I did not know that

I’ve wondered sometimes why almost all the nail salons I pass on local streets appear to be owned and/or staffed and/or run by Vietnamese.  I’ve just learned how that came about.  Apparently a US actress, Tippi Hedren, was behind it all.

Forty years ago, the Hollywood actor traveled to Hope Village, a Vietnamese refugee camp near Sacramento, California, to meet with a group of women who had recently fled the takeover of South Vietnam by the armed forces of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Hedren was aware of the difficulties the refugees had faced and had been trying before her visit to think of a skill or trade she could help the women learn so they could support themselves in their adopted country. When she met with the group, she was surprised to find they were enamored with her manicure.

“We were trying to find vocations for them. I brought in seamstresses and typists—any way for them to learn something,” she told the BBC. “And they loved my fingernails.”

Thuan Le was there for the lightbulb moment. “A group of us were standing close to her and saw that her nails were so beautiful,” she recalled to TakePart. “We talked to each other and said they looked so pretty. I looked in [Hedren’s] eyes and knew she was thinking something. She said, ‘Ah, maybe you can learn nails.’ And we looked at each other and she said, ‘Yes, manicures!’ ”

Hedren flew in her own beautician and enlisted a local beauty school to teach 20 of the women how to execute the perfect manicure. Many of these women later settled in Southern California, where they soon were offering manicure services at a lower price than the existing competition. This quickly and dramatically changed the face of the industry in the region. Manicures and pedicures that cost upwards of $50 in luxury salons can cost 30 to 50 percent less at a Vietnamese American–owned salon, according to trade publication Nails. Today, the nail industry is worth $8 billion, and 80 percent of nail technicians in Southern California are Vietnamese (51 percent across the U.S.). Many of them are direct descendants of the 20 women Hedren met with that fateful day in Sacramento, according to the BBC.

There’s more at the link.  Interesting reading, particularly how reliant the Vietnamese economy has become on funds remitted to family members by their relatives overseas.  Every time you have your nails done, you may be part of the process.

I remember reading about the Vietnamese ‘boat people’, refugees trying to escape Communism after the fall of South Vietnam.  I’d never have thought that one of the consequences was a virtual lock on the nail salon business in the USA by their descendants.



  1. I work with one of those boat people. His boat was not allowed to land in Malaysia so they faked an engine failure and then had him, as the youngest at the time, swim ashore with a line so that that they could evacuate the boat. He is now an engineer.

    If you ever meet a Vietnamese person, take the time to ask them about their story. You will be humbled by it, I'm sure.

  2. Hey there Mr. Engineer:

    How nice.

    You worked WITH one of those boat people. But suppose he took your job – as many already have – and as a result you lost your home, your savings and perhaps your family? You might not be singing the praises for these invaders, hard working or not, if it was you that got thrown out on the street.

    They work for less, they work longer, they have fewer benefits, things we have worked to get for generations. They are destroying all that. And none of them give a good goddamn about you, your future or your family.

    Look around you. Thousands of fellow American engineers have lost their jobs to these invaders who work for less of everything. They know they are taking a job away from an American. They. Do. Not. Give. A. Shit.

    Every time a job – any job – is given to a foreigner from anywhere that will work for lower pay, put in longer hours and accept fewer benefits, another American loses his/her job.

    It's a major reason why tens of millions of Americans are out of work from all walks of life, not just the lazy, shiftless ones, but real workers, with real bills, with real families.

    And real engineers. They have been losing jobs, careers, homes, savings and families for a long time now, so our bosses can get richer.

    Hell yeah! Let's bring in more and more Asians. Mexicans and Africans! Hell yeah! Let's make certain every job in America has been usurped by some poor, unfortunate, teary-eyed foreigner that washed ashore or wiggled through the fence… thereby instantly and totally deserving of our assistance, and jobs, and medical facilities, and food stamps, and rental assistance, and anything else our traitorous politicians can think of to get their illegal votes.

    No. I won't be humbled by some Vietnamese success story in America. More like I'll be angered because they stole a job from a friend or neighbor. They are real and dangerous threats to the American worker and family everywhere.

    You make it sound as if they're the only hard-working and conscientious people on earth, instead of job stealing invaders that will see you go down in flames and walk away laughing.

    A few thousand qualified immigrants a year? Fine and dandy.

    But not this flood of uneducated, untrainable and diseased losers we are being overwhelmed by today. Even their countries or origin don't want them for the burdens they are.

    So look out, Mr. Engineer. Some foreigner that could not prosper in his own nation of origin, is coming for your job, your home, your future.

