Below is a transcribed version of The Nail Hub Podcast: Interview With Hemi Park. To listen, click here.
Elizabeth: Welcome to The Nail Hub podcast powered by NAILS Magazine. I'm Elizabeth Morris, your business-obsessed nail guru, here to share with you advice, motivation, and everything nails, to help you be successful. As Leonard Nimoy said, "The more we share, the more we have." So, let's get sharing.
So, last week you guys got to hear my interview with Valerie Ducharme, which I did at the condo with the NTNA finalist. This week, I wanted to release the interview that I did with Hemi Park. She was also an NTNA finalist, also an amazing artist. Hemi has such a sweet personality and she's a foodie, she's got all kinds of facets to what she loves to do outside of nails and inside of nails, and I really enjoyed chatting with her in Orlando, at the NTNA condo, right before the end of the competition.
I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed meeting all three of these ladies, and you guys are going to hear the last interview next week. But I wanted to release the interview with Hemi today so you guys can take a look at, well, or a listen, at all about Hemi Park and what makes her tick. And without further ado, here we go.
All right. So, I'm sitting down with Hemi Park, which is one of the NTNA contestants. And last night we had the pleasure of going to dinner together, which was really fun.
Hemi: Yes, it was really fun.
Elizabeth: Yeah. We had a little foodie talk because you're a foodie, with your hubby, which is really fun too.
Elizabeth: So, besides food, which we talked about, what else, you know, is kind of something that really drives you? I mean, what are your passions outside of nails? What do you like doing?
Hemi: I love my cats. Well, basically, my life is about nail, food, and cats. That's about it, and my family. So, yes.
Elizabeth: How many...do you have, like, two cats or…?
Hemi: I have three cats.
Elizabeth: You have three cats.
Hemi: Boeing, Neo, and Tiger.
Elizabeth: Aww, Boeing is such a cute name for a cat.
Hemi: He is. He's 25 pounds big panther. So, he's my little buddy and I just love to snuggle with them. That's what I do, really, you know. I don't really do anything else.
Elizabeth: Oh, that's cool. So, how did you find out about the NTNA competition? I mean, how did you start with this whole adventure?
Hemi: Well, I think, when I first noticed the NTNA, it was when Celina and Sarah was in it so does Winnie, and it kind of was amazing to kind of, see what it was. I think I was about two years in, licensed, and it kind of blew my mind but then I didn't really know what it was. And the whole competition was about, like, nail pearl competitions in my book, at the time, and I wasn't really ready to do anything anyway. It was just fun to watch.
And then, I'm not so sure why I became aware of NTNA and really wanted to go for it, but I think it might have been the DNA Olympia, last year, that I went to in Texas. And that was my very first on-site technical competition. And the first bag, I won first place and second place. So, that was really cool. So, I wanted to do something more than just working at the salon.
And I do have a little bit of health issues so I can't work like eight hours a day, I have to work, maybe, like five hours a day with, like, half-an-hour break in between so, you know, I can't take too many clients anyway. And my passion really is learning everything. Like, when I went to school for art, I took every art class as possible. And this is what I'm doing. So, I kind of wanted to do, like, one thing with nails and, you know, still doing what I do which is, you know, taking care of my clients.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Which is what we all love to do, right?
Hemi: Yeah. And I just love, like, all sides of it, but I haven't gone to, like, education part or manufacturing part, which I would love to experience, and I thought NTNA could be the road to fast-track it. So, it was more of a, you know, artistic challenge but also to get your name out there.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Getting exposed to the different parts of the inustry.
Hemi: Just to get some resume, you know.
Elizabeth: So, after, I mean, obviously, you entered into NTNA thinking, "Okay, this is gonna be a good opportunity for exposure, for learning about the different facets of the industry, something else to do other than just sitting behind the chair," which I think, most nail techs look for some other way to experience their nail career outside of just the chair, right? But now, I mean, you're at the end of the competition, tomorrow you're gonna find out, you know, how everything is going to work out and the experience. And what do you think, I mean, what do you think now, looking back, like, hindsight's always 20/20, so…?
