The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Tiny canvases

Students use decorative nails to express themselves
Junior Selina Wang designs her own nail art to subtly express her style. (Photo by Selina Wang | Used with permission.)

Junior Selina Wang

Junior Selina Wang has been an artist for longer than she has not, having began creating art in elementary school. Wang recently began experimenting with nail design sophomore year when TikTok nail content piqued her interest. While Wang believes her experience as an artist helps her create nail designs she is satisfied with, she treats nail art as a form of self-care, rather than a demanding art project.

“Doing my nails is a really great creative outlet for me because it just allows me to spend a few hours to just focus on myself, which I think is really needed sometimes, especially when I’m stressed from school and sports,” Wang said. “Because I’m spending so much time doing something for myself and not really for other people or a school assignment, there’s a self-care aspect of it and it’s just about making myself feel good.”

Wang usually opts for a plain base with subtle art designs and charms to decorate her nails. She finds her style to be more neutral as that is what she feels complements her skin tone best. Wang says the personalization and versatility of nail art allow people to subtly express their unique selves, citing a time she designed zodiac-themed nails for a friend with a love for astrology.

“People’s nails can definitely show a lot of personality and what people do or don’t like,” Wang said. “It’s just a great way to show your overall aesthetic and something really fun that can be used to tie together a whole outfit. If you have a specific color palette, it can make everything look really nice and cohesive.”

Witnessing numerous small nail businesses opening locally and online, Wang has noticed a rise in people who are doing their own nails. Wang attributes the rise in nail art to an experience similar to her own. 

“The nail tech industry is definitely becoming something really lucrative,” Wang said. “Girls especially enjoy taking care of themselves and nails are something they can have fun doing and it makes them feel good about themselves because it’s a form of self-care and self-love. I think that’s really what motivates a lot of people to do their nails.” 


‘23 MVHS alum Aditya Shukla

For ‘23 alum Aditya Shukla, he discovered his affinity for painting his nails his junior year at MVHS, when a friend offered to paint his nails. Since then, Shukla feels having his nails painted has become an integral aspect of how he presents himself. Shukla also sees the process of painting his nails as something that has become habitual, turning to nail painting as a therapeutic activity.

“My nails are a pretty big part of my life and I feel like it is a big part of who I am as a person nowadays,” Shukla said. “It is not only a form of self-expression, but I also just treat it as something that is innately there.”

Raised in a conservative family, Shukla explains that his nails are just one of his decisions to make his appearance slightly rebel against the standards of the gender binary he feels is held to. Shukla has experienced open opposition from his relatives towards his choice to paint his nails, and felt the need to keep his nails bare to not stir too much contention around the way he looks on certain occasions.

Shukla wears vibrant colors on his nails, preferring a green or black color palette. (Photo by Aditya Shukla | Used with permission)

“I’ve been called a variety of different things and asked a lot of weird questions like, ‘Are you gay? Do you even like girls? Are you trans?’” Shukla said. “Especially when I grew out my hair during the pandemic, they were like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s transgender.’ I’m not. I just like doing these kinds of things because it’s something that I don’t feel like I have to explain to anybody else.”

While Shukla is largely unaffected by the disapproval surrounding his nails and choices to present himself in a more feminine style, he recognizes that other men may feel the opposition more deeply because of a strong masculinity culture. For instance, Shukla has seen this when many of his male friends refuse his offers to paint their nails, explaining that some men may feel that experimenting with their style prevents them from gaining other men’s approval.

“I do feel like I am part of a social bubble and a social space that is very open and accepting of things allows me to do what I want,” Shukla said. “Many guys are scared that other guys are gonna complain and a part of it is that you don’t want to be the guy that paints his nails and is all girly. I’m breaking the stereotype because if I do paint my nails, does that really make me girly or does that just make me a guy that paints his nails?”

Despite his awareness of the potential stigma among men regarding style choices such as nail polish, Shukla continues to uphold nail painting as an important outlet for his self-expression. Ultimately, he explains that social conventions aren’t something that bar his choice to express himself, because he considers his nails as something attached to his identity.

“My nails are a form showcasing innately who I am as a person and it’s a major component of how I dress and behave,” Shukla said. “I believe that it really depends on how you see yourself in the grand scheme of things. I don’t place labels on myself when I don’t have to. Other people can place labels on me, you could call me what you want, but if I know who I am, then no one can call me anything and affect how I feel.”


Junior Jessica Zho

Junior Jessica Zhou traces back her love for nail art to sophomore year when she found herself fascinated by a classmate’s intricate nail designs featuring a soft color palette, glittery charms and gems. She later learned these nails were a style originating from Chinese beauty communities called Douyin nails, which she says she was especially drawn to as it differed from the typical Western styles she never particularly liked. Zhou finds that nail art is a strong form of expression for her as it allows her to distinguish her style and apply a style of nails more niche to herself, especially as a Chinese American.

Zhou creates nail designs unique to each nail for a set of nails (Photo by Jessica Zhou | Used with permission)

“I really like cutesy, pink things, but I don’t think my sense of style in general is that cute — I get to release that through my nails,” Zhou said. “Nails are just another extension of being able to express yourself and the entire process of coming up with your own design is really interesting.”

Zhou also believes that the temporary nature of nail art makes it a casual form of art for her to indulge in. She finds that nails serve as a blank canvas for her to experiment artistically with. 

“You can really convey more creative designs and in general you’re not as held back,” Zhou said. “Nails are just another extension of I guess being able to express yourself. You can put anything on your nails and you’re not limited.”


About the Contributor
Jami Lim, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Jami is currently a junior and Arts & Entertainment editor for El Estoque. In her free time, she loves to rewatch her favorite movies, take photos of her friends, and attempt to keep up with her thousands of hobbies. 
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