When I saw someone sporting a long almond gel manicure with an ultra short index and middle finger on one hand, I was intrigued. My first thought was, “Oooh, I love that.” my second thought, “Hmm, just two?”
The elegant woman with the flashy mani was in a relationship with another woman. Her nails, done in a sex-friendly manicure style often referred to as a queer manicure, lesbian manicure, or femme-icure/femmicure: It felt subtle and loud at the same time, with a strong “if you know, you know” energy.
“I think as lesbian or queer women we tend to look at hands right away,” says Mina Quarterman, a Los Angeles-based comedian and actress whose hands are often front and center for work.
After Quarterman, who goes by Mina Q professionally, saw the short/long combo on a friend in 2021, she headed to a salon to get her own version of the increasingly popular ensemble, which she and her friends now call ” the quiet lesbian. ”
After exchanging pleasantries with his girlfriend during their joint date (“You’re going to give me a hysterectomy with that stuff”) and answering a couple of confusing questions from the manicurist, Quarterman left the store delighted with lilac stiletto nails. . Her index and ring fingers on both hands had no extension, but as she notes in a TikTok videoyou might also want to skip the extensions on your thumb, *wink wink*
Examining someone’s nails isn’t just about assessing whether or not the person you’re interested in is gay, says Quarterman. Hands have long been a fashion item.
“How can women look at a man in gray sweatpants and say, ‘What is he working with?’ You’re looking at his hands like, ‘Are they longer, thinner? Thicker? Short?’ So it’s like, ‘What are the nails doing?’ I’ve talked to a lot of lesbians about this,” says Quarterman. “We are not just looking at your face. We want to know how you feel about your whole body.”
Despite the oft-repeated narrative that gay women should keep their nails short (remember that “L Word” scene?), you can actually be gay as hell with Cardi B-esque nails or what you want. There is no mandatory checklist, cookie-cutter style, or way of being that will qualify you as truly queer. Just as other parts of who you are can take shape in a multitude of ways, so can strangeness.
Kinsey Clarke, a nail enthusiast, made a crucial point in the Canadian cultural magazine Flare: What is widely considered to be mainstream gay culture (read: white-centered) translates differently in black gay communities, as well as other queer communities of color. For Clarke, there has never been a tension between long acrylics, or “strap grabbers” as some black lesbians affectionately call them, and her sexuality.
Instead, long fingernails have allowed Clarke to participate in a precious beauty ritual while also affirming her black lesbian femininity. What has been most satisfying though is wearing whatever resonates with her (short, long, acrylic, natural, a queer manicure) and remaining free from perceptions of how a lesbian woman “should” present herself.
“There is a weight on the shoulders of many queer and lesbian women to look a certain way, to have their nails a certain way, and I think that is a lot of silliness. Do what you want, girl. Do your nails however you want,” says Clarke.
If you’re concerned that your nails are “too long” or uncomfortable for a potential partner, there are options, such as trimming them, placing cotton balls under your nails, wearing latex or a sterile glove intended for sex, says Clarke. “There are ways to have your cake and eat it too.”
For some, the anxiety of being read as gay can be uncomfortably real when they first open up about their sexuality, a challenge Clarke herself overcame. “In my experience, that has disappeared the longer I’ve been away. I always like to say, ‘What people think of me is none of my business.’”
Alyssa Blake Nader aka @daddydoesnailsA queer nail artist who works in Los Angeles and Oakland, says clients are regularly relieved to go online and have a manicure session guided by someone who understands queer culture and gender journeys through lived experience.
“People have told me directly: ‘I want to do [my] nails to explore my queer and gender identity. I’m so happy I found you,’” says Nader.
One first-time client, who recently gained clarity on being queer and non-binary, had never explored artificial nails and nail art due to being socialized as a cis male and feeling off limits.
“They were [at the nail appointment] with his friend and started crying, like, ‘Can I have nails? And can I have glitter?’” Nader says of the lightbulb moment. “I did their nails and they were very happy and grateful that it was affirmed.
“I think for multiple reasons, people are denying themselves. One is because they are coming to accept themselves. It draws attention, so they have come to a place with their queer and gender expression where they feel comfortable receiving that attention.”
Some people may not allow themselves to enjoy manicures and self-expression in that way because they see manicures as feminine, says Nader. They may think, “That doesn’t fit the gender that I am.” supposed have” and “People will think of me in a certain way, in terms of how our appearance affects the way we are perceived.” Those feelings can lead the person toward socially acceptable repression and away from satisfying exploration and authenticity.
Other clients have enjoyed queer nail art and manicures as a way to point to a purpose, adds Nader. Then there are those who simply put on the nails that make them feel good. For example, someone can be “transmasculine” and know that having nails does not make them less of a man or a woman, it has nothing to do with that. It’s like, “It’s just me.”
Natalie Minerva, a celebrity nail artist and manicurist from HBO’s smash hit “Euphoria,” believes that making a conscious effort to be as warm and welcoming as possible goes a long way.
“That has always been my practice, no matter what. Everyone should be able to do their nails,” says Minerva, who started doing her nails 11 years ago. “You shouldn’t feel weird, bad, or different just because you want to. [a particular style]It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, anything in between. You should be able to get the manicure you want, just because you feel like it and it makes you feel good.”
Minerva has done the weird manicure on stars like barbie ferreira, to the delight of his Instagram followers. Excited comments like “gay rights!” and “the two shortest though 👀” appear every time Ferreira appears in Minerva’s feed putting on those nails. Nail art is becoming more personal and more meaningful, says Minerva.
“Nail art is like wearable art. It’s like a tattoo, except the great part is that it changes with who you are,” adds Minerva. “You can update it constantly. That’s really the beautiful part of it: it’s constantly changing with your style and your taste and what you identify with.”
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