Getting Manicures And Talking Nail Art With Dutchess Of Black Ink Crew

In the same way that Black Ink Crew’s Dutchess designs tattoos and paints, her nails provide a doorway into her soul and reflect her personality.”They’re an expression of me,” she says of her colorful and creative stems, obvious to anyone who’s watched a few minutes of BIC or passed her on the street. “Just like tattoos, my nails are my tattoos. [The] only difference [is], I get to change ‘em every week,” she explains.

Nail art continues to be a popular trend with many of our VH1 stars, and who better to give us a lesson in how those tips go from basic to bejeweled than the Dutchess?

On a cold Monday morning I hopped on the subway headed for Nail Lounge NY in Washington Heights, ready to pay a visit to Dutchess and Corey Strickland, the nail technician who’s been styling her with one-of-a-kind looks since she first moved to New York. “When people see my hands, when I greet people, that’s the first thing that they see,” Dutchess explained. “I love them to see that I’m just as creative with my nails as I am with my artwork.” Read more…

Dutchess and Corey began working together long before the TV cameras started rolling, and forged a connection based on their similar mindsets. “She’s cool, she’s artistic, and the bond is good. She’s an artist herself–we’re beyond just nails,” Corey said. “Dutchess is special. She’s her own person. She’s mild-mannered [with that] Southern hospitality. [She’s] different form northern girls; I like her ambition and we both have similar goals: we want our own shops.”

“Nails and tattoos are synonymous,” Dutchess added, while Corey was quick to remind me that the latter is (a lot) more painful: “I’m not drawing blood, [but] besides that, it’s drawing.” Despite being longtime friends, Dutchess has yet to convince her nail tech to swap places and sit down in her chair, partly because he’s not totally sold on body art in general, and partly because he just loves pampering women.

As for someone who only recently stopped biting her nails and can’t sit still long enough not to come to work with at least two smudges on her at-home manicure? Hello, my name is Emily and I’m a nail art virgin (or at least I was). Because of these circumstances, sitting down in front of Corey was slightly intimidating–my rough cuticles likely a surefire sign I’d never experimented with gels or acrylics–but the man Dutchess will follow anywhere in the Big Apple made me feel at home.

After working his typical magic on Dutchess, Corey assured me I’d be getting something I can’t get anywhere else. His hand-painted designs are original and 100% authentic, without any use of stickers or stencils, and based on whatever he’s feeling that day. Cost can add up depending on the intricacy of the design and the number of accessories, and it’s probably safe to block out a chunk of your day for Corey’s chair–you’ll want to for the conversation alone–but it’s all a part of getting the best. “The best way to be successful with perfection is patience,” he said. “You can’t do it fast and expect it to be fast. Being creative takes time. Me, myself, everything’s original.”

In effort to fit in with the casual vibe emanating from the regulars around me, I encouraged him to go with his instincts and do whatever came to mind. The result?

Yes, I’ve been looking for opportunities to flaunt my fingers in people’s faces wherever possible (just like that recently engaged friend your bound to encounter) and have received at least one compliment or question about my fingertips every day since. The threat of chipping–and the thought of trying to replicate this at home–results in cold sweats, which I’ll take as a sign I’m officially hooked. Whether I’m ready for a tattoo is a different story (sorry, Dutchess).

Check out the final Dutchess and Corey’s final product in the video above, and remember to catch the final two episodes of Black Ink Crew tonight at 9/8 C.

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