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.
Yara Shahidi glammed up for the 2017 SAG Awards, Nails by Nettie
Nikko LaMere for Coveteur
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?
Tessa Thompson rocking Nails by Nettie
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?
Halle Berry at The Met with nails by Nettie
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?
Kiki Layne rocking nails by Nettie
Variety Portrait Studio by ATT at Spirit Awards
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.
Featured image by Variety Portrait Studio by ATT at Spirit Awards