Money Matters

Nail Careers That Are Anything But Ordinary

From clear blue skies to deep blue seas, nail technicians are doing nails in the strangest places!

Who ever said the only place to do nails is in a traditional salon? Nail technicians who dare to be different find the most unique places to provide nail services. You, too, can have an exciting career that offers versatility and creativity. All you have to do is envision yourself doing nails in a place where most people wouldn’t think of. Then you’ll be on your way to one of the most heavenly careers of your life!


Things that make you go oo-oo ooh! A Swedish massage. Fragrant aromatherapy oils. A heavenly manicure at 35,000 feet altitude!

First class passengers aboard certain Virgin Atlantic Airways flights can receive a manicure or massage from an on-board beauty therapist at no charge. The pampering begins just minutes after the pilot’s take-off announcement.

“Welcome to Virgin Atlantic Airways, flight 007, Los Angeles to London. Estimated flight time, 10 hours. Flight attendants please be seated for departure.”

Just after take-off, Jane Breeden, an in-flight beauty therapist, hands out an invitation to each first-class passenger explaining her services and asking passengers to stop by the Upper Class Lounge to make an appointment.

“Sixty-five percent of my clients are men and most of them have never had the treatment before,” says Breeden. She treats 14-24 passengers, depending on the length of the flight. Manicures don’t include a polish application, so there aren’t any fumes or unpleasant smells. Breeden also gives shoulder, head, and neck massages, and offers aromatherapy oils to be placed on pulse points. Breeden says her clients can’t seem to get enough of the services.

“Clients often joke around and say, ‘Can you ask the captain to circle the plane just one more time?’” she says and laughs. “One passenger fooled me and booked the service twice!” Breeden says she doesn’t mind. She works nonstop from liftoff to landing to accommodate her clients.


Breeden was the first beauty therapist to institute the in-flight service, which she began in May 1990. Before working with Virgin Atlantic Airways, she was treating the crème de la crème of London, including the wife of Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways. In 1989, Breeden approached Branson with her idea to offer business-class passengers the in-flight service. Branson saw the potential in this idea--- particularly for the many business travellers who regularly fly with the airline. On January 25, 1990, Breeden met Branson for the first time at his home, gave him a massage treatment, and he was hooked! She was given the opportunity to try out her ideas one month later on a Virgin Atlantic Airways flight to New York.

Breeden’s trial flight was a great success. Now, passengers will even call ahead of time to see if their flight is a “Jane flight.” Some passengers actually change their flight schedule so they can receive Breeden’s treatments. The services have become so popular that Virgin Atlantic Airways has added 14 additional beauty therapists. Eventually, Breeden plans to have a beauty therapist on every flight.


It’s 3:00 p.m. at the Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, Calif., and the horses are off. “Coco’s Main Man to take the lead. Tide Is High coming up around the center... Sahara King on the outside...”says the race track announcer in a monotone. A client at the racetrack’s Clubhouse Beauty Salon intensely watches the race on a monitor near the ceiling. The race comes to a quick end, breaking the silence in the salon.

“I’m glad I didn’t bet that one,” says the relieved client, Frank Garnett. “I would have lost.”

Salon manager Yolanda Avila looks up from her manicuring table and smiles at Garnett. He’s a typical client--- middle-aged, middle-class to wealthy, and an avid horse-race fan.

“I spend four to five hours at the track every day.” says Garnett, a former professional baseball player. “If I don’t show up, they hold the races!”

Avila’s clients, many of whom are constantly trying their luck on the racetrack, come from all walks of life. Seventy percent of her clients are men who come for a manicure, buff, and polish. Some women come for nail repairs and manicures---as well as good conversation. “Horse-“ and “jock-talk” mixed with job and family stories is what you hear at this salon.

“Clients like to ask who I think is going to win a race,” says Avila, who admits she doesn’t know who’s who on the racetrack. Avila doesn’t gamble, but she roots enthusiastically for her client’s horse to win. Sometimes her cheering pays off.

“One man won a $2,000 race and tipped me $50!” Avila marvels. “The best thing is watching the excitement on clients’ faces and hearing them yell for jockeys to win.”

Avila’s clients, who watch the track through the window of the salon don’t miss a beat. Some clients watch the races on large monitors. “I also have a television in the salon for clients to watch when they’re getting services done.” she says.

Avila says she works hard to accommodate her clients, providing services from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and only taking breaks between clients. She charges $14.50--$24.50 for manicures. Everyone from park employees to members of the elite Turf Club takes advantage of the affordable prices. “The Turf Club is where doctors, lawyers, and celebrities like Michael Jackson go to place bets,” Avila notes. “John Forsythe came up to me the other day and said hi!” Well-known at the racetrack, Avila is approached by many people, mostly regulars who like to chitchat, and by those who want her business card. One tall, well-dressed man, who introduced himself as Frank, approached Avila to ask about her services. Less than a half-hour later, he made an appointment. “Boy, that was fast,” she exclaims. For Avila, business couldn’t be better.


