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How Galina Frishman became manicurist to the stars

Galina Frishman (pictured, in Wellesley) was manicurist for Jennifer Lawrence during the filming of “American Hustle.”

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Galina Frishman (pictured, in Wellesley) was manicurist for Jennifer Lawrence during the filming of “American Hustle.”

For Galina Frishman, nothing smells sweeter than nail polish.

Especially when it more or less got its own story line in “American Hustle.”

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Frishman, Wellesley manicurist to the stars, helped put the finishing touches on Jennifer Lawrence’s show-stealing role as a nail polish-obsessed housewife when she was called in to attend to the actress’s tips for the movie. Filmed last year in Boston, “Hustle” is up for 10 Oscars March 2.

“It was a big job,” said Frishman, who landed the gig on a tip from Trish Seeney, makeup supervisor for the film. “They had tried to do the press-on nails, but didn’t know what they were doing and had gotten frustrated.”

The Russian-born Frishman remembers loving bold red shades from her earliest days in elementary school.

“I’d polish them at night and then have to take it all off in the morning because my school was very strict,” she recalled.

She emigrated to Boston in 1985 and began working as a manicurist 25 years ago at a Newbury Street salon.

“I didn’t know any English, and it was the best way to learn,” she said.

In 2008, she left the Back Bay for the suburbs, joining id.SALON in Wellesley. Her loyal following of clients — some of whom drive from as far away as New Hampshire and Cape Cod for appointments — went with her.

“I have driven all over creation to go to her. She’s so wonderful and I feel privileged to know her,” said Urit Chaimovitz of Watertown, who has a weekly standing appointment — Fridays, 9 a.m. — with Frishman.

Chaimovitz had to give up that appointment recently for Hollywood, not for “American Hustle” but for “Sex Tape,” which filmed around Boston last fall and stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel.

“Galina had moved one of my appointments for Cameron Diaz, which was fine. She does it for me all the time,” said the 37-year-old interior designer. “She has seen me at 7 a.m. or 10 p.m. She will always fit you in.”

Chaimovitz, who has put her hands in Frishman’s hands for 15 years, said the nail tech’s talent is her artistry. She’s known to customize colors for clients, even allowing them to borrow bottles for vacations and trips.

“She knows how to make your nails really work for the shape of your hand. She can craft such a beautiful shape. It’s her eye and her skill,” she said.

Frishman’s nail know-how began to turn Hollywood’s head in 2012 when Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy filmed “The Heat” in town. Pamela Westmore, Bullock’s go-to makeup artist, inquired with Seeney for a nail tech and Frishman got the job.

“It’s kind of sacred holding someone’s hands for an hour. Sandra had never heard of Shellac,” Frishman said, referring to the virtually chip-free extended-wear polish. “I made her put her script down, and educated her. She’s a mom. She loved it.”

Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures via AP

Jennifer Lawrence, left, with costars Elisabeth Rohm, Christian Bale, and Jeremy Renner in “American Hustle.”

The Newton resident buffed and painted Bullock’s nails every week during filming and polished McCarthy’s toes on one occasion. Seeney, who worked as makeup department head on the film, said Frishman’s professionalism is another selling point to stars.

“Galina does a beautiful job. She’s reliable. She doesn’t chitchat. She makes herself available, and would switch her schedule,” she said.

On “American Hustle,” Frishman manicured Lawrence at her hotel and on the set, even tending unexpected nail chips.

“Jennifer is a little bull in a china shop,” recalled Seeney. “There’d be a last minute call to Galina and she’d have to come.”

At that point, no one knew the prominent role Frishman’s work would play in the film. In one of Lawrence’s most riveting scenes, her brassy character, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, orders her husband (played by Christian Bale) and a politician (played by Jeremy Renner) to smell her “sweet but sour” nails.

“We didn’t realize what the emphasis would be,” said Seeney.

Frishman’s friends and clients joke that Lawrence’s nails deserve their own best supporting award at next weekend’s Oscars, and the manicurist is still pinching herself over the experience. Calling her gig with “American Hustle” a “little bit lucky,” she follows the industry’s motto: “What’s said on the trailer stays on the trailer.”

But Frishman did reveal a small aside she shared with Lawrence about her teenage daughter.

“I asked her advice on swearing,” Frishman said. “And she told me, ‘It got me into Hollywood.’ ”

Frishman’s artistry seems to be getting her there now.

Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.
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