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"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, University of Berkeley, California

"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.  Students in health communication, including communication for social change, public health, occupational health, and public policy courses would benefit from viewing this film; it would almost certainly spark critical reflection and dialogue, perhaps even encouraging students to take action."  - Carol Underwood, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

"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 

"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 successfully engages the viewer to participate in a journey into the relationship between cultural traditions, immigration, environmental health and women's issues. Using a refined film language, this documentary presents an introspective challenge to those who have a need for truth and internal consistency. Painted Nails is a mandatory educational tool.”  - Jasmina Bojic, Lecturer in International Relations, Stanford University

"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, Depart. of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine

"Painted Nails has been an important inspiration for those of us working on health issues for nail salon workers in Canada. In documenting one woman's journey from realization about her toxic exposures to appearing before lawmakers in Washington, we see a wonderfully concrete manifestation of the personal becoming political. This is a tremendous teaching tool for health policy, gender studies, environmental studies and sociology classes."  - Anne Rochon Ford, Project Lead: Nail Salon Workers Project, National Network on Environments and Women's Health, York University, Toronto, CANADA

"It was such a delight to screen Painted Nails at California Film Institute's Community Screenings event. The deep humanity in the film and of central focus Van touched our audience. It's also the only film in 6 years of doing Community Screenings that "sold out" and it sold out in 2 hours on Eventbrite." - John Morrison, California Film Institute, Director of Education 


“Painted Nails beautifully depicts the difficult working conditions of nail salon workers, who have to make a choice between their health and their livelihood. The film sheds light on the nail salon experience and the important relationships that exist between nail salon workers and their clients. Anyone who has had a manicure should see this film; they will undoubtedly be compelled to join the movement for a healthier nail salon industry.” - Erin Switalski, Executive Director Women’s Voices for the Earth


“The Painted Nails documentary is an important project that sheds light on challenges facing Vietnamese nail salon workers, from health to social justice. As an educator, I would certainly appreciate this film being made available for instructional use for students in the classroom and community. I have worked with student organizations on the University of California, Irvine campus who hunger for this type of film to screen and spark dialogue. - Thuy Vo Dang, Ph.D., Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center

"Painted Nails is aptly named, as it vividly paints a complex story of nail salons as providing desired beauty services and creating economic opportunities, but at the cost of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.  Van, the nail salon owner profiled in-depth, shares how just having the film made gave her a sense of importance and confidence.  How much more so if the film is widely viewed and its message about safe cosmetics products heard and acted upon!" Miliann Kang, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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Painted Nails brings us unprecedented insight into the personal nature of the political movement to regulate one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. Painted Nails follows Van Nguyen, a nail salon owner and worker, who serves an ethnically diverse group of working class women with acrylic nails and intricate airbrush designs. However, lack of oversight has allowed the cosmetics industry to pour unregulated amounts of toxic chemicals into nail products, some of which are known to cause reproductive harm, cancer, and respiratory illness. After learning that her near-daily exposure to these chemicals has caused her life-threatening health problems, Van becomes a resolute activist in the fight to regulate chemicals in personal care products, advocating for the safety of nail salon workers and their clientele

Appropriate For 

Immigration Studies

Women/Gender Studies

Asian American / Vietnamese American  / Southeast Asia Studies

Environmental Health / Health Services / Worker Safety / Environmental Studies / Environmental Medicine / Environmental Toxicology & Epidemiology / Occupational Health

Family Studies



Political Science

Careers / Professional Studies



San Francisco Studies

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