How Nettie Davis Made It As A Celebrity Nail Artist


You never know when your "one moment" will be. That moment when a door of opportunity for your life and career opens in ways you could have never planned or imagined. Sometimes that moment comes right when you're about to give up. For celebrity manicurist Seanette, Nettie Davis, that moment came after a last-minute decision to not give up on her hustle.

Nettie had been working in a Santa Monica salon, barely getting by and struggling to convince clients to pay for a luxury nail experience although they were spending hundreds to get their hair done. However, one of the women she successfully pitched to turned out to be the mother of an agent at The Wall Group - a powerhouse for creative talent in the entertainment industry. She raved to her daughter about Nettie's work. A month later, Nettie received the call -- the door-opener. She would eventually sign with The Wall Group, initiating the start of a thriving career as a nail artist in the bustling Hollywood entertainment industry.

For the past ten years, Nettie has been on-call, catering to a bevy of celeb clients including Tessa Thompson, Kiki Layne, Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Letitia Wright, Issa Rae, Janelle Monae, among others.

Passionate yet humble, Nettie will quickly tell you that she's blessed to "have a job that doesn't feel like work." Though her days are sometimes hectic and unpredictable, it's what keeps her energized. Couple that with her ability to draw from creative inspirations and craft visually stunning nail art, she's quietly cemented a name for herself in a world that isn't always easy to navigate. In 2018, she launched Pottle, a one-of-a-kind container. The cleverly named Pottle, which Nettie describes as a "mix between a pot and a bottle" is geared to beauty professionals who need a reliable way to mix and store ingredients on the go.

Nettie spoke to xoNecole about her career evolution, tips for others interested in the industry, lessons learned as a product entrepreneur, what inspires her about her work and more.

What was your journey into the nail industry like?

Courtesy of Nettie Nails

I've been doing nails since I was twelve. When I moved out to Los Angeles from Houston, I wanted to be a costume designer. I did that for a while, but I was 100 pounds overweight, so it was a pretty hard job. When I got injured during pilot season on my third year, my mom told me to use my nail license that I had in California and start doing nails again. I didn't think it was a lucrative career decision. While I was on bedrest, I met some girls like Rihanna's manicurist, who were doing home spa parties. They started telling me how amazing their paychecks were doing nails for the industry. I called my friends who worked on set and told them I might be venturing into something different and if they needed a nail person for film to call me. They told me they'd keep their ear to the ground. It didn't pan out as fast as I wanted to. I started working in a salon, doing home spas and making body scrubs.

How were you marketing your brand in the early days?

I didn't even know what the [celebrity world] was. I was still hung up on, "When am I going to get back to my fashion career?" I let it take me where it took me since God really did open this door and I had asked Him to open this door. So, I walked through it. The Wall Group started calling me for all of these magazines and commercials. It [evolved into] call Nette Davis, the celebrity manicurist, instead of "call that girl to come to my house." When Instagram came out, I asked if I had to do this. Everyone was like, yes. I kept my website up-to-date but other than that, I was running around doing nails. It wasn't like, 'Oh, I'm going to brand myself.'

"I let it take me where it took me since God really did open this door and I had asked Him to open this door. So, I walked through it."

I was feeling a little stagnant in the celebrity world. You don't get to have fun unless you're working with a musical artist. Actresses, because they do so many jobs and have so many different shoots and opportunities, usually want nude, short nails. The trend of nail art was coming and I wasn't staying afloat and relevant. I really wanted to do that. To [practice and differentiate myself], I started doing nails for my friends. [Nail art] is slowly being filtered into mainstream media now. But, back in the day, it wasn't. When I do Sephora ads now, they always want nail art. That wasn't heard of seven years ago.

What are the key things you need to know in order to make it as a professional celebrity nail artist?

Know yourself and what it takes to get through a certain job. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and temperament. That is something that is going to be magnified when you start working with celebrities. I'm not a patient person but I know I have to channel my inner mom when I work with certain needy people in the industry. It's not always so cut and dry. Be excited and willing to have fun with everything -- even with the crazy mistakes. Practice makes perfect.

