Many immigrate to the United States to experience some of the wonderful things life has to offer, all the way from pursuing an education to doing what you absolutely love. Jenny Bui, one of the most talented nail artists in the beauty industry, is one of the individuals who has made it big thus far. She currently resides in Manhattan and happens to be a native of Cambodia who was raised in Vietnam and Canada.
“In my country there was a lot of war,” said Bui about Cambodia. “There was no food or anything and you either had to agree with the communists or flee the country.”
All was well for Bui and her family, as her father was a cook and her mother a soda vendor on the street. They actually made a decent living from doing so. Once the war began and the Communist Party of Kampuchea, —known as the Khmer Rouge came, she and her family lost all they had.
“We also moved to Thailand for a period of time,” she said. “We bounced all over.”
As time passed, Bui traveled to Canada. She had two older brothers living there who had sponsored her to come live with them.
“During this time, I finished high school and started working,” she said. “I worked at a restaurant as a waitress for a little bit, and also worked as a Dentist’s Assistant for six months.”
Once the year 1990 arrived, Bui packed her bags. She was now married and since her husband is from the Big Apple, they moved to Manhattan.
“New York is crowded and busy, not sure why I like it,” she said. “I do like that there’s a lot of cultures and all different types of people.”
In Manhattan, Bui went to cosmetology school and found more of an interest in nails. She worked in a nail salon for three months and ultimately opened up her own in the Bronx on Williamsbridge Road.
At first, Bui was a one woman show at her salon. She didn’t have any employees, because she didn’t have the funds to hire anyone for another year or two.
“It was very hard for me to build a good clientele,” said Bui. “Everybody gave me a hard time, because I didn’t speak the language. They would curse me out and I just had to take it. I cried a lot. But over time I hired help, got more clients and improved my English.”
Nowadays, Bui is known as the Queen of Bling and owns two salons: one in Harlem and the other on Fordham Road in the Bronx. She tends not only to locals, but celebrities like Cardi B.
“My first celebrity client came through VH1 and it was Yandy Smith,” she said. “Cardi has been my client for five years, even before her fame. Chanel West Coast is another client of mine. Thankfully, the list goes on and on.”
Smith was actually the one who inspired Bui to create an Instagram account to showcase her talent and business. As Bui is now a successful artist and business woman, she provides classes for nail artists who are inspired by her, and want to perfect their craft.
“A lot of them want to know what I used to bind the bling to the nail,” she said. “Mine lasts a long time, and they want to know my secret and learn my design techniques.”
Bui also mentioned, “They also ask me where to get all of the different Swarovski crystals I use. I get them from Dreamtime Creations.”
Indeed, she is the epitome of the successful artist whose faced challenges in the United States and dodged every curve thrown at her.
“Work very hard, be humble, and be confident in yourself,” she said. “Don’t give up on your dreams, and don’t worry about hate or what anybody thinks of you.”
By Aida Toro