Cast your mind back to 2009. Slumdog Millionaire had won big at the box office, Lady Gaga’s Pokerface was being blasted from every radio station and Alexander McQueen’s Horn of Plenty collection had captivated the fashion world. It was also the year that nail art became perhaps the biggest trend to explode within the beauty industry, with intricately-painted designs appearing everywhere from the catwalks to dedicated nail blogs. And in London, that trend was largely down to one woman: Sharmadean Reid.
Sharmadean opened WAH nail salon on Kingsland Road in Hackney in 2009, taking the name (which stands for We Ain’t Hoes) from a zine that she started while still a student at Central Saint Martins a few years earlier. Originally founded as a space for like-minded women to meet and discuss everything from business plans to feminism while getting their nails done, WAH quickly grew into a national phenomenon. Within two months of opening, the business began hosting pop ups across London while still doing the nails of the who’s who of the fashion industry in the Hackney space. Sharmadean was thrust into the business spotlight.
“At first it wasn't about running a business for me, it was about creating a physical space to connect with my friends,” she says. “I researched the hell out of the salon business and figured out that at first it wouldn't be scalable but that it wouldn't lose money either, so I set up shop with 17 grand of capital my friend had lent me from her own savings.”
I never saw my race, gender, or background as something that holds me back.