From Escaping Genocide to Becoming The Queen of Bling

So how exactly did Jenny Bui, probably the most famous nail artist become the ‘Queen of Bling’? How did she get clients who fly in from all over the world to get their nails done by her?

A New Lease on Life

Jenny Bui escaped the Cambodia with her family as they fled the Khmer Rouge genocide at the age of 14. She lived with her family in Montreal, Canada for 8 years until she got married at 22.

Shortly after getting married, she moved to The Bronx where her husband was from and although she didn’t like our borough then, she loves The Bronx now according to her interview in Cosmo.

Bui eventually opened up her first nail salon in The Bronx which stayed open for about 3 or 4 years. Sadly, due to lack of business, the salon shut down and that’s when she ended up in Harlem.

Jenny Bui The Queen of Bling / Image Via her Instagram Account, NailsOn7th
Jenny Bui, The Queen of Bling

The Queen of Bling

It was in Harlem where she began putting diamonds and bling on the nails of her customer after being inspired by a Japanese catalog and although folks thought her nails were “ratchet”, eventually folks came to love it to the point that “now everybody does it” as Bui tells Cosmo.

Around 2012, in walked a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from The Bronx aka Cardi B.

This was before Cardi became famous says Bui.

The Queen of Bling and Cardi B

Jenny tells Cosmo:

The first time Cardi B came to my Harlem salon was five years ago, back when she danced, before she was famous. She wanted me to do her nails, but I was too busy, so one of my nail technicians did it for her instead. Cardi didn’t like how they looked at all. She was like, “This doesn’t look anything like the ones on your Instagram.”

It was true, they didn’t look nice.

She came back a second time though and waited on the couch. My husband recognized her and noticed it was her second time there and asked how he could help her. She said, “I really want Jenny to do my nails, but I think she’s busy, so someone else can do it.” My husband told me, “Honey, this is this girl’s second time here. Do you want to do her nails? Because she says she really likes your nails.”

When people tell me they really like my work, I want to do it for them. I don’t care if you have money or not. Cardi didn’t have nice clothes back then, but I don’t care what someone looks like when they come in. I look at the people who respect me and my art. If someone doesn’t have money, I work with them and do as much as I can for what they have. That day, Cardi told me I could do whatever I wanted, and when I finished, Cardi screamed all over the salon. I still have the video posted way back on my Instagram of her screaming, “Oh my god! You made my day! I’ve never had nails like this in my life!”

“Lately a lot of people have been telling me I changed and asking me if i work with regular people or only famous people, to be honest i work with anyone as long as you make your appointment I’ll never change”

Cardi always does stiletto nails. People send me stuff hoping that I’ll use it on Cardi, but if it’s a rhinestone and not real Swarovski crystal, Cardi can tell the difference. She’ll say, “Jenny, why isn’t this bling right here shining? They’re not Swarovski, right?” And I’ll say, “You already know.” She gets her nails done by me once a month. Even if it’s just a small event, she doesn’t let anyone else touch them. She always comes to the salon too. I’ve only gone to Cardi to do her nails twice, and once was the Grammys this year. She rarely asks me to go because she knows I’m busy, and I have to support my kids who are still in school. She’s very respectful of my time.


She pays me now, but there would be times back then when she’d want to pay me, and I’d say, “It’s OK, I won’t charge,” or, “I’ll charge you half price.” I did that because I really liked her and because she gave me a lot of respect. She treats me like I’m a special person, like I’m not just a nail tech. I look at her like she’s my daughter, and she looks at me like I’m her auntie.

People would always give her bad comments and talk crap about her when she was dancing, so I’m very happy for her now. Before she was on VH1, I told her, “Cardi, you’re going to be really big one day. Bigger than Nicki Minaj,” and she said, “Oh my god, I don’t think so.” And look now. I told her when she got big, she would forget about me and she told me, “No, Jenny, I’ll never forget about you.”

Shortly after Cardi started posting her nails and tagging Bui on Instagram, Bui began getting even more followers. Now she has clients who fly in from around the world just to get their nails done by her.

Back to The Bronx

Last October, The Queen of Bling opened up shop again in The Bronx in the Fordham Road section of our borough and of course it’s all blinged out too.

But is she too famous now? Well one recent Instagram post seemed to answer that where she wrote: “I want to give my special shout out to my supporters i wouldn’t be where i am today with out you guys . I want to give a special shout out to my girl Cardi .Lately a lot of people have been telling me i changed and asking me if i work with regular people or only famous people, to be honest i work with anyone as long as you make your appointment I’ll never change”

Not bad for someone who escaped so much in life and built her own little empire.

Read her full interview: The Astonishing Life Story of Jenny Bui, Cardi B’s Nail Artist


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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.