a feature-length documentary by Erica Jordan and Dianne Griffin
associate producer and translator: Nhung Pham
It won’t take long to fall in love with Van Hoang in the documentary Painted Nails. An immigrant who doesn’t speak English, Van seems an unlikely candidate to be an American activist. But through the course of the film, it’s clear she has unintentionally become 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.
There are an estimated 129,015, licensed manicurists, 80% of whom are Vietnamese immigrants. 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 toxic chemicals into nail products, some of which are known to cause reproductive harm, cancer, and respiratory illness. After learning that daily exposure to chemicals in her salon has caused her life-threatening health problems, Van becomes the first person to testify for safe cosmetics in over 30 years.