One...and two... and one... and two... Push it! A client has almost finished her 45-minute aerobics session at the Spectrum Club, a full workout center in El Segundo, Calif., and she’s ready for the cool down. Legs up... and out... and up...and out.. She collapses. A couple of friends half-drag her to the Body Connection, a “cure all” day spa inside the health club where she is rejuvenated after a blissful two-hour shiatsu massage.

Her friends, overcome by the spa’s sweet scents of mango and peach oils and the hypnotic tunes of Kenny G, treat themselves to a manicure and pedicure for an unforgettable hour and a half.

“We offer everything from nail and skin care to body treatments for stress release, balance, and energy,” says Jody Bezzina, spa co-owner and manager. The club also offers the therapeutic treatments for clients who’ve injured themselves. If client injures a muscle, therapists on the painful area and treat it with a penetrating massage.


“We work on the Raiders, Clippers, Rams, and several professional hockey players,” Bezzina says. “Many of them come to the spa for the deep-tissue massage. The treatments are very important to them.”

Deep-tissue sports massage treats stress that has built up from years of playing sports. “It’s for someone who’s craving a release,” Bezzina explains.

Many professional athletes use the spa during off seasons. “We do manicures and pedicures for them and their wives.” she says.

Seventy-five percent of The Body Connection’s clients are club members many of whom come to the cozy 1,000-square-foot spa just to relax. “We have a lot of people who walk in off the exercise floor and stand inside the spa for a few minutes to calm themselves down.”Bezzina notes.

Amid the winter greens and mauves of the spa’s modern decor, clients breathe in the fruity scents of aromatherapy. “One treatment we offer is called “Serene,” which is a combination of essential herbs and oil.” Bezzina says “When you inhale it, it calms you down.” Aromatherapy oils are in the alcohol that therapists use for disinfecting their hands. Some clients request aromatherapy with manicures and pedicures.

“We offer hot oil or water manicures and pedicures using natural products.” Bezzina explains. “For a pedicure, the feet are soaked in water with herbs. We do an exfoliation scrub and use a pumice stone for calluses. The client receives a leg massage, cuticle treatment, and polish.” The pedicure lasts 45-50 minutes and costs $23. A manicure costs $11. Nail technicians do 5-15 treatments a day, seven days a week.


Some spa clients opt for full-day packages, which include a massage, manicure, pedicure, spa cuisine lunch, private weight-training session, and exercise. Packages cost anywhere from $115 for 2 ½ hours to $250 for a full day.

“A lot of people are shocked that we spend so much time on the services,” Bezzina boasts. “Clients get personal service. They walk out of here feeling like they’ve been cared for.”


Come along and ride on a fantastic voyage! Practice your trade, meet interesting people, and have the time of your life aboard a cruise ship. “You could travel to Russia, Poland, Norway, India, Hong Kong, and throughout the Mediterranean,” says Sarah Jacob, Miami-based operations supervisor for Steiner, a British company that provides beauty services for approximately 40 cruise lines. Jacobs explains that the typical day of a cruise ship nail technician is spent promoting the services via nail demonstrations, with nail services offered in the evening. These demonstrations are held in the main show lounge or in the salon, and 50-100 passengers typically attend. The spa manager introduces herself and her team and describes the beauty services offered onboard. Nail technicians then introduce themselves and talk about the individual services they offer. Passengers get a tour of the spa area and may be used as models during demonstrations. Nail technicians sell services to passengers and book appointments throughout week. On smaller ships, multi-skilled cosmetologists provide all beauty services, including nails. Larger cruise lines usually hire specialists, including nail technicians, who make an eight-month commitment to work on board the ship. On-board cosmetologists and nail technicians earn a base salary of approximately $60 a week, plus 10% commission on each service. Most technicians can earn $700-$800 a month. Some have made as much as $1,200 a month, says Jacob. With meals and lodging paid by the cruise line, many technicians find the ship a perfect place to anchor themselves!

Facebook Comments ()

Leave a Comment


Comments (1)

Featured Products & Promotions   |   Advertisement

Market Research

Market Research How big is the U.S. nail business? $7.3 billion. What's the average service price for a manicure? Dig into our decades' deep research archives.

Industry Statistics for

View All


FREE Subscription

VietSalon is a Vietnamese-language magazine and the sister publication to NAILS. Click the link below to sign up for a FREE one-year subscription.

Get a free preview issue and a Free Gift
Subscribe Today!

Please sign in or register to .    Close
Subscribe Today
Subscribe Today