Hemi: Last six month was a blur. Yeah, I literally ate nails, breathed nails, and slept nails. Like, everything was about nail because I had to work during the week and I'll take Thursday, Friday off sometimes, or Friday off, and work till Monday. So, I only had, like, three, four days to work everything. And during, you know, when I have to work at the salon, I'll brainstorm or go get something in between, like, clients, I'll run to store and, like, find something.
And at night, you know, after I'm done from work, which is usually late, I'll have dinner. I'll go home, I'll pass out because I'm so tired and my brain was overload. So, it was really, really crazy, but it really just was all about nails. And thank God for my husband who supported me every way, he let me be. He was listening to all my complaints and, you know, ideas and what I didn't like, what I want to do, and he was like, "Okay, cool. Yeah, sure," you know, but he was really supportive. And then, sharing my work and seeing, like, comments, like, "Oh, my God. That's so great," and that made me feel really, really great about myself, like definitely got more confident in myself.
Elizabeth: That's awesome.
Hemi: And I kinda wanted to do a little bit of everything. I wanted to do like a little bit of art, little bit of structure, little bit of, like, little bit fashion, but more in the, like, artistic fashion way, more like couture, or spin it really like 180% and like 80 degree and then turn something upside down, basically. So, for example, like my IBD set, it was love story going wrong. I made mermaid set and that was fish with the wagon.
And it was all 3D. I had no idea how to build anything out of just for job, but somehow, I did it. It was crazy, but it was fun, but then it was crazy. So, my whole six months, past six month, was all about that. It was, like, just thinking, brainstorming, thinking about nails, eating and thinking nails, going to the library, looking at inspiration, Googling, Instagram, Pinterest, just everything nails. So, I have no regret, really.
Hemi: But it's really a blur. I don't remember much of anything. I just feel like, "Wow, I really missed out on a lot of things," because my husband will say like, "Oh, so-and-so like went there, blah, blah, blah," I'm like, "When? Why?"
Elizabeth: You're like, "What's happening?"
Hemi: "What's happening around me?" But it was really fun. It was fun, it was stressful, I'm not gonna lie, it was the hardest challenge of my life, but it was really, really fun.
Elizabeth: That's cool. And you feel like you've come out of this just with a sense of growth and a different perspective on this?
Hemi: Personally, I had to put myself out there. I had to learn to deal with it, whether I want it or not, I chose to put myself out there, to advance to my benefit. So, there were times I was uncomfortable a little bit about, you know, exposing myself a little bit, about my personal life and, you know, or sharing my personal experience, because we had to write essay and some sets were very personal to me. But doing so kinda relieved me, in a way, where I can kinda open a little bit more. I don't have to be too shy about it, I can just be myself.
Elizabeth: You can share.
Hemi: I felt like, you know, I was accepted as who I am versus, you know, what I have, you know.
Elizabeth: That's awesome.
Hemi: It felt really...I grew a lot as a person, really. I learned to deal with a lot of stress, first of all, that's a lot, and learned to work without sleeping a lot physically. So, that was a big change too. And then, in skillful-wise, like technically, I felt like I didn't give up so much of, like, on like certain things that I wanted to do, like I had vision in my head, I kept trying. Like, one of the little teeny flower took me 24 hours to like really make the way that I wanted, just to test it.
And in that process, I learned so much. Just figuring things out. It was fun, it was really fun. It was stressful, but it was really, really fun. And I had so many a-ha moments because even though I took a lot of education, continuing education, there are, you know, like, temperature, like, affects acrylic, and then, like, gel acts differently, all those things, you have to experience it. And I was given all this product to try and play and that was really great. That was really, really great.
Elizabeth: That's awesome.
Hemi: And I had so much a-ha moments.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it's like the stuff you can't learn just sitting behind the chair, working on clients, it really takes it to another level.
Hemi: No, because, you know, if I'm not sure about a certain product, that I wouldn't be able to use it on my client. But I only have ten fingers and I only have so much time to try, try, try and see how things go. But, you know, we all have life, we can't just be behind our nail desk testing, but this was an opportunity that I was allowed to do it, I was welcome to do it. It was really fun.
Elizabeth: That's fun.
