Jin Soon Choi is one of the most sought after manicurists, painting the fingertips of the most famous women in the world—from Gwyneth Paltrow and Julianne Moore to Lady Gaga—on the regular. When she first immigrated to the United States from her native Korea, she began her career in nails but was frustrated with the idea of hurriedly performing manicures and pedicures “to push clients out of the door.” In 1999, Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa opened its doors to the public. Located in the East Village, the 300 square foot nail salon provided clientele with top-notch service in a serene and peaceful setting and instantly became the must-try destination for stylisth New Yorkers. She now has three salons in total, has her own line of polishes JINsoon Nail Lacquer and can still be found backstage at the hottest fashion shows. Here, she looks back at her career and shares what's next for her and her brand.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a poet or a writer, or pursue something in the arts. The artistic side of my brain has always been my dominant side. I like to think that because I was so invested in the arts, it’s helped my career many years later.
How did you start on this career path?
Like many immigrants, I did not speak any English when I moved to the U.S. So I followed in the footsteps of other women that I knew and became a manicurist. It was very easy to find work at that time and the pay was sufficient to support myself and pay for my English classes that I knew I needed to take in order to succeed here.
What was your first big break?
I consider my first big break to be when my nail art was featured in a seven page spread in the New York Times magazine, more than a decade ago. It really gave me credibility as a nail artist.
You give manicures to some of the most famous women in the world—do you ever get star-struck with new clients?
I admit, I did and sometimes still do get star-struck when I work with new clients who are famous. But what I don’t think many people know about working with celebrities, is how nice and down to earth many of the people that I work with are. It’s very refreshing and makes my job so much more enjoyable and fun when clients are happy and we are able to connect.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I am most proud of launching my nail lacquer line—it is the culmination of all of my professional efforts in the beauty field to date. There is something so special and unique about creating a product, placing your name on the label and sending it out into the world. Creating my nail lacquer line was one of the scariest things that I have ever done.
You came here as an immigrant—did you ever dream you’d be where you are now?
I certainly hoped I would succeed but I have never stopped, nor will I ever stop to measure my success—I just keep on pushing! That is just the kind of person and business owner that I am. I’m always invested in every aspect of my business, from the design of my salons, to the creation and shade names of my lacquers, to training my staff personally. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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What's next for your brand?
JINsoon Nail Lacquer is expanding distribution worldwide. I recently returned from a trip to Australia where JINsoon Nail Lacquer is now sold in several Mecca locations. I plan on expanding into even more untapped markets and will be launching my hand care line very soon this year.
What advice do you have for people wanting to start out in nails?
First master the craft of doing nails, it’s the most important step. A manicurist must be able to give any client an impeccable manicure. Then, allow yourself to become an artist. Once you have the technique, your ability to create nail looks and be inspired will come. I attribute much of my success to being a hands-on manicurist.
Jin Soon Choi was photographed in her TriBeCa salon wearing Ann Taylor.