It takes me two hours to return from The Hundreds any given weekday during rush hour. Every so often, it’s more than worth the trip for an Original Rainbow Cone, Top Notch Beefburger (made with turkey), a few yards of African wax print fabric, or a beauty appointment.
“Sense of community,” Victoria gets to the real reason why Chicago’s south side is worth supporting. “We must learn to empower each other.” The Nail Room, her boutique nail salon, sits right at the back gate of Beverly, one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city. Stoic homes proudly stand atop rolling green hills up-and-down wide boulevards once snaked by streetcars. It’s easy to forget where you are — the infamous south side. The same side of town France warned its tourists never to enter, for fear they’d immediately be initiated, I assume, and made to trap or something. Home to a brag worthy number of upper-middle class black families, it is thought to be one of the most integrated neighborhoods in Chicago. A pristine spot of inclusivity on our segregated necktie.
I arrive with a photo plucked from Pinterest, a simplistic design, black and white, negative space incorporated with surgical accuracy. It’s not the type of thing Victoria does, and I know that. Still, I figure, she can create some version of the design. You know, get a feel for the essence but, like, flip it or whatever.
It is not a fair request. Victoria is not Desiigner and she has no interest in biting the style of another artist. She does what she does.
The Nail Room is where one goes for that throw back realness that defined the 90s. Square nails, swooshes and feathery strokes, rhinestones, rhinestones, and rhinestones. And I love it. I also love the layout of the place, purposely made to feel more like your best friend’s living room than a stiff assembly line nail shop.
“I give the people what they want,” she says politely at first glance of the photo. She tries, but my request is too simple, too normcore. Victoria is anti-norm and she eventually, albeit reluctantly, succumbs to her instincts, reaching for a box of rhinestones from under her desk. Is this the craziest thing a customer has asked of you? I pose the question with equal politeness.
“The craziest thing a customer asked was to do his feet for a [streaming media player]. I’m all for bartering, but in the end I would’ve owed him. Like, how was that going to work?” We laugh as she slips more comfortably into her element.
Off topic, I ask her my favorite ice breaking question, “If you were a superhero, what would be your power.”
“I like Spiderman. He’s humble. Other superheros are cocky. Spiderman is goofy. I’m goofy, so I like that. I think one of my powers would be to fix racism. There’s just so much racism. I would make sure there was unity. We don’t have to agree, but let’s agree to disagree. I may not agree with your life, but I can still love you. And don’t get mad at me for not agreeing. Looking at a tree, not every leaf is the same. They’re all different but they’re all important to the tree, they’re all part of the same tree.”
She finishes the design on my nails with relief. In the end, it’s nothing like what I asked for and I think that’s why I love it so much.
The Nail Room, 10045 S. Western, Chicago IL