How do you navigate getting the most out of working with an agency?

If an agency has more than one manicurist, you're not number one. You're "one of." You have to be your own number one. Agent or no agent, you have to get out there and grind. Keep good relationships with people on set. You're still making a name for yourself. It should be your job to outshine the agency. If you're doing your job right, when [a client] calls, they are asking for you.

What inspired you to launch Pottle?

Halle Berry was doing a show called Extant. They wrote this storyline into the show where she didn't know she was an alien and her nails would grow every time she would grow. After that show, she kept asking what was a better alternative than acrylic. I said gel might be better. For my kit, it's always best to have bottles than pots because pots always leak and I need things to stay upright in my kit. Because she has an active lifestyle, I probably spent over $500 buying new gel products because certain formulas didn't work. I finally found some Russian gel that I loved because it was a pot, but it wasn't going to be all over my kit. I wanted to put it in a bottle and keep it moving but I couldn't do that easily. It was a very slow and strenuous process.

What came next?

I started getting ideas. I played around with the idea, put it on paper and drew it out. I got a provisional patent just to see if I really wanted to do it. I taught myself computer-aided design and sent those files to the right manufacturer. I made my own prototype on my 3D printer. I got molds made. I started using what I made myself and saw that it really worked. I thought, "If I have this problem, other people have this problem."

What was the hardest part about getting Pottle from idea to final product?

You'll never get someone else to that place where they are respecting your product and the manufacturing of your product the way you do. I talk to manufacturers in China every morning [about my product.] We go back and forth. If you want me to come back to your factory, you need to respect your own work. You send me samples and they look great. When I receive the product, they should look like the sample. Product managers, which hopefully I'll be able to afford soon, are important. You need one person to stay on top of your manufacturing.

It's a lot of time and time is money. Sometimes I get jobs in the middle of the day and haven't slept. I try to keep myself hydrated. The hardest part is trying to stay balanced.

How do you think Pottle will affect the nail industry?

It's really going to afford people a lot of freedom. I'm not just selling to manicurists. I'm selling to anyone who wants to mix any type of beauty material inside. It could be makeup or glue...whatever it is, I want you to be able to do that with the Pottle. It's a great product because you're reusing it until it falls apart. Hopefully this will be a game-changer and cause companies to make things in bulk containers instead of small bottles.

If someone is launching a nail business, what’s something to keep in mind?

Courtesy of Nettie Nails

Being versatile is very important. I've talked to people who I've tried to pull out of shops. With the explosion of entrepreneurship, people are traveling more and finding other ways to do things. You're going to have to travel. People are lazier and also have more money. If you do set up a shop, make sure you have a mobile division or flexible private nail techs available. You may also need a side hustle, such as having classes. Nurture younger people who may be taking your spot in twenty years.

What’s next for you and Pottle?

I'm forty years old. I don't see myself in ten years hauling around my kit. I need to be making plans to leave the industry, so Pottle is my exit strategy. It's not on the market so I have to be my own competition.

The Pottle re-design will be launched at the Pasadena NailPro show on May 5, 2019. The first was a concept and limited edition. Now it's time to dive into the added functionalities. I want to spread it across different lines, not just nails, but makeup or whatever you want to do with it in your beauty room.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the parts that don't deal with money, fame, or success. I love the parts that deal with the soul. There have been plenty of times where I've had to stop what I'm doing to pray with someone, hold them, or take them somewhere after a job. I enjoy those things where you feel like you're really needed and have something to do on this earth that has nothing to do with money or getting something from someone.

To learn more about Nette Davis, follow her on Instagram (@nettenailsit and @thepottle) or visit www.pottle.co.

Featured image courtesy of Nette Davis

I think we all know what it feels like to have our favorite sex toy fail us in one way or another, particularly the conundrum of having it die mid-use. But even then, there has never been a part of me that considered using random objects around my house. Instinctively, I was aware that stimulating my coochie with a makeshift dildo would not be the answer to my problem. But, instead, further exacerbate an already frustrating situation…making it…uncomfortable, to say the least.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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