FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — The debate on nail technician issues in Kentucky got heated at the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon.
Both the Kentucky Board of Cosmetology and nail technicians from across Kentucky sat before the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity to discuss nail techs’ fair representation on the board, barriers to getting licensed to do nails, and inspections that determine whether a business can stay open or not.
However, the board came to prove otherwise.
Julie Campbell, the executive director of the board, showed a graph of active salon licenses.
“As of this morning, 6417 salon licenses are active in Kentucky in 2022 and 2023; we had 22 emergency closures or revocation notices posted, which is 0.34% of the entire salon licensing base,” Campbell said. “Let me be clear. Never have we revoked a license that does not have a long and torrid past with the agency, where we have attempted fines and even suspensions that were not adhