FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — On Tuesday, Kentucky nail technicians went before the joint committee on licensing, occupations, and administrative regulations to request updates on the state’s licensing exam.

In a potential bill that would be sponsored by Democratic Sen. Reggie Thomas and Republican Sen. John Schickel, the nail salon community would make three requests.

First, it would ask Kentucky to allow fair representation on the Board of Cosmetology by adding a member who has a nail technician license. Second, offer the nail technician a written exam in multiple languages. Third, send written warnings and allow ample time for violations to be corrected before revoking licenses, which would ultimately shut down a nail salon business.


Kim Huynh, owner of The Nail Shops in Lexington and Nicholasville, said that currently the nail industry is worth over $10 billion, and it all started when actress and activist Tippi Hedren visited a Vietnamese concentration camp after the Vietnam War, hoping to help the women there find a new vocation. The women in the camp loved her nails, so she brought a manicurist over to teach the women to do nails.

With nail salons flourishing all over the Bluegrass, many businesses are still struggling to keep their nail techs employed.

“One, the exams are only available in English,” Huynh said. “If that isn’t difficult enough, you only get three chances, and then you have to take six months away from the industry, and then you get two more attempts, and if those don’t work, then you’re banned for three years.”

Mike Carter, a former owner of nail salons in Louisville, said what lawmakers need to realize is that speaking English is much easier than learning to read and write it.


“Here we have the Vietnamese and the Cambodian,” Carter said. “They have learned the language by interfacing with individuals and learning one word at a time.”

Another challenge the nail salon community struggles with is keeping their doors open during unexpected shutdowns.

Lianna Nguyen, a licensed instructor and nail school owner in Kentucky, said there have been more nail salon shutdowns in the state than ever before.

“We have people behind us sitting here today whose businesses were destroyed by a shutdown,” Nguyen said. “Our community is asking for a better inspection procedure, transparent protocols, and for a nail salon shutdown to be the last resort. After some mediation attempts, we believe violations need to be itemized. Salons should have the opportunity to rectify violations. The board should have paper trails of due process in its steps before a shutdown is issued and should be pending for a week for review and signed off by another inspector.”

Molida Soth, a spokesperson and Kentucky nail technician said, “Asian Americans are known for their strong work ethic. We work long hours. We dedicate ourselves to our craft. We pay tax on our earnings, and we firmly believe in the American dream.”

The committee was generally in favor of the changes presented Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Killian Timoney said, “Our workforce participation rate is at 50%, and we’ve got paperwork getting in the way of people working. I think this is one of those cases where we have overregulated something, and we need to take a look at finding a way where we can get people to work who want to work.”

Republican Sen. Julie Adams said, “This seems very reasonable. I just encouraged this committee to always look for new and innovative ways to increase competitiveness in our state because our economy has changed.”

The nail salon community is hoping the changes will go into effect by 2024.

The next Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations is currently scheduled for Sept. 28 at 11 a.m.

Schickel said he hopes that a member of the Board of Cosmetology will be present at the September meeting.