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How Nettie Davis Made It As A Celebrity Nail Artist

BOSS UP

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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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