“This beautifully wrought film gives voice to immigrant entrepreneurs working in nail salons made unsafe by a long-standing failure to regulate the US cosmetic industry. It highlights the long path towards policy change, which requires both individual and collective action.” - Carol Underwood, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
"Painted Nails defies simplistic portrayals of immigrants and refugees as successful entrepreneurs, but provides a nuanced and compelling story of one woman's journey striving for economic self-sufficiency and advocating for safer working conditions in the fast-growing nail salon industry. It is a powerful documentary that will lead to generative and critical dialogues about consumer culture, protection of workers, and public policy in Women & Gender Studies, Labor Studies, and Asian American Studies courses." - Linda Trinh Vo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Asian American Studies, University of Irvine, CA
It won’t take long to fall in love with the subject of Painted Nails, Van Hoang, a Vietnamese nail salon owner who serves an ethnically diverse group of working class women with acrylic nails and intricate airbrush designs. Through the course of the film, Van unintentionally becomes a contemporary Norma Rae or Erin Brockovich, with an entirely new cause that affects not just factory workers or victims of regional environmental contamination, but nearly every person in America, as well as their families.
The cosmetic industry is one of the fastest growing in the US, and health regulations for it are almost non-existent. This puts at risk the over 80% of licensed US manicurists who are Vietnamese immigrants, Van Nguyen included. The salon Van owns with her husband feels like a second home, but she is hesitant for her daughter to spend time there, fearing the adverse effects of product chemicals. Van herself suffers from headaches, memory loss, and has had trouble bringing other pregnancies to term, but continues to work morning until night every day. Determined to make her salon a safer place, Van takes her story to Washington D.C. and becomes one of the first to testify for safe cosmetics in over 30 years. Replete with tender yet insightful moments, Painted Nails strips the polish from an issue that touches everyone.
See Painted Nails Thursday, June 3, 2021 6:00 PM - 7:45 PM
livestreamed from Vietnamese American Roundtable's Facebook page. The screening will be followed by a discussion with The Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative on how people can continue supporting efforts to build a healthier, more sustainable nail salon industry.
PAINTED NAILS has aired on PBS in
Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
• Charlotte (SCETV)
• Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville (SCETV)
• Las Vegas
• Los Angeles
• Orlando (WDSC & WEFS)
• Portland (OPB)
• San Antonio
• San Diego
• San Francisco (KRCB, KCSM & KQED)
AWARDS and NOMINATIONS
Jury Award Finalist
New Orleans Film Festival 2016
Commendation Painted Nails Production Team
For depicting the contributions of Asian Americans in San Jose and raising awareness on issues that affect the community daily.
City of San Jose, California
Courageous Womyn Award
Disorient Film Festival 2016
Asian Health Services Screening – Oakland California
Women’s Voices for the Earth Screening - Montana
Organization of Chinese Americans –SF Chapter
UC Santa Barbara Screening -Multicultural Center
ECO Film Festival 2016 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
CAAMFest San Jose, California
New Orleans Film Festival 2016 - Jury Award Finalist
California Film Institute - San Rafael Film Center
Main San Francisco Public Library
ARTICLES and NEWS
"Empowering. This documentary captures Hoang's journey in fighting for justice, while ultimately showing the price that those pay for another's luxury. By bringing attention to subjects such as classicism, worker's rights, women's rights, and women's reproductive rights, Griffin and Jordan prove that the personal truly is political." - Jennifer Stoneking, Director of the University of Montana's Women's Resource Center.
"Painted Nails shines a critical light on important public health issues for cosmetic industry workers and consumers alike. The work of Van Hoang is inspiring for a new generation of activists. Hoang's work should move us all to demand products that are safe, and to hold governments and corporations accountable when they make us sick." Art Neill adjunct professor of law at California Western School of Law, founder of New Media Rights and practices public interest law
"This intersectional documentary begins by celebrating an overlooked yet common expression of style and gender identity among working class people of color: fabulous nails and the joy many experience from a visit to their independent neighborhood nail salon. Most compelling, though, is the Vietnamese-American salon-owner's political journey outside the shop, which takes her from San Francisco to D.C. to advocate not only for her own body but for the health of her family, fellow workers, cherished customers and all people in the United States who enjoy the use of cosmetics." - Gisèle Tanasse, Head- Media Resources Center, UC Berkeley
Educational Sales and Community Screenings for
Painted Nails are Now Available!
Asian American / Vietnamese American / Southeast Asia Studies
Environmental Health / Health Services / Worker Safety / Environmental Studies / Environmental Medicine / Environmental Toxicology & Epidemiology / Occupational Health
Careers / Professional Studies
San Francisco Studies
PAINTED NAILS 57 min. feature documentary
Now available on Kanopy for streaming subscriptions
If you are interested in broader rights, including perpetual streaming rights, please inquire at