On the Job

As a manicurist, Vivian Ong nails it

Vivian Ong, 21, grew up helping in her aunt’s nail salon and applied for her state license the day after turning 17.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff
Vivian Ong, 21, grew up helping in her aunt’s nail salon and applied for her state license the day after turning 17.

Being a nail technician was a career path that Vivian Ong never questioned.

With more than a half-dozen relatives in the nail business, Ong, 21, grew up helping in her aunt’s salon. The day after her 17th birthday, the minimum age for state licensure, she applied for her nail technician license.

“It’s in my blood for sure,” said Ong, who works at MiniLuxe, a Newbury Street nail and beauty lounge.


Ong, who is studying business at Suffolk University and training to become a customer service manager at MiniLuxe, said she loves cosmetology and especially doing nails.

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“A $19 dollar manicure is not a whole lot of money for a whole lot of heaven,” she said.

When you first were training, what was the most difficult thing to learn?

One huge aspect is just being able to multitask — engage in conversation with a client while giving a good manicure and still finishing on time. Creating a relationship with clients is vital to our success. The other factor is precision. Nails come in different shapes and sizes, but no matter what the type, they need to look good in the end.

What’s your favorite gadget to use?

It would definitely be the cuticle nipper. I can go without cutting or filing nails, but I can’t go without cutting cuticles. With a manicure, when cuticles are cleaned up, hands feel lighter and breathe.

Any regular at a nail salon knows that the lacquers have catchy names, right?

Whoever gets paid to name these nail polishes is the luckiest person in the world. I like Elephantastic, which is a bubble-gum looking pink, or Cajun Shrimp, a popular coral orange. In the winter, a hot color is a deep burgundy called Wicked; another nice shade is a dark purple, Lincoln Park After Dark.

What is required to get your nail tech license?


In Massachusetts, you must attend a licensed school, complete 100 training hours, then pass written and practical exams. Nail techs learn about sanitation practices, nail and skin diseases, protocols and services, and, of course, the fundamentals of manicures and pedicures. It’s a tough 100 hours.

What trends are you seeing?

Nail art is definitely growing lately, as well as nail candy, little sparkly beads glued onto the nail. Women are also painting just the ring finger on each hand a contrasting color.

Can you share one of your favorite tips or tricks with us?

When you’re giving yourself a manicure at home, add a little bit of glitter to the base coat. This creates a bond that helps polish last longer.

Whose celebrity nails do you most admire?

Definitely the Kardashians. They always have the perfect manicure.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at