Hemi: It was a great opportunity, like, really.
Elizabeth: I love that. So, what do you think, I mean, you know, obviously, competitions are always about, "Okay, you do all of this stuff and you get to the end, and hopefully, you win," right? But I also think this is a really great experience to share because, in a way, it's not only about winning it. It's about everything that you just explained, which is, kind of, finding yourself, learning about yourself, you know, learning how to deal with stress, learning different avenues that your career can take you, being able to play with product, being able to experience things first-hand, and going through that whole, kind of, journey of discovery, right, for both yourself and what you're working on. What do you think this is gonna mean for you after everything is over? I mean, regardless of what happens tomorrow...
Hemi: Well, first of all, my goal to enter this competition, I didn't even know if I was gonna make top 24 or top 12 really, but I really wanted to make top 3. That was my ultimate goal, and I made it. And whatever happens after, I always keep telling myself, "Whatever happens after, it's fun. Like, what are they gonna do? Eliminate me after top three? No. It's just that," you know. So, it's just fun and I bonded a lot with the girls that we're competing against, and this was all-girls competition this year.
And I bonded a lot on a personal level with a few girls that, you know, they were my rocks. I had issues and stress and I had just, you know, there are a lot of things that I wanted to talk about or just vent, and they were there even though they were eliminated or whether they're in competition or out of the competition, they knew what I was going through, they had the product that I have, and we're just helping each other, just listening to each other and just encouraging each other. So, that was really, really amazing.
My goal, after this, I'm not really sure, but I always tell people, "Just go for it really because you never know what's gonna happen," and I…even though I said, "I wanna be top three. I wanna make to top three," I didn't know if I was gonna make to top three, and I did. And you never know. Like, I didn't know what to expect from the Olympia either, but then I won first place off the bat. That was crazy. NTNA first try, making top three, which is crazy.
I think I wanna be, like, one of those ambassadors who's just telling people, "If you really want it, and if you really try it, and if you really, really give yourself a lot of credit and be confident in yourself, and believe in yourself, then good things happen regardless of result, really." Like, even if I was dropped in… let's say, I was eliminated at top four, so the very last challenge before the top three, and I went to the last chance and I told Lisa, who was eliminated from the last chance, I said, "Whatever happens, it's actually okay." I don't have to make top three, I got so close. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for me to get this close off the bat was amazing. I'll be upset, sure. For sure, I'll be disappointed if I didn't make it, but to hear that I made the top 24, 12, and top 3, you know, every week, it was amazing. It really felt great. I can't explain.
Elizabeth: I think that's cool.
Hemi: And I just kinda wanna share everybody, like, to everybody, like, it's a great feeling to know that you have a lot of support, and it's a great support system within the competition and within the industry. They accept for who you are, whatever you do, they're out there to help you. It's very hard to find that kind of community. And I moved around a lot, like, different countries. So, I had to fit in everywhere I move. California, I had to, like, fit in, like once I moved in. And I try so hard every single time I had to move around. Nail industry was so easy. It was so easy. They just was like, "Hi, Hemi."
Hemi: "Welcome. Where are you from? California? Wow, that's cool. Come on in." They were accepting. So, why not take advantage of this great community? Plus, you get to do what you wanna do and have fun with it, that's amazing. I don't care, like, what I'm doing, like, after this. I can be behind my nail chair and just working on my client, that's fine. If I get an offer to, like, work for some other company, or work with something, or do anything nail-related, that'll be awesome too. But it's that experience that you can't get from other part of your life, I think, that you have to really try it. I mean, you have to really experience it. And I just wanna share that.
Elizabeth: I think that's cool.
Hemi: That's, I guess, that is my goal, I think.
Elizabeth: Well, and it sounds like you've achieved your goal because, I mean, just what you've explained to me so far, I mean, it sounds like, like you said, you started with this initial goal of being in the top three, and through that process of kind of focusing on that goal, you ended up getting a whole bunch of other added benefits that, maybe, you weren't necessarily thinking, which is really, really cool. And it's nice to hear that people have been so supportive.
