'Claws' Key Nail Stylist, Gracie J Talks About The Rare Art Of Nails

Photo via Nylon

Photo via Nylon

For anyone who's spent a considerable amount of time in a nail shop, you know the special art of nail design. It may look cute and simple, but the creativity and time by which these techs take to achieve a certain look, is impressive.

Brooklyn-based talent, Gracie J knows all about the craft as the key nail stylist on set for TNT's upcoming series, Claws, that has everything to do with nails and drama.

The 27-year-old has gained an impressive social media following from her beautiful designs and editorial work (hence the name @TheEditorialNail) with the likes of L'Oreal, M.A.C and OPI. Ahead of the show's premiere on June 11 we spoke to the talent about her passion and purpose.
1. How did your journey into nail design begin?

I've always been heavily influenced by the arts. I was raised around very crafty and creative Haitian women. My grandmother and aunt are very talented seamstresses, my mother with a passion for home decor, my late aunt and younger sister are singers. And as for myself, any art class imaginable, I was there.

I started experimenting with nail art at the age of 13. It became an obsession. I changed my nail designs multiple times throughout the day. My mother used to scold me for doing my nails to attract boys —with Haitian parents anything you do is about boys— so it's ironic that I ended up making nail art a career.

It wasn't until later on working corporate at M.A.C. that I realized manicurists were getting PAIIID very well to work on set. I said to myself, you're going to pursue this and give yourself a year to make some amazing things happen, if it works out great, if not then it's time to reevaluate. It's been almost four years since, and I've never looked back. The industry has been really good to me.

2. Do you do anything to advance your craft on a regular basis? What inspires you to get better?

Other artists inspire me to work harder and elevate my talent. It's a constant reminder to strive to be the best at what I love doing. My clients/friends and family challenge me every day, without them I wouldn't be where I am today.

3. As an artist, does the nail art you create affect your personal space? Your fashion sense? Your home decor?

Nail art definitely affects my personal space. I am up to my neck in nail products. I don't even know where to put them all. But on a serious note my personal style is minimal/editorial, I like a minimal and clean living space. I don't like clutter. As far as my fashion sense, I like being comfortable, but I also love looking good, same with my nails.

4. What's the biggest obstacle you've faced in your profession? How did you cope?

The biggest obstacle all of us freelancers face on a daily is being expected to work for free. Others don't realize this is what we do for a living, to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, business overhead costs, bills, student loans, etc the list goes on. I'm not saying there aren't jobs we're willing to negotiate terms. But in the end, I can't pay my landlord with Instagram credits. When you go to the store to buy something you want/need/admire, you don't ask the salesperson to give it to you for free. You might ask for a coupon or a discount hookup, but you pay right? I love what I do and I'm very good at it and I want to be valued as an artist, as a business woman and as a person. 

5. How did you grow your brand online? What has social media done for the nail industry specifically?

Research!!! Tons of research. Google is your best friend. I'm primarily an IG user so I searched day and night on how to grow my audience. Patience is key, I hashtagged the hell out of my pictures and tagged anyone and everyone who would like my pics or repost. I also interacted a lot with everyone and I still try to do so to this day, it's really hard to keep up. I try to take good quality pictures and format my page in an aesthetically pleasing way, something that grabs your attention. White space is really good, it gives each picture individual shine. I also kept tabs on when my posts were doing their best and started to post during those times only. So far all my little tactics have worked out.

Photo via Nylon

Photo via Nylon

6. How has your cultural heritage as a Haitian-Latina affected the way you approach your passion? 

I am blessed and proud to call myself a Black woman of Haitian-Latina decent. We are a resilient, passionate, headstrong, and vibrant people. We put love in everything we do and stand so tall and proud. With that deeply rooted in my heritage, I always give 200 percent when it comes to what I love and those I love. 

7. When did you first realize you were a Black girl?

My first experience with waking up happened at an interview with a very prominent brand. The interviewers walked in and turned to two white women sitting opposite of me and called my name as I awkwardly made myself known behind them. The most uncomfortable interview ever. Neither women would make eye contact with me.

 I realized I was a Black girl when I started to realize I was being treated differently despite my "non ghetto demeanor", despite how poised I was, despite being an educated person with a degree, despite smiling all the time and being "submissive" or not being too rowdy to avoid the title of the mad Black woman —despite my every attempt to not fit the "Black stereotype". I had an epiphany one day, I said to myself, I can't live my life to please others or to pacify their thoughts of me or my people. I can't carry a sign on my forehead depicting all my positive attributes just so I can pass as the "good Black" woman. 

I've learned overtime that we're not as kind to ourselves as we should be, ourselves meaning other individuals like us. We don't love or respect each other enough. We need to treat each other with value and kindness. Despite the burdens that come with being Black and a woman, I love myself, I love my people. We're overflowing with culture, color in all shades and hues, so much life and flavor. We are so fucking magical! And don't ever forget, our melanin will always be poppin'.