by Debra Kahn July 19, 2020
SAN FRANCISCO — Nail salons thought they were just one of the businesses most vulnerable to the coronavirus, along with gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage therapists and piercing studios.
But the industry dominated by Vietnamese Americans suffered the biggest public relations blow when California Gov. Gavin Newsom in May said a nail salon was responsible for the state’s first community exposure. Nail salons were already facing anti-Asian sentiment in the wake of the coronavirus; now, owners and workers were particularly worried.
“Why Vietnamese American?” asked Janet Nguyen, a former Republican state senator currently running for an Assembly seat in Orange County, home to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. “It’s the one industry that is very specific to a community, and you completely devastate and put a dagger in our hearts.”
Vietnamese Americans have built clout in Orange County politics over several decades, but their tendency to send Republicans to Sacramento has put them at a disadvantage in the Democratic-supermajority state. The pandemic prompted nail salon advocates to reach out to Democratic lawmakers in Northern California districts, as well as allies in the broader beauty industry, to advocate for their survival.
Nail salons had to close in most counties Monday after another Newsom shutdown as coronavirus surges in California. But this time, they are better prepared. Though devastating, Newsom’s words served as a rallying cry to unify the industry.
Read more at Politico