Before Rosalía dropped her hit Malamente, Marita Paz had listened to the flamenco-pop track in her nail salon D’vine Nails when the Spanish singer played it for her. Almost a year later, Rosalía paid tribute to Paz’s salon in her single Aute Cuture, singing, “Uñas de D’vine ya me las han copiao, que te las clavo niño ten cuidao.”
Paz is a master of embellished, sculpted nails.
It was Rosalía’s way of saying thank you to Paz, who took the Barcelona-born singer from conservative nude nails to a bonafide fan of XL acrylic garras.
“She told me about the single before it came out,” Paz tells Remezcla. “I was super thankful, of course.”
Born in Chiclayo, Peru, Paz arrived in Barcelona at 14 along with her parents and her brother. She says the family immigrated to find better opportunities in Europe and reunite with other relatives who had already jumped the Atlantic to settle in the city. At 16, she took a cosmetology course but felt it was not enough. Instead, she found her inspiration on YouTube through vloggers like Mexican nail expert Laura Vargas.
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“I just started studying by myself and exploring what I liked,” she says.
But her love for nails started at home in Peru. As a child, she recalls painting guests’ nails at a family wedding.
“Since I was a kid, I always felt like doing nails was my calling,” Paz says.
At 22, she opened the first D’vine Nails locale in Cerdanyola – a municipality in the province of Barcelona – where she began to receive a crop of A-list clientele after doing nails for Paula González, the winner of the Spanish version of Big Brother. It wasn’t long before names like Karol G, Nathy Peluso, Bad Gyal, Antonella Messi and Rosalía started knocking on her door.
Paz is a master of embellished, sculpted nails and spends up to six hours doing nails for some of her celebrity clientele, like the Swarovski-encrusted sets she did for Rosalía at the 2018 Latin Grammys and the 2019 Primavera Sound festival.
At D’vine Nails, each client is given two hours per appointment and has the freedom to choose nail art according to their budget. Prices start at 30 euros ($34) but can go up to 200 euros ($223), if the nails are entirely covered with Swarovski crystals – a D’vine Nails specialty that Paz says are the most difficult.
Although doing nails is hard work, Paz says she enjoys every aspect of the process, from ideating designs with her clients to gluing crystals to filing nails.
“A lot of clients know our work, so they come with an idea,” she says. “But my favorite is when they let me do whatever I want because that’s when you get to really be free with it.”
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Nail art is a worldwide trend today, largely because of the flamboyant manicures of celebrities like Cardi B and Rosalía. Last year, nail salon spending totaled more than $8 billion in the United States. But this worldwide boom of nail art is largely rooted in Black and Latino culture as well as Asian nail artists who dominate nail salon ownership and service across the U.S. Manicurists like Bronx-based Jenny Bui, known as the “Queen of Bling,” Harlem-based Junie Bee Nails and Brooklyn-based Juan Alvear, who also worked with Rosalía, lead the trend in the country.
Paz is deeply aware of the role her heritage plays in the creation of her nails and has faced obstacles in marketing exuberant garras to a more conservative Spanish society.
“I’ve always seen how Latin countries pay more attention to nails and do them very exaggerated,” she says. “But now that it’s a trend it’s really helped us build up the business because people are more inclined to try them out.”
While her celebrity clientele is helpful to keep her business open, their role in promoting this trend has received some backlash, especially European clients like Rosalía and Bad Gyal, who’ve been accused of cultural appropriation.
Still, Paz is thankful she has been able to grow her everyday clientele as a result of her celebrity connections.
“It’s really a beautiful craft, and I want to keep doing it.”
“We benefit a lot from having them show off their nails,” Paz says. “Thanks to them, people here are willing to try more adventurous designs, so we are thankful.”
So far, D’vine Nails has two locations and six employees – a majority of them are Latin American. But while her business continues to grow, Paz says her main focus is just to be able to keep the doors open and do what she loves.
“I used to say success meant having D’vine Nails stores all over the country, but right now I just want my two locations to have a good roster of clients and be in good shape,” she says. “It’s really a beautiful craft, and I want to keep doing it.”