Amplify Melanated Voices: Nita Howard
As we continue to #AmplifyMelanatedVoices, we connected with celebrity nail technician, Nita Howard, or as we know her, @imnails on Instagram. We looked to her to share her perspective on diversity and inclusion in today’s nail industry, as well as some of the challenges she’s faced along the way, and what nail color companies can do to continue opening up discussions.
OPI: Hi Nita! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. As one of our industry leaders, what challenges have you faced getting to where you are now, and what do you think the opportunities are for change?
NH: I have faced many different challenges in my career. The first challenge is because I’m a black woman in an industry that people feel like I should not be in or that I am not qualified to be in just because of the color of my skin. I have faced discrimination from clients, companies, and supply stores for years, and what they don’t know is that NAILS ARE MY LIFE. My children grew up in a nail shop. I’ve dedicated my life to doing nails and no one understands the fight. The fact that I have to work 10 times as hard as my counterparts just to get respect baffles me. I’m an African American woman who cannot embrace the art of my industry without being called “ghetto.” I’ve done nails long enough to know that the longer the nail the more artistic space you have to create. Respect is my second largest challenge in this industry. I think there are opportunities for change around embracing each artist as a CREATIVE. The industry is based on a creative image that cannot be defined because of your race, color, or gender.
OPI: What strengths do you feel the nail industry has in terms of diversity and inclusion?
NH: Honestly speaking, I cannot relate to diverse opportunities because none have been afforded to me. Every opportunity I received was because of my hard work and people outside of the nail industry believing in me. I became a celebrity and tv/film manicurist because a MUA, hairstylist, and producer saw my talents and gave me an opportunity!
OPI: What role do you think you can play in opening doors for others?
NH: The role that I would play in opening doors for others is by continuously creating a platform that highlights creativity, knowledge, and an open dialogue so that we can grow as a community without leaving anyone behind. We are in a billion-dollar industry, there is enough space and money for everyone to be successful!
OPI: What do you think nail color companies can do to lead the way for meaningful discussion and substantial change?
NH: Nail color companies have a huge platform. I believe that if more black and brown faces were in their corporate positions it would add more diversity. The discussion would be more meaningful because of the different views each individual may have. That would substantially change the outcome of the discussion. For instance, someone like myself, I have worked hand-to-hand contact for years. My input would be valuable because my research and input are directly from conversations with consumers.
OPI: Share with us any people of color in our industry whose strengths and talent should be noticed - and tell us why - we’d love to spotlight them!
NH: People of color that I would like to highlight: first is Mariko Robertson and Tamika Harris of Posh and Polished Nail Salon in Portsmouth, Virginia. These women were the first black women I ever worked alongside of, and their work ethic, their work, and their talents are amazing. They have offered helping hands to me, and a workspace in the salon for pop-ups when I come to town. They are very supportive of me and are staples in the community. The next woman I would like to highlight is Sashanie Grey. Sashanie is my spirit sister! She has the same values as I do on spreading awareness to the nail community. There is a loophole in our industry when it comes to manicurists of color. This issue has to be fixed.
You can follow Nita @imnails on Instagram for tons of inspiration and some amazing works of nail art. Be sure to stay tuned for more check-ins with our OPI community as we look to continue lending our platform and voice to others.
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