Because I think that is, maybe, an area that a lot of people struggle within our industry, is they...I mean, my personal opinion is, I've had a really good experience with almost everyone I've met in this industry. But I think people naturally create their own sense of competition. And I think once you let that down and you kind of lower the walls that you have between you and other people, I think you really get to see different parts of it. I mean, would you agree with that?
Hemi: I do. And I do have a little bit different experience because when I first decide to do nails, like, go to nail school, is out of whim, was just to try, you know, kind of school, like art school, art class, you know. Like, "Oh, okay. I can try because I like to do my own nails. Why not?" And my friend was like, "Oh, why not try it, you know, it might be good for you." I got hooked but I was alone in all of this. I did not have single friend in my area who does nail. I went to school with bunch of cosmetology students, I was the only one who was actually doing nail, everybody wanted to do hair.
Even after the graduation, I didn't really have friends, you know, but I went to first trade show with my other friend and that was fun. I didn't really network or anything, I didn't know what to do, but I saw a lot of things. And then, when you go to networking event, when you get accepted, and when you feel, "Oh, I'm not alone," and you meet all these people who offer to mentor you, whether it's related to nail, or on a personal level, or anything really, that's really amazing.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it is. I agree.
Hemi: And I feel like I had that unique experience. So, I guess, ultimately, maybe I wanna do mentoring, I guess, to help other people like, regardless, like, you know, what level I am. Maybe I can just say, "You can do it. I believe in you," maybe that's all other people need. I don't know. Like, somebody who's starting up, "Oh, I don't know anybody. There's no class around me." I had to fly to Seattle to take CND Shellac certification because there is none offered in my area and that sounds like really fun, by the way. So, I went there. That's where I started, like, really like, kinda blossomed.
But not everybody has experience like you or me, but I know what it feels like to be alone, feel like I don't have anybody to talk to, your friend doesn't even understand what you're doing, and you have a job that you just go but you don't really enjoy it, even if that's nail-related. And you're stuck in a situation where you can't get out because you have to make money. I understand that. I do. So, maybe I can offer some guidance or maybe I can just share experience, my experience, "I did this."
Or maybe I can point direction to like, "Oh, this person helped me, so why not talk to Elizabeth, or Halley, or Valerie?" That would be great. Or maybe there is somebody in Africa who need help, we can Skype, or just talk about it, or we share same passion. Sure. Why not? Just...I guess, you know, the language barrier doesn't limit you, I guess.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Because we all talk nails, right? I mean, we were kinda talking about that last night, right? So, like Valerie, for example, you know, speaks French and there's a lot...I mean...
Hemi: I mean, I don't speak English fluently. English isn't my first language. So, for me to really, like, get out of here and just, like, just speak freely, like, I worry about like, "What if I stutter? What if I say something wrong?" I mean, you know...
Elizabeth: Yeah. It's always harder to express yourself in a second language.
Hemi: It's hard. But, you know, when you create that safe space, you know, like, have a trust… I guess, trust system?
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely.
Hemi: That's good. And, you know, like, why not? And I want to be inspiration to people who, like, doesn't speak, you know, their… English or, you know, the language or...
Elizabeth: Yeah, people who came from different backgrounds.
Hemi: Yeah, just...I don't know. I just like it.
Elizabeth: I think that's cool.
Hemi: I just really like nails. I don't know.
Elizabeth: Well, I think nails is its own language and it's its own way to connect with people because, like, we were talking about that last night. You were bringing up the fact that, you know, you guys were kind of doing charades with each other, right? Where it's, you know, somebody was saying something and it's almost like nails becomes a language of, you know, we can talk through our art and we can talk through working on nails together and the stress of the competition and all that stuff. I think that's really cool because, like you said, it kind of takes that whole barrier away.
And even though, maybe, you know, there still is that challenge of expressing yourself with words, maybe it's something that you can actually express yourself in a different way. And then, you have that environment where you can share, and feel comfortable, and feel welcomed, which I think that's such a cool way to experience, you know, this competition. And I'm so glad that you had that experience because, to me, that's...I mean, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it, you know. It's like, it's really cool that we found this environment that we can share, and collaborate, and kind of live side-by-side even though we, ultimately, are alone, you know?
