Nail artist hunk nails life in 10 words: ‘Success doesn’t come with a degree. It comes with passion.’

Written by:

Yen Feng

Yen Feng

Yen is a freelance editor and yoga instructor at on Instagram/TikTok and @yenyogasg on Telegram.


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When I was about 21 years old, I moved to New York all by myself to study at a university there. I remember seeing all the other students, who had parents with them to help them move in, take them out to dinners and shows, and feeling kind of sorry for myself.

What a cry baby I was. At least, compared to Tuan Cao Nguyen, our hunk this week, who moved from Vietnam to the United States alone when he was still a teenager, at 19. He not only had to fend for himself, he also had to work part-time, while in college, so that he could pay for his tuition fees.

At the time, he was working at a nail salon, and it was there that he discovered his passion for nail artistry, he said. “After a while, I decided to become a nail artist because I found my passion in this job. I realised that success doesn’t come with an academic degree, it comes with your passion and joy.”

“Whatever you do, just be the best at it.”

Name: Tuan Cao Nguyen
Age: 30
Occupation: Nail artist
Nationality/Ethnicity: American/Vietnamese
Sexual Orientation: Gay
Home: Dallas, Texas

Apart from working on nails, Tuan is also passionate about working out.

“When I first moved to the States, my jeans’ waist size jumped from 30 to 34 and that was the breaking point for me. I told myself that I had to do something about it.”

Tuan said that for him, getting fit is all about being consistent. “Today, I have turned fitness into a lifestyle. When I work out, I feel good and I look good. It’s like a drug that keeps you wanting more.”

Here’s my interview with Tuan about his work as a nail artist. Enjoy!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us here at We’d love to hear more about you and your job. Tell us about your work and what it involves?

I’m a professional nail artist. Same as any job in a beauty industry, our mission is to make people look good and feel good – but with their nails! 

How did you get into nail art? How did you discover you have a talent and passion for this?

I’m left-handed and therefore I tend to be drawn to creativity. When I was little, I very much enjoyed drawing and creating art. During my college years, I was really struggling with my career path. Everyone around me seemed like they knew exactly who or what they wanted to be, but I didn’t.

I was working in a salon as a part-time artist to pay off my college tuition. I’ve always thought professional nail artists were so talented because it isn’t easy to create something from nothing! As time passed, I was drawn into it and decided to follow this profession. Creating nail art opened up a new world for me and let me use my talent as a creative person. There is really no limit in being creative. When I work on clients, time stops, and that’s how I know I have a passion for it. 

What’s the hardest thing about being a nail artist?

The hardest thing about being a nail artist I think is patience. When people say “practice makes perfect”, that is definitely true in my job. It can be very difficult and challenging at first for beginners, but the more you practise, the easier it gets.

That’s why I said patience is critical for those who want to be the best at this job! Patience is also a very much-needed skill if you want to work in a customer service environment. You will work on different clients every day and they will each have their different needs, personalities and expectations about their nail designs. Not every client will be an easy one, therefore you need to be professional and patient to really understand what the client is looking for and work with them to deliver the best service and work. 

What’s the most challenging design you tried to create? Tell us about it!

Oh boy! There are so many but often a client will walk in with a picture from Pinterest or Instagram and ask me to recreate it. These tend to be super long nails with super complicated designs and it’s not only challenging but also time-consuming (sometimes it can take up to three hours with a client!).

I don’t always know what products were used to create these works, and I might not have all the tools available to recreate them. However, I love challenges as they perfect my skills even more. I will try the best of my ability to do it and make my clients happy. So far, I haven’t disappointed anyone! 

What is the biggest misconception people have about nail artists?

The biggest misconception people have about nail artists is that we have chosen an easy way out in life, preferring quick cash over following through school.

To be a professional nail artist, you do need certain skills i.e. being creative, catching trends and being incredibly patient. Not everyone who wants to be a nail artist can do it. Cosmetology school isn’t hard, anyone can pretty much take some required training hours to be certified. However, whether you can build your own clientele and make a good living out of it is all up to your talent and how serious you are with this job. This is just like any other job or career! 

Do you have any advice for people who are having difficulty finding their passion in life?

I was struggling with this myself for a while to be honest, and that’s ok. Just don’t rush into it. If you feel like a career path academically isn’t you, then go explore other options.

Take photography classes, take dance classes, take arts. Do whatever makes you happy! If you find passion in what you are doing, you won’t have to work a single day. I always believe, no job is better than others, whatever you do, just be the best at it.

There will be respect and validation from others if you just do your best and be passionate about what you do. Life is too short to be unhappy. I’m a true believer of the fact that no one understands you better than yourself! The reason you feel lost is because you let so many people distract you with what they expect from you. Just really listen to your heart and you will get to where you want to be! I promise! 

Get to know Tuan through his Instagram @tuanadoo.

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