I remember the first time I got a manicure. I was 10 years old; my mother and sister were getting acrylics done for a family wedding. I got a simple gel manicure because my mom and the nail technician said I wasn’t old enough to get fake nails. As I sat across from the nail technician working on my manicure, I saw the process on my sister’s nails unfold beside me. I remember enjoying my own manicure, but looking at my mother and sister’s French-tipped acrylics, I knew that I’d want to have those one day. Now, doing my manicure is part of my monthly self-care routine.

I found my nail artist, Samantha Fuentes, through her Instagram page, where I saw the extravagant nail sets she does. I wanted someone that, on top of being talented, would also make the experience enjoyable, so it was important to me that I could connect with her and be comfortable during the hourly long sessions. This meant I first had to test the waters before committing to making Samantha my go-to nail artist.

My first appointment was in July, and once I sat down for my set, the conversation immediately started flowing. We connected through our shared interests in musicians, and as she played songs we both enjoyed, we moved on to more personal topics. She talked about how her love for her son fuels her passion for her craft, and I discussed how excited I was finally being on campus. As we talked about everything from the possibilities for my next set to how difficult it was for us during the pandemic, I knew that I would continue going to her because she made me feel like I was talking to a friend the entire time. Being able to speak with Samantha comfortably throughout my session is a part of the self-care experience of getting my nails done.

That was the start of my monthly hour and a half commute to her from Evanston. Are there closer places to get my nails done? Sure, but I value the artistry and dedication that Samantha puts into the sets. Since summer, I’ve been seeing her consistently, and the relationship I have built with her is important to me. I look forward to our appointments not just for the nails I’ll leave with but also because of the conversations we’ll have. She creates an environment that completes my self-care day.

Getting my nails done is also my self-care because I get more confidence from how good my overall style looks with my nails. Looking good was especially important for my trip with friends to New York City this past summer. The sets Samantha specializes in always include the stylish nail trends I have wanted to try, so I trusted Samantha to create a unique design for my vacation. I let her freestyle with the only parameter as including gummy bear charms because 3D charms were a trend popping up all over my Instagram page during the summer. These nails were my favorite set she’s created for me because they captured the nail styles I adore, and they were for a special occasion. She delivered a set that would enhance my style throughout the trip to look and feel my best.

As I sat for my freestyle set, I kept seeing the nails get better and better, and each time I thought Samantha was finished working, she would continue to enhance the set. The final product included different designs on each nail that ranged from ombre nails with Swarovski gems, flower encapsulated nails with painted detailing and of course my gummy bear nails. I was in love with the finished product. Having acrylics has definitely become part of my signature look. It doesn’t matter the length or style – I admire the different trends and looks. Not only do the nails elevate my fashion, but they increase my confidence because when I look good, I feel good. The best way to describe how I felt with my gummy bear set and acrylics in general would be: like a bad bitch.

Photo courtesy of @svmsnails_