Hemi: Yeah. Well, and you know, there are many things that are important but, you know, we work with, you know, other people. Like, whether its client or your co-worker, we're the ones who are in the service industry. We get stressed out mentally, and emotionally, and physically, you know. And to deal with that and it's with someone who has, like, you know, autoimmune disease, you know, and have a lot of like, you know, emotional issues and personality issues. Like I was shy, I was really shy. I hate talking to, like, strangers. I feel very awkward around, like, people, who's like, "Hi, but I don't know you. Oh, my God, who are you?"
Elizabeth: Stranger danger.
Hemi: I know. But someone who knows that, you know, if I can help one person with, like, just one word, I think that's worth it. We're going through all this trouble, I think. So, that's that.
Elizabeth: I think that's amazing. I think that's amazing. So, I mean, if you could have any wish granted, you know, as far as your nail career goes, you know, where…I mean, because, you know, again, when you started this competition, you kind of decided, "Okay, I wanna do something else. I wanna, kind of, expand my horizons. I wanna expose myself to the nail world a bit more and learn more." So, you went through this whole NTNA competition process. Now, let's say, we're resetting now, and you're looking at the next year, what's kind of, if you had any wish that could be granted as to what you wanna achieve in the next year, what would that be for you?
Hemi: I actually wanna raise the industry standard because, you know, where I'm from, Northern California, even though it's very, you know, bourgeoisie, expensive area, every street, every corner, there is a nail salon that are not operated as to the standard that I learned, to the State Board of California. I want the clients to aware where to get safe service and I want the nail techs to understand the importance of not destroying the natural nail, just the basic. But just raising the bar just a teeny little bit.
If I can be helpful, like, if I can just add that one step, along with everybody who's trying so hard, would be my wish. I don't know, I just...I see all my clients come in and have damaged nail or they complain about, like, "I got fungus here," that breaks my heart because nail industry isn't about that. Doing nails isn't about pain, it's not about picking a color. We joked about it, me and Halley joked about picking a color. You go to a nail salon, pick a color. And I've worked under somebody who didn't care about sanitation or disinfection process, that they said it's a waste of time. I got called by a clean freak because I was scrubbing down pedicure chair after each client.
Elizabeth: Oh, my God.
Hemi: Disinfecting. And I've worked in, like, regular salon, high-end spa, and now, I'm renting. But it is very hard. There's no middle ground right now. It's either very high, or very low, or maybe there is no standard. I just want everybody to meet in the middle.
Elizabeth: And have some basic rules.
Hemi: And have basic. And just that, I mean, you know, yes, nail art is very important. It's what makes us…our job fun, but the foundation is most important thing, I think. And I had this dream one time, like, "Oh, what if I become, like, next nail artist and I'm the one who say, 'You have to disinfect. I'm gonna teach you how to do nail art but let's do this together. Let's learn how to do it, like, the correct way. Let's refresh our memory. What if we start with that? That'll be amazing. Wouldn't that be amazing?' I don't know," you know. I had this, like, you know, charade in my head, like, just like going through. But really, that's really what I wanted.
Like, I want anybody to walk into nail salon feeling safe, not worry about what's gonna happen to me or getting cut. I get texts all the time from my friends, my personal friends, "I'm in the pedicure place. Oh, my gosh. She's cutting me. Oh, oh." Even us, nail techs, can't find pedicure place that are decent. We're all looking for Nellie in our city, "Where is Nellie in our city? I don't have Nellie in my own area." I'm my own Nellie, really. Because, you know, I trust myself but I don't trust other people. I don't know where to go, you know. We have a lot of, like, really good nail techs that are popular, big on Instagram, social media, they are focused on nails but not pedicure. So, we don't have anywhere to go. That is so messed up.
Elizabeth: That's true.
Hemi: That is really messed up. I just wanna go somewhere and just relax.
Elizabeth: And be able to actually trust.
Hemi: And be able to enjoy the pedicure that I give to my client. It's a foundation, that's a basic, that's an industry standard. I just wanna emphasize on that.
Elizabeth: No, I mean, that's amazing. I mean, it's a good...
Hemi: And that's what I said in the entry video, "I wanna be able to raise my industry standard just a little bit higher." Because it's funny, it's almost too funny because I work in the same complex as a pedicure place, nail place, that had $20 pedicure.
Elizabeth: Oh, my gosh.
Hemi: Every time I park and I see that sign, I'm cringing. Like, I don't know what to do. And I hear horror stories everywhere. I mean, isn't that sad?
Elizabeth: I think it is sad. I mean, I was actually just talking about that the other day, about how… I mean, for example, the gel on my toes has grown out probably four or five weeks out and I don't have time to do it, so it just keeps growing and growing. And I'll say, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could get to Orlando, find a nice pedi place, and get my toes done before the tradeshow?" But that's not possible because if you were to walk into any salon with the kind of stuff that we like to wear on our hands and feet, they would have no clue how to take care of it, they would probably damage our nails in the process.
And like you said, you can't actually sit back, and relax, and close your eyes. You have to be monitoring the situation because you have to be seeing, "What are you doing? How are you doing it? Is all of that stuff clean?" And it's sad because we know that but clients don't know that. So, they're, you know, they're very innocent. And I think that's a great goal because I totally agree with you that it is sad. It is sad that we can't just sit back and relax and enjoy a service, you know, and we're nail techs ourselves, so. Hemi: I just wanna be able to go to pedicure place...
Elizabeth: I agree.
Hemi: Or even nail place. I don't know if there's anybody who can, in my area, where I live, who can do my nails, my natural nails, which is very fragile, very weak, but it grows nicely if it's taken care of. But I have to do it because they don't know how to take care of my nails. So, I just really want...if I can have one person who's like me, who I can trust, and that person trusts me and we trade, and we slowly expand our horizon, the world would be a better place.
Elizabeth: I agree.
Hemi: Nail world would be a better place.
Elizabeth: I agree.
Hemi: I don't know. It's just a wild thought, probably but...
Elizabeth: But I think everything starts with...
Hemi: Sometimes, we forget about basics.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I think everything starts with those types of ideas. I mean, if you think back to everything that ever got started, it starts with those little wild ideas. Like, "What if we could do something like this?" So, I think that's amazing and I hope that you get the opportunity to have that impact on the industry. Because my goal for everyone in the industry is just that everyone gets to have their little piece of what they want to contribute and what they want to receive. So, I think that's amazing. And I'm very excited for you, I'm very excited to see what happens.
Hemi: Well, whatever happens, we're just gonna hug it out.
Elizabeth: Yeah. No, and even, I mean, even after tomorrow, I mean, I'm really excited to see, kind of, how this experience helps you grow in your career. And, I mean, gosh, five years from now, you're probably gonna be in a completely different place in your nail career, in your perspective.
Hemi: Can you believe I've been in industry five years?
Hemi: Five years. And then, I can't wait to see what's happening after five years from now on too.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you just never know. And I think that's a total testament to what you were just talking about, which is, you start out thinking that something is your goal and you start working towards it, and then, along the way, all kinds of different things start happening, which is part of the journey, which I think, is really cool.
Hemi: I think so too.
Elizabeth: Yeah. All right, cool. Well, I'm, like, so excited to see what your journey looks like tomorrow and also after tomorrow. And I'm so glad we got to sit here and talk and have you share everything with me, which is amazing.
Hemi: Well, thank you for having me. Really, this is great opportunity and I got to break another wall today, just overcome my little another fear.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Well, this podcast is easy because there's no cameras, you can just...
Hemi: I still see the microphone on this.
Elizabeth: I'll put, like, a nice sparkly box over here, make it happy. But, yeah. Thank you for sharing and I just...I can't thank you enough for actually being open and sharing your feelings and, you know, being a part of this industry because your contributions are what make our industry awesome.
Hemi: Well, thank you and thank you for having me in the industry. I feel very welcome.
Elizabeth: And we're definitely going to dinner in Vegas.
Hemi: Yes, absolutely.
Elizabeth: I'm so excited about that. Yay, foodie time, foodie time. That'll be awesome. All right, cool. Thanks, Hemi.
Hemi: Thank you.
Elizabeth: All right.
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