    And your government is helping.

  3. The Bosslady took me to her foot spa. I was wearing my VNVet cap. The ladies and gentlemen there could not have been nicer, and I even recognized a few words…
    God bless 'em – caring for and decorating nails and shrimping are both honorable ways to make money in America.
    The incoming group of "muslims" will self-select for "Bommahs" and "entrepreneurs". I think that reality will thin the jihadi herd-in-the-nrxt-years.
    But I'm not sure I will live that long….

  4. So Bob, if your son or daughter takes my job I should be pissed because they move to my area for employment?

    Your comment illustrates the entitlement mind set.


  5. A related area they have taken over is the hair-cutting salons. Here in North CA, it is nearly impossible to find an independent store that is not Vietnamese owned and staffed. The main problem I encounter is that they don't seem to progress beyond the basic ability required to graduate from the various hair care schools. This seems to limit their ability to deal with the various types of hair beyond what their own Asian group has to offer. Occasionally, I've stumbled on a girl who is good, but then she will disappear, and the search begins again.

    I've worked with them in high tech companies, and they were good workers. And,yes, they had interesting stories, as they were all boat people at that time.

  6. Bob,

    I hate to bring it to your attention, but that's the way prosperity spreads. Look at the way cotton milling moved from Massachusetts to the South and thence overseas. Is it "Fair"? Does that question actually MEAN anything? Does it cause drops in local prosperity? Sure. But look at how low the areas that prosperity flows into are. Yes, Nike is paying southeast Asians $1 a day to make shoes. Their other options are working knee deep in human waste fertilizer for three quarters of the rice they can ear and a space on the floor, or begging.

    If somebody is underbidding you on a job, you need to lower your price or demonstrate that your work is superior.

    Topic Skip;

    Good for Ms. Hendren. It's nice to read about a film star's "Social Concern" actually accomplishing something useful for a change.

  7. Gerry:

    Entitlement mind set?

    In a nation where millions of good jobs have been lost to its citizens because businesses and manufacturers have closed up shop and moved overseas? In a nation where almost 50 million mostly uneducated and untrained foreigners have been allowed in to compete with what low-paying jobs there are left?

    Jobs have vanished in America because worldwide competition has increased. Americans have not kept up with their education and training sufficiently to compete. Kids graduate from high School that cannot even fill out an application form for the simplest jobs. Slightly older children graduate from college with huge egos and worthless degrees. Business had no choice but to move offshore or fail.

    What we are left with is no decent jobs for literally millions of Americans who would like to work, but would not have got the jobs anyway – if they were still here – because they do not have the skills or the education.

    Hell of a deal. Now they have the choice of living on welfare or taking subsistence level jobs, except that 50 million "immigrants" have moved in to take them first.

    That's the way it is.

    This is all going to come crashing down on our rainbow-filled heads any time now. What occurs after you will not like.

    It's not entitlement Gerry, it's survival.

  8. It's not survival, it's entitlement.

    If it was survival, you'd lower your price or convince employers why your worth more.

    If you see the exact same product in the exact same box in Sears and on Amazon, but Amazon is cheaper, do you buy from Sears? Of course not, so don't complain when employers do the same.

    If someone's willing to do the exact same job with the exact some outcome for less, they're going to get hired all things being equal.

    It's entitlement to think you should have a job instead of someone else because they work harder and for less.

  9. Wow Bob, you're ignorant!
    Your argument basically boils down to a desire to protect the jobs of the lazy, slovenly, inefficient, and just plain sorry.
    And as the triumph of the 70's American & British auto industries show, THAT is the way to economic success!

  10. I'd point out that in the US the biggest jobs displacement wasn't by the Vietnamese or Cuban refugees that we accepted legally, but by the far larger group (larger by a couple of orders of magnitude, 10 to 20+ million depending on who you believe) who are here illegally.

    Since many of them are non-working dependents the total number of jobs displaced is lower – but it's still estimated to be over 5 million jobs.

    I'd worry about those – and the often-gamed H1B visa process, used to bring in lower-paid high-tech workers – before I'd be too concerned about the handful of refugees who are here legally. Many – most – of whom are intensely patriotic American citizens themselves by now – intensely patriotic because they know how bad things can be, and are, in other countries.

