FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO HOLLYWOOD SUCCESS
LESSONS ON THE ROAD TO HIGH PROFILE BEAUTY WITH GINA ALCEDO OF NAILVANA
In Los Angeles, it is all too easy to either get swept up or run out of town by the glitz and glamor, but I managed to rise to the top of the beauty game by following a few simple rules. In fact, I abide by my company, Nailvana’s motto,
“Be Happy. Be Bright. Be Polished.”
This sunny outlook did not come so easy. I had a less-than-ideal upbringing in the city of Ontario, California – absentee father, single working mom, and luckily, a warm and loving grandmother who stepped in when my father was no longer there. My mom spent her days as a prison guard at the local correctional facilities. Fabulous, it was not. But my mom was a strong female role model for my sister and I, with good instincts on how to survive and how to make ends meet. Sometimes, my mom was able to offer my sister and I a small happiness of a trip to the salon.
“I loved getting my nails done. I felt like my manicurist made me feel whole. She had the ability to make people feel good about themselves, to change how a person felt. I thought I would like to do that for people.”
Small fish in a big pond
It would have been easier to turn around and go home. That’s what I thought when I arrived for my first big city interview at Perfect Image in Brentwood in 1994. It was a stark contrast to my humble beginnings and those days at the local salon with my mom. Owned by sportscaster Vin Scully’s daughter, the beautiful spa and its perfectly polished, put-together clientele were extremely intimidating to me, since I was fresh-out-of-beauty-school. How do you make people feel better about themselves in a town built on unattainable standards?
With a little coaxing from my husband, I landed that challenge and was soon working around the clock on the Westside ladies-who-lunch set and a few famous working women too. I spent a year honing my trade and building up a star-studded list of regulars including Amy Irving, Kate Capshaw, and Jessica Capshaw before striking out on my own.
Breaking Out On My Own
Starting your own business would be a daunting task for anyone but I had a solid plan. To keep overhead low, I proposed going to my clients’ homes and with such high-profile players and their need for discretion, it was a complete win on both sides. That first year, I navigated the unpredictable schedules of A-list actors and actresses, pop stars, and business moguls. The freelance life had its ups and downs. Clients would come and go, disappearing during the summer months to their second homes. I had to capitalize on moments, save when I knew times would be slow, find a balance that would allow my business to succeed.
I’ve been making house calls ever since. Among my clients, the Clooneys, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Donatella Versace, and of course, Arianna.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to run a business through my clients since they trust me enough to work while they are taking meetings. My job has taught me patience and flexibility. I can be a bit of a control freak but I show up at a home or on a movie set and at times, situations do not go smoothly. I have learned to let go and be more fluid to make it work.” I believe, this is one of the things that make me successful in my business.
Taking Nailvana one step further
With a steady stream of regulars traversing the globe on the daily, I found that my clients’ hands and nails were taking a toll. The popularity of gel was becoming a factor too. I found a desperate need in the nail industry for a great cuticle cream. Two and a half years ago, I gave up my search to find one and started working on my own. Nailvana launched in 2015 with a cream designed to strengthen nails and condition cuticles. From there, I expanded my line into the Brentwood Collection, honoring the neighborhood where I got my start. I met with labs supplying all the top brands – ultimately selecting one that would allow me to make up and match my own colors. Also the key to this was the ability to take out and put in certain elements. I added myrrh extract as it naturally helps to strengthen nails and took out eight of the harsher chemicals, for my 6 cruelty-free polishes, base and top coats.
An ode to my early days and long-standing clients, my signature classics (red, grey, blue, pink and nude) are named for the streets where I got my start and that sheer pink, you can thank “Ms. Huffington” for that one. Easily accessible at a starting price of $18, the polishes can be found in the L.A. area at stores such as the Brentwood General Store on Montana and online at nailvana.la. Eventually, I hope to go nationwide with a partner like Sephora.
My tricks for making that mani last? Get a weekly manicure. Have the polish reapplied weekly. Apply a top coat in between your manicure to help the polish last longer and to prevent chipping.
Next level goals
Up next for Alcedo? Opening my own salon.
“My next venture will be opening up a storefront. Hopefully, it will happen by this time next year. It’s going to go beyond the basics. It’s going to be an experience.”
I plan to start small with one Brentwood location and expand from there.
Paying It Forward
For all the possibilities of business development and growth over the years, I also take the time to give back to the community. Every December, I volunteer at The Rape Treatment Center. Each year they throw a huge holiday party for kids from lower-income families – filling their bellies, showering them with gifts, and making them feel beautiful and confident with pretty, polished nails.
I also want to start a scholarship fund for those who may not be able to afford to go to beauty school. I know what it means to come from less and to therefore feel you have less to offer. I urge those with self-doubt to push through the fear, to not be scared of new challenges or of environments and people who look different to you.
“Passion is important too. I feel that no matter what your job is – manicurist, janitor, doctor – you can and will do great work if you care about what you are doing.
Practice patience and kindness and you will find a way to persevere.”
Huffington Post Article