“A dope nail salon” is what’s missing from the world of beauty services, at least according to Teyana Taylor.
Not anymore. The recording artist, dancer, fitness entrepreneur and social media phenom — she boasts six million Instagram followers — is opening a nail salon today in Harlem in partnership with OPI. She has also been named an OPI brand ambassador. Taylor debuted Junie Bee Nails — named after her daughter with husband and Sacramento Kings shooting guard Iman Shumpert — with a grand opening party Thursday night.
The Nineties-themed space is located in a former bakery on Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and is an homage to Taylor’s nail art icons from the decade in which she grew up — Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim with her signature dollar-bill-adorned talons. Both were guests of honor at Thursday night’s opening party, along with Harlem fashion fixture Dapper Dan, who custom-designed the salon’s employee uniforms.
“Being from Harlem, I’ve always been big on nails,” Taylor said.
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Her uncle owned barber shops in Harlem when she was growing up. “A barber shop is more like a man cave, and that’s the vibe I wanted for the salon — but a woman cave. Something that had great vibes, great energy, great music,” Taylor said. “A lot of nail salons lack that, everybody stays to themselves on their phones or it’s so hush-hush you don’t want to talk. I want people to feel free and fun and colorful.”
The design aesthetic of Junie Bee Nails is deeply rooted in Taylor’s love of all things Harlem and Eighties and Nineties hip-hop culture, down to the smallest minutiae.
The salon’s walls are splashed with graffiti tagged by local artists. A pedicure station is designed to look like an MTA subway car — “You have to go in the train to get your feet done,” Taylor said. Beepers will be handed out to customers who are waiting on services. “You know like at The Cheesecake Factory, those buzzer things?” Taylor said. “When it’s time to get your nails done, it beeps.” A Nineties-era soundtrack will play on loop — one of Taylor’s favorites is LL Cool J’s 1990 “Around the Way Girl.”
Junie Bee Nails boasts a menu that runs the gamut on nail services, from acrylic to natural to airbrush and gel. “We’re doing everything,” Taylor said. “I took a lot of notes from all around my nail salon experience and overall getting my nails done — one salon will say, ‘Oh, we don’t do acrylics,’ and another store will say, ‘Oh, we only do acrylics.’ It’s always something. It’s never like a one-stop shop.
“I ain’t even trying to be tacky — there’s not anything like it, it’s a whole new vibe,” she continued. “It sets the bar and I think it’s going to open up a lot of people’s minds creatively. Everything we represent is something that’s never been done before.”
The 27-year-old has been in the public eye since she was a sneaker-obsessed teen growing up in Harlem. Taylor maintains she was discovered by an entertainment industry executive, who was also a friend of her mother’s, while skateboarding on a neighborhood sidewalk. By 2007 she’d signed with Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak Entertainment imprint, but her real big break came when she starred in her own episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” in which the precocious Taylor was filmed planning her “Eighties old-school skateboard” themed birthday party. She wore a custom-designed, pastel-rainbow-colored tulle Heatherette dress accessorized with a diamond grill, and was carried into the party by a troupe of shirtless men, who propped up Taylor inside a life-sized Barbie-style box.
Since her memorable MTV debut, she’s danced in music videos for Jay Z, released her own singles and mixtape, gone on tour with Chris Brown, acted as a judge on “America’s Best Dance Crew” and partnered with brands such as Adidas and Reebok. (A sneaker she designed with Reebok sold out within minutes online.) But Taylor’s zeitgeist moment came in 2016, when she appeared in Kanye West’s music video for his song “Fade” wearing a crop top and a thong — and the Internet exploded with comments on her toned physique and workout-style dance moves. Though still a recording artist — Taylor is now signed to West’s GOOD Music label and is said to be releasing an album this year — she is rapidly evolving from entertainer to multihyphenate entrepreneur.
Capitalizing on her viral dance moves, Taylor last year released her “Fade2Fit” streaming video workout — her program is priced at $19.95 a month, or $99.97 for a year if paid upfront — and followed with a corresponding active apparel line for women and men that includes sweats, hats and sports bras that range from $30 to $80.
Taylor has even bigger plans with Junie Bee Nails. “Honestly, I’m building my empire and trying to do it all,” she said. “I want Junie Bee Nails to be all around the world, and start expanding into beauty salons, makeup bars, things like that. I want my nail salons to be kind of like McDonald’s franchises — I probably wouldn’t have 1,000 [locations] in one city, but I wouldn’t mind having 20 or 30.”
While OPI is Taylor’s exclusive product partner in Junie Bee Nails — all care and color products in the salon are OPI — the Coty Inc.-owned professional nail brand had no creative input on the salon, which is entirely Taylor’s vision, along with her partner, Coca Michelle. She met Michelle while on the set of “America’s Best Dance Crew” — Michelle was her nail tech and the two clicked.
“Getting to know her, I saw she had that drive — she was new, she was young, she was wanting more than whatever it was she was already doing. I see that grind, I see me in her,” Taylor said of Michelle. “I love when I can see things in other people — that raw diamond in the rough.”
Taylor is planning on using Junie Bee Nails as a springboard for local talent in Harlem. Earlier this month, she revealed the salon’s opening in an Instagram post and put out an open call for nail techs. “Junie Bee Nails is offering a dope opportunity to the flyest nail techs around the way. No matter what shape, size, color or gender, it’s good with us!” reads the post.
“There’s not a lot of opportunity out there, so I want to do as much as I can to create as much opportunity as possible,” said Taylor, who acknowledged her fortune in getting signed to a label so young. Aside from giving nail tech jobs to local talent — the Junie Bee staff will ultimately consist of 15 to 18 employees — Taylor plans to showcase artwork by young, up-and-coming artists in the salon. She also wants to incentivize her staff with prizes like gift cards and regular accolades — instead of “Employee of the Month,” Junie Bee Nails will award an “Around the Way Girl of the Month.” “I want to get the youth involved, get the talent involved,” Taylor said. “That’s the best thing marketing-wise — no matter how many marketing dollars you put into something, if you don’t have a community you don’t have anything.
“By the way, I’m like a marketing genius,” she continued. “Every day, people tell me how I should do something and every time I follow what they think I should do, it never works out. Every time I do it myself — that’s when I get the best response. I let it happen a couple of times [before I say anything], and then it’s just like, ‘OK, now are you ready to trust me?’”
Taylor eventually sees her herself expanding her growing business portfolio to include other beauty categories besides nails. “I’m VIB Rouge at Sephora. I love nails, I love makeup, I love hair….I’m known for doing crazy things with my hair,” she said. “I want to get into all those things.”
But first — it’s back to reality TV. Taylor is in the midst of filming a VH1 reality show with her husband. “Teyana & Iman,” an eight-episode series about the couple’s relationship will premiere on March 26. Taylor is known to her fans for being outspoken and authentic — and that’s how she prefers it. “It’s about keeping it real, staying true to yourself and not changing for nobody,” she said. “I always stay true to myself and stay real. I always say to my supporters — I don’t call them fans — we’re all human.”