  11. Joe in PNG:

    The lazy, slovenly, inefficient, and just plain sorry don't want jobs. They want the handouts so kindly provided by the government and paid for by those who do work.
    The working class who pay for all that largess will not be able to continue picking up the tab if their jobs go to those who will work for less – in some cases much less – as reported in the Daily mail just today:

    "A reporter from the New York Times has uncovered the shocking conditions many of the city's nail salon workers are expected to endure, often while earning less then $10 a day. According to writer Sarah Maslin Nir, many manicurists also have to pay upwards of $100 for a 'training' fee before they can even start receiving pay."

    Would that would be some of those boat people manicurists mentioned earlier?

    $10 a day Joe. Is that where you want us to end up?

    And about the auto industry… it was the unions that did them in.

  12. So, working long hours for crap pay is something that only recent immigrants have had to do? My Grandfather & his family had to work long hours for crap pay when they came over from Hungary in the depression. Many legal immigrants have to work long hours for crap pay when they come over- our gracious host could probably share a few stories.
    And I'm sure a few folks were bitching and whining about your ancestors taking their jobs when they immigrated.

  13. My Dad worked as a coaler on a steamship during the depression. 12 hour shifts, hand shoveling coal into a boiler 7 days a week.(room and board, plus a dollar a day) I still have my Dads papers to prove it.

    My mom lived in a sharecroppers shack in the deep south when she was young, didn't get her first pair of shoes until she was eleven. (that might even be true, I've seen photos)

    After WW2, my Dad went from door-to-door oiling and adjusting sewing machines for 25 cents. After that, he sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

    Simple formula in those days for cold calling. Want three sales a day? Knock on 100 doors. Ten will let you in to listen to your pitch. Three will buy. No sales, no pay. Repeat next day on different doors.

    We all have sob stories to relate about how tough it was for our ancestors in the past. Poor them, everybody and everything was so UNFAIR, no welfare, no unemployment insurance, no food stamps, no rental assistance, no free medical, no big government to offer a helping hand.

    I am not in the least concerned that your ancestors had a tough go of it, so did mine. I could care less if my ancestors took a job away from your ancestors – or vice versa.

    That was then, now it's different.

    Now, we have +/- 50 million invaders taking our jobs – collectively speaking – by offering to work for less and less. It has reached the point that Asian manicurists work for $10 a day.

    I asked you if $10 a day was fine by you.

    Answer the question instead of propping up more straw men.

  14. Bob, $10 per day? I've done it. Do you know one of the big reasons why illegals are popular? Because too many good, all-americans are a bunch of lazy slacker dope fiends that will spend more time on ciggy breaks than at work- if they show up at all. The small business owner really would prefer to hire proper, legal workers, but also need guys who will show up on time, work hard, and not bitch, grip, and whine the whole time.
    I've seen it in action.

  15. Jeez…

    I worked for the same amount… 45 years ago, actually less – $1.00/hour -when gas was 29 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread was 7 cents. Try it today.

    I can't imagine where you have spent your life to develop such a hatred for the average American worker. Perhaps one in twenty I have met were what you describe.

    The big reason Illegals are popular is because they are cheap, don't get vacation, sick leave, health insurance, or any sort of benefit. They show up on time and work hard because they will get their ass fired on the spot if they don't, and there are ten more waiting in line to take his place the second he steps out of line.

    So just what is PNG? Are you even an American? You certainly do not sound like one. You seem full of venom for all things American.

  16. At a guess, PNG=Papua New Guinea. There are a lot of expat oil workers there, many Americans among them.

  17. Allow me to inject a little levity.

    Being South African, Peter, I had to wonder if you know that your headline for this post is one of Johnny Carson's most famous lines. I do hope you've at least heard of Johnny. Everyone in America from about the time I was born – early '60s – through the '90s knew him and a hell of a lot still do, and every one of them who reads your headline will hear Johnny's voice in their heads. Betcha money. 🙂

  18. Nope, American expat. What's more American than critising our own country? That the whole point of the whole "free speech" thing.
    Now, regarding the working thing, ponder Mike Rowe's complaint that few people were snatching up his full ride diesel mechanic scholarship (or his push to get more people involved in the trades).

    My final comment- you do know that the owner and author of this blog is himself an African-American immigrant, a legal immigrant such as you were complaining about earlier?

  19. Bob,

    Most of the Vietnamese I know would return in a heartbeat if they could. But they have embraced America in ways illegals don't. Go look up the names of your HS Valedictorians. I bet you will find a Nguyen or two there. After Katrina, the Vietnamese was the only community who pulled together and took care of each other. And what about the female, mixed race baby who came over on one of the baby rescue flights who is now a Petty Office 1st Class in YOUR Navy? Face it, Bob, change happens.

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