“Nails have always intrigued me because they are so artistic,” says Juli Miller Chen, a nail technician at Canyon Fitness Salon in Canyon Lake, Calif.

A nine-year nail veteran, Miller-Chen received an art scholarship in high school. But after attending college for a day, she realized it wasn’t for her. So she worked for a while at her mom and dad’s pizza shop. And then it happened. Years of being a rebellious teenager and young adult finally caught up with her, and at 21, she totaled her car.

Says Miller-Chen, “The accident made me realize that I might not get a second chance and that I needed to do something with my life. So I decided to change my lifestyle and get my manicuring license.”

Because she had been so much trouble for her parents while growing up, at that turning point in her life, Miller-Chen thought to herself, “Someday I will make you proud of me.” And she has.

While in school, Miller-Chen did a lot of nail art and thought that she could survive on offering that service alone. “It wasn’t long before I realized that I had to create the perfect nail to do my artwork on,” she says.

Another goal of hers was to do a NAILS cover. With four covers under her belt to date, she has more than achieved her goal.

Miller-Chen enjoys doing nails for photo shoots, but she says they can be nerve-wracking until you actually get there and start working. “Then you get involved with what’s going on and you get caught up in it. I really enjoy the people. The makeup artist, photographer, and model help get you motivated. Each aspect of the nail business is so different the photo shoots, the salon, teaching.” (Miller-Chen is an educator for IBD.)

And where Miller-Chen works is different. Located inside of a health club, Canyon Fitness Salon has a nice, healthy atmosphere, says Miller-Chen, who is the only technician there. The salon also offers child-care. Juli Miller-Chen is thankful she got a second chance to make something of her life.

‘‘I’ve been at the salon for four years now and I love it,” she says. “I have all the protection I need as far as security. Nobody crosses the line who shouldn’t be here.”

Another plus is that when Miller-Chen has finished work for the day, she’s only steps away from the gym. As for her clients, “working out and then getting their nails done contributes to their overall well-being.”

When she’s not beautifying hands, Miller-Chen can be found living life in the fast lane. “I love excitement and having a good time. I work hard during the week so I love to play on the weekends,” she says.

Recently, she took up skydiving and is gearing up for her first jump, which will be tandem. “Skydiving has always thrilled me, but I didn’t have enough confidence to do it until now,” she admits. “It must be a speed thing, because I love watching car races.”

And she loves teaching. As an educator for IBD, Miller-Chen says that every time she teaches a class she learns something new, and offers this advice to fellow nail technicians: “You need to keep your enthusiasm up and remember why you got into the business in the first place.”

For Miller-Chen, it was the artistic side of the business that got her hooked. She says, “Every set or fill I do is a new creation. It’s like putting your work on canvas. I thrive on doing nails.”

In the future, Miller-Chen would like to do more print work, such as magazines, and do nails on a movie set. She recently found an agent, so don’t be surprised if you see her name one day on the list of film credits. Miller-Chen sure has come a long way from that eye opening day when she totaled her car. Now she is in full control of her life and sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat.

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