Not Your Typical Nail Tech

A profile on Cecil Baldwin and how his experience being in a female-dominated industry.


  Cecil Baldwin doesn’t look like your typical nail technician. First, he’s a man in a female-dominated industry. Second, he’s a big man. At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 210 pounds, Baldwin would seem more physically suited to the job he used to hold---police officer. But nails are what Baldwin does and Kerrville, Texas, land of ranches, country boys, and relocated retirees, is where he does them. “The hardest thing I ever had to do,” Baldwin admits in a soft Texas drawl, “was tell my daddy I was going to beauty school.” His father, a rock mason who ran his own business, took the beauty school news surprisingly well. “As long as I’m happy, he said, go for it,” Baldwin says with a good-natured laugh.And the 29-year-old co-owner of a successful salon is very happy, indeed. He’s the only male who does nails in Kerrville. In fact, he’s one of the few mail nail technicians in all of Southern Texas.The salon, Nails by Bethany Etc., is grossing five times what it did just three years ago. And his two-year-old job as an educator for OPI Products has opened a lot of doors for him also, he says.Baldwin works with his wife, Bethany, and occasionally with a third nail technician, but the salon still has more work than it can handle, he says. Baldwin travels a lot as an educator; in fact, he is just returned from a trip to Hong Kong.  He listens to country-western music and spends his spare time with his children, ages 3, 4 and 12. “I’ve got my hands full,” he says.How did he get into nails in the first place? His wife thought he could do it, he says. “She’s a very intuitive person and she thought I was artistic,” Baldwin remembers. Bethany was doing nails in the corner of a nice dress shop until she can ran out of space and opened the salon. Baldwin was working as a counsellor at a halfway house in San Antonio. “I was overflowing with work and I was tired of him driving back and forth to San Antonio every day, so I told him I needed some help,” says Bethany, who has been a nail technician for 12 years. The two planned to open a beauty supply house to service the many salons in the area, and Baldwin decided to go to beauty school to learn the business. He planned to get his license but he had no intention of doing nails, says Bethany. “He’d come over to the shop after school and I’d work with him, and I thought he could really be good. The next thing I know, he’s really taken off with it,” she says.Baldwin believes that being a man in the nail industry is an advantage. “It didn’t take long to get a reputation. These women really enjoy coming to a man to get their nails done,” he says in his unhurried, soft-spoken voice.His size has been anything but a handicap. It just makes him more memorable. People find it unusual for a person that big to be able to do detail work, he says.The salon offers many services, but Baldwin specializes in sculptured nails. He likes to compete and he practices, he says, by doing them day-in and day-out. Of the 10 nail contests he’s entered, he’s placed in eight. His recent losses have been to his wife, he says, when they came in first and second place in two competitions.Baldwin loves to travel for OPI. “People do nails differently all over the country. I like to see how things are done elsewhere. It keeps me going,” he says. Hong Kong was the most exotic location he’s traveled to for the company. People from all over the world attended the show, although the majority were Chinese. Baldwin used an interpreter to help teach his techniques. “I like trying to stay on top of trends and new products,” he says. “It keeps me on my toes. It doesn’t get boring because you aren’t doing one thing long enough for it to get boring. I like trying to perfect my work, constantly improving. And the money’s not bad, either,” Baldwin adds with a satisfied laugh.

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