“Zach Does Nails,” and He Can Do Yours Too


With the launch of Zach Does Nails on Nov. 21, Aaronson will bring funky and unique nail art to FCLC. (Courtesy of Zach Aaronson)

Published: November 19, 2009

Most people say that your eyes are the window to your soul, but Zach Aaronson, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’12, begs to differ.

“Your nails are the canvas to show what’s inside; every human body has ten blank canvases just waiting to be painted,” said Aaronson.

Then again, Aaronson isn’t most people. Yes, he’s a college sophomore. He is a member of the directing program at FCLC. He can be seen hanging out in the atrium, enjoying a smoothie from the caf.

But from his dorm room in McMahon Hall, he is launching his very own nail art business, Zach Does Nails, on Nov. 21.

“One of my best friends Akela, who goes to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), does nail design for fun on her friends and one day this summer she offered to do mine. I thought it was really weird,” said Aaronson, “But afterwards I thought, it’s so much more fun to look at my hands! So I encouraged her to start her own business, but she wasn’t interested, so with her blessing I went ahead and did it… July 14 was the first time I’d ever had my nails done and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

By “hooked,” Zach means sporting funky, flashy nail designs on all 10 of his digits. From checkerboards and Yankee signs to “Watchmen” nails complete with the blood smeared-smiley faces. At the moment, “Zach Does” is written across his fingers.

But this hasn’t been a lifelong dream. Some would say that Aaronson fell into the business. Discovering he loved having his own nails painted one summer night didn’t send him straight to work; it took a conflict backstage to get him fired up enough to make some moves.

“The day I decided to start this business I was fired from the mainstage show. I was working on the costume crew. I was late to rehearsal (I was also painting nails backstage during the show). Anyway, I was so furious and heartbroken,” said Aaronson, “I had cleared my entire schedule for the week for the show so I went berserk that night. I needed something to occupy my time. Fueled by rage, I stayed up all night and Zach Does Nails was born.”

Next came “flyering all of Manhattan,” starting to compile a book of 30 style designs and spreading the word to every woman behind a checkout counter.

“Women in lower economic areas are more willing to take the risk; where they work usually requires a uniform and this allows them to express themselves,” Aaronson said. “This woman in Staples that I talked to had these crazy acrylic nails with water inside! Seriously, there was a bubble on her nail with water and glitter inside! I talked to all these women and I went and painted like 10 sets of nails. I just took the train to the Bronx and did all of their nails.”

Zach Does Nails is an out-of-home service, meaning Aaronson will come to your home with his tools. But if you are looking for a manicure, look elsewhere.

“Some people don’t understand what I do. I don’t want to be a nail technician; I want to be a nail artist. I am interested in nail art and nail design. If and when I have a brick and mortar establishment, it will be a nail art studio, not a salon,” Aaronson said, “My dream is to increase my skills and tools in order to create works of art on nails… I want to be able to emulate a picture you have or a painting.”

And there’s no doubt that those close to Aaronson see the potential his dream has.

“My parents are pretty excited I’m doing something unique,” Aaronson said.

“Anyone that knows Zach knows how creative he is. But with the nails I’ve seen a passion I’ve never seen in him. It’s cool to see him so driven,” said Tochi Anueyiagu, FCLC ’12, one of Aaronson’s best friends. “He got this idea a month and a half ago and look at all he’s done… it’s impressive to see; its exciting.”

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t met any resistance to the idea.

“My sister was the more hesitant one,” Aaronson said. “She’s 22 and just graduated from Columbia; she wants to make sure I pursue my academic interests… We got in a huge fight. I told her off though. Just because I’m not going the conservative, ‘I’m a doctor’ route doesn’t mean anything.”

Aaronson hopes to provide a service to women that isn’t currently available.

“I went into Ellen’s Nails down the street from Fordham to get my nails done and they looked at me like I had three heads when I asked if they did glitter and designs… then they took out these old, crusty design polishes… and she painted my heart upside down!”

As Aaronson flips through pictures of nail art he has created, his eyes brighten; a smile spreads from ear to ear. There’s no doubt that this is something he is extremely passionate about.

“There is fashion design and makeup design; just in that way, I want to be considered a designer for nails. It’s kind of out there; it isn’t going to change the world… but it can define you. You can express yourself through your nails,” Aaronson said.

And this passion is something he hopes will catch on.

“I have a one-year plan; I have big dreams for what it can become. I think women need to see that it’s socially acceptable and fun to have designed nails. The world is ready to head in this direction… they are huge this year. In Vogue, two of the spreads they’ve done have had a close up of models’ nails with crazy designs.”

In this way, Aaronson sees himself tapping into a “burgeoning trend,” hoping to carve out his own niche.

“I love glitter; I’m all about colors, and I really love checkerboards… that might be my signature because it’s funky, intricate and feels like a throwback. My style is kind of ’60s mod,” Aaronson said.

Another service Zach Does Nails offers? Friendly Conversation, although it’s not advertised on the Web site; it’s more of a perk.

“You’re paying five dollars not only for your nails, but for a good conversation. That’s another service Zach brings that you can’t get in a nail salon, great nails with some girl talk while he does it,” Anueyiagu said.

“I definitely want to be friends with my clients,” Aaronson said. “Women trust me. I have business savvy. This is a way to accessorize a look for a woman who is confidant and fun… you’re typing all day, you want to have something pretty to look at!”

When Zach Does Nails launches it will be kicked off by a girls-only party in McMahon Hall, where free nail art will be offered. Aaronson hopes everyone will get as excited as he is about the service.

“Even if you bite your nails, I’ll do them, although I encourage you to stop… Go to Duane Reade and get that polish that tastes bad. It works; you’ll stop. The longer the nails, the more fun they are to paint!”

Coming from someone who has already experienced Zach Does Nails first hand: “You’ll never do one coat again. You’ll never do one color again,” said Anueyiagu, “Why would you want to go back to plain and boring?”