Nail art by Pro Nail Princesa, Photograph by Catherine Downes

This is the beginning of our new series on Dallas nail artists, and we’re starting if off with a woman who will be difficult to top, Vanessa Quilantan. She’s known internationally as Pro Nail Princesa and will be featured in the upcoming documentary, Nailgasm.

Photo by Catherine Downes 

She’ll have her own studio someday, there’s no doubt. It’s rare to meet a woman as driven, talented and masterful at self-promotion as Pro Nail Princessa, but for now Vanessa’s salon is wherever it needs to be.

Local arts developers, Green Bandana, had Quilantan set up shop at one of their Summertime parties, and Parade of Flesh now invites her out to dip tips at rap shows. Today, she’s working out of her bedroom, a feminine hideaway bursting with animal prints. She’s consulting two women on their nail game while a couple of men flutter around her. The boys happily deliver mimosas to the guests and adjust the playlist and volume as V sees fit. There’s a magnatism to her, and its powerful enough to keep life and movement active within this hive.

Quilantan wasn’t always acrylic royalty. She got into nails until after high school when she and her best girlfriends got an apartment. “It started becoming this fun thing for us to do together,” she says. “We’d meet up in the living room after work, do our nails and talk about our days.” But it was that initial application of Pro Nails that gave her a personal union with the art-form.

All work by Pro Nail Princesa

“Something happens when a woman who’s meant to wear acrylics gets her first set,” explains Quilantan. “It gives you a whole new attitude. You carry yourself differently.”

Now she’s in it deep. Anchored into a global network via Instagram, the women participate in a Style Wars type of creative forum. “All of us artists are just trying to put as much work on as many canvases as possible to get our name out there,” she says. “We just throw our burners on nail beds.”

But this community differs from other cliques of cultural one-upping. It’s a world away from guarded and gossipy hair salons. It’s more temporary and transitional than piercing and tattoo art. And while it comments on and reflects graffiti culture, nobody is out to cover up another’s work. And here in her bedroom, she’s applying philosophy and wisdom as she details a woman’s once-naked fingers with a 3D neon tribal design, embellished with rhinestones.

“I like sitting hand in hand with a woman and talking about grown women business,” explains Quilantan. “I think the whole mean girls thing is so tired. And now it’s 2012 and we’ve come to realize that we don’t love each other as much as we should. That’s what’s so great about nail art. In a way, it teaches women to listen to and respect each other. Which is what women need to achieve together most of all.”

By Jamie Laughlin for the Dallas Observer


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