Darnell Atkins was ashamed to be seen while training to become a nail tech. He didn’t want onlookers to “think he was gay for wanting to do nails.”
While the nail business, a $3 billion industry, is dominated mostly by Asian women, Atkins, who goes by Nen10doe on Twitter, is forging this own lane as a nail tech and defying gender norms as a result.
According to an interview with WUSA9, the DC native was kicked out of the navy due to a synthetic marijuana addiction and left with limited resources to make a living.
“I resorted back to a couple of hustles,” Atkins told the local news station. “But in the midst of me resorting back, I always found myself in front of a Black-owned nail salon. All the hustlers would gravitate towards this area because that is where all the pretty girls were.”
And thus, Atkins saw his opportunity. After learning nail techs charge north of $70 for a mani and pedi, he poured his time and money into learning the craft.
“I was hungry, and I was motivated to find a way out,” Atkins said. With a loyal clientele and fan base, the viral nail tech has already begun inspiring other men to enter the nail game and encouraging society to challenge the stereotypical definitions of masculinity.
“I want to do good work and be noticed for that, rather than the guy that just started doing nails and people are like, ‘that’s not normal,’” Atkins said. “Let’s make a big impact out of not being normal.”
Follow @nen10doe and read the full interview, here.