By Long Kap, Ina Paiva Cordle and Jacqueline Charles
The Miami Herald.
Linh Huynh used to drive a taxi through the streets of Ho Chi Mihn City in southern Vietnam.
Then, 13 years ago, his relatives, who worked in a nail salon in Miami, beckoned with the promise of a better life.
Since arriving here, Huynh has worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, manicuring and pedicuring nails. After saving his money, he bought his own salon, Lovely Nails, in Kendall, last year with his wife and a friend.
“Here in the United States, I think the gap between rich and poor people is not so much. Rich men have cars; I also have a car,” said Huynh, 44. “The most important thing is that I can work hard to prepare for the future of my daughter. She has equal opportunity in education.”
Huynh and other Vietnamese are following a path well known to South Florida’s Latin American and Caribbean immigrant populations, carving out an entrepreneurial niche as they seek prosperity for their families.
In South Florida, and across the nation, many Vietnamese have landed jobs in the nail salon industry.
Though many don’t know it, they can thank a 1975 training effort spearheaded by actress Tippi Hedren after she visited a camp of Vietnamese War refugees.
“Thanks to my nail job, my family life is stable now,” said Dieu Nguyen, who has worked for three years at International Nails in Doral. Her husband also works in a West Miami nail salon, and today they own their own home.
“Compared with my previous job in Vietnam, despite working harder, my income was very low,” Nguyen said. “When I work at the nail salon, every month my husband and I can save $2,000 to $3,000.”
The United States has the largest number of immigrants in the world, 14 million.