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A manicure enthusiast polishes off a whole season of Boss Nails

The Spinoff’s resident nail enthusiast Sam Brooks dives into nail salon reality show Boss Nails and finds someone to model his messy life after.

I love two things:

  1. Getting my nails done. There’s something relaxing about handing your hands over to someone for an hour or so and getting them to look pretty and shiny. Especially if you’re someone who has to look at your hands for a lot of hours a day because you type lots of words or you tweet lots of complete garbage. It’s just as therapeutic as a massage.
  2. Reality shows where people handle drama competently and calmly. It calms me to see people resolve conflict and continue to be friends afterwards. Just as there’s something strangely cathartic about seeing someone throw wine in someone else’s face (as someone who has done this in real life, it’s not cathartic at all), there’s something very warming about seeing someone handle a conflict in a way that benefits both sides.

Boss Nails, perhaps unexpectedly, gives me both of these things in spades.

Boss Nails puts us right into a Miami salon, throws a lot of personalities together and allows us to watch them clash for eight episodes. Unfortunately, Boss Nails is not about a woman called Boss Nails. It is about a woman named Dana Cody, who runs a salon called Tippee Toes, and have invented ‘treasure nails’, as displayed in the video below.

The world of salons is ripe for reality show pickings, as shown to us by the legendary Tabatha’s Salon Takeover (later Tabatha Takes Over, where she takes over businesses of any kind, for some reason). These environments are high pressure, full of the kinds of people who are passionate about a very specific kind of cosmetic, and ready to make those people clash in highly dramatic ways.

The personalities are an explosive mix of the high-yet-fragile egos of artists combined with the ruthlessness of a stocks trader; it’s about the art, but also these people have to make money. It makes for good drama, and whoever is commissioning reality TV needs to get in much more on this world.

As someone who gets his nails done more or less every month, I was mostly interested in Boss Nails so I could see what the hell kind of nails they came up with, and how subtle mine were. (To clarify: I currently have eight gold chrome nails, while my thumbs are a black-and-gold cat’s eye mix.)

I learned that I’m basically going out here with a nude nail compared to what they give the woman (and one dude!) in Boss Nails. There’s shit glued to nails, you guys! I have no idea how these people go about their normal lives with these claws! I assume some are called coffin-shaped because they put people into coffins, not because they are shaped like coffins.

So half the pleasure of Boss Nails is seeing the crazy designs that the nail techs come up with, and a satisfactory portion of each episode is devoted to that process. It’s not instructional, but if you like looking at nails that would be impractical to do anything with, then Boss Nails gives you that in spades.

Beyond this, what Boss Nails gets most right is that it gives us a hugely engaging protagonist in Dana Cody. She’s a charismatic woman who owns a salon at 26, which makes me feel incredibly inferior. She also resolves conflict directly and appropriately; when the values of her and her business are affronted or bent, she stops it, and she sorts people out.

Dana seems to genuinely value her technicians as friends and family, while also being sure to run her business like it’s a business. When someone has an issue, she sorts it out; when her straight male nail technician Rod throws a tantrum, she goes to him immediately and deals with it appropriately like a someone who owns a company would.

In short: I want to be her when I grow up even though we are the same age.

(This seems like the best place to bring up that she’s married to a 79-year-old man, which is brought up quite matter-of-factly in the series. When the question of their age differences comes up in an episode, it’s mostly around how old he would be if they decide to have kids. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and I only wish Mr. and Mrs. Cody the happiest of times.)

But what we’re all here for is the drama. And while Boss Nails isn’t Real Housewives level of drama – there’s just not the equivalence of power and struggles here that there is on that menagerie – there’s enough to keep us going.

The biggest source of drama is Nuni, an Instagram famous nail-artist who joins the nail technicians at Tippee Toes. I mean it genuinely when I say that he is history’s biggest villain. It’s this kind of person that makes a reality show tick: massive ego, a short fuse and no desire to resolve conflict appropriately or effectively. When he loses a nail-off, it’s one of the most glorious moments of the series – especially when Dana simply tells him that he lost because she said he lost.

His apology is about as sincere as an air hostess wishing the last person off a plane a lovely day.

There are other sources of drama, obviously, like when Miss Raven quits and then comes back, and when someone royally screws up a fashion blogger’s nails (maybe this person is history’s greatest villain, I guess the history books will decide that), but Dana resolves all her conflicts appropriately.

This means that Boss Nails isn’t the hair-pulling, wine-throwing reality show we might crave, but what it actually is is a fairly touching and compelling portrait of a young woman running a volatile business and doing a pretty damn good job of it. By the time you get to the end of the eight episodes you’re not exhausted by the drama – I watched it all in a night – but you feel proud of someone you will never meet and know you should be more like.

More Dana Cody in my life, thanks.


Pull up a pew at Dana’s salon in Boss Nails, available now on Lightbox:

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