed, the nails are as buffed as he is. The personal trainer at an upmarket Sandton gym says good grooming is a must and thinks more guys should “be doing the right thing”.
Now I feel a little embarrassed. At least I can show off my nails that have been transformed by Patience and what she’s done with Shellac nail polish cured under UV lights. She tells me they’ll last for up to two weeks.
I know technology’s moved on since my matric dance days but I’m still thinking that by day three my nails will do battle with scratching a sticky label off something, a jammed-up gadget slider, or even typing up this article. At that moment though I don’t care, I’m just amazed – my nails look good.
My toes have got the wildfire red treatment and some reflexology too, now they’re soaking in the salon’s signature pedi treatment. “They’re enchanting crystals, watch,” says Janita Purbhoo, who’s been working on easing tension from my feet. The crystals turn the water in the foot basin into a mushed up jelly of sheer delight. My toes love it. (The jelly returns to a watery state with a few scoops of salt).
Getty checks in on me.
“I think we should thread your eyebrows too after we’ve added some Minx to your nails,” she says.
“What’s wrong with my eyebrows and what the heck is Minx?” I’m thinking. I imagine my eyebrows are misbehaving hairy tendrils and threading sounds like getting stitches – painful.
First comes the Minx. “These are Louis Vuitton for your nails,” says Gina Kostov. With tweezers, she picks up what looks like a sticker, warms it under a lamp and when it’s soft and floppy she drapes it over my fingernail and applies massage and pressure to set it.
“It’s a kind of signature,” she says. “We did the South African flag for Rihanna. It’s everyone’s favourite.”
Minx, though, are not stickers – they’re a solid nail coating that’s a top nail trend alongside metallic tips, French manicures in every possible mix and match, and 3D nail art.
I’m still admiring my nails when Rashmi Mehta Prag tilts my head back, winds a length of twisted organic cotton around her hands and starts rolling the thread across my eyebrow.
“This is a 400-year-old technique and it gives the best results for shaping eyebrows,” she says.
It doesn’t hurt much and within a few seconds she holds up a mirror for me. I burst out laughing, I’m so surprised. It brings Getty over.
“And now?” she asks.
“I thought my eyebrows looked fine, like I thought my nails looked fine…” I say. “They did look fine, but they just look finer now,” she smiles.
I smile too. - Ufrieda Ho, The Star
LATEST NAIL TRENDS
The “mani ring” – a ring worn on your nail – is the latest nail trend. The cross between a ring and a false nail is being sold online, and Instagram is plastered with snaps of the decorations.
Even fashion-savvy Beyoncé was spotted donning the bling in one of her music videos.
They come in both gold and silver, and fashionistas looking for a more eye-catching design can opt for those featuring an intricate snake or bejewelled styles.
Speaking about the trend, fashion blogger Lydia Faye Jones said: “Nail art and statement rings are an ongoing trend, and these nail rings combine the two trends together.
“I think these rings look so effective when worn collectively and really stand out from the crowd.
“They also help to immediately hidea broken nail emergency.” – Daily Mail
Cuticle tattoos – temporary designs that sit below the cuticle area to highlight or contrast with your manicure – are also big beauty news.
They’re ideal for those who want to subtly experiment with body art without committing to a real tattoo. They are applied like press-on tattoos and just need a small amount of water to make them stick.
Rad Nails, an American e-tailer that delivers worldwide, describes the $6 (R60) tattoos as “an easy way to accent your nail art”.
The company offers four different patterns. Choose between moon-shaped Another Round; triangles dubbed Your Point?; geometric pattern In a Pinch; and Double Drips, a paint-splatter effect.
However, some members of the Twittersphere seem less than impressed.
One user wrote “Tackiest thing ever”, and she wasn’t alone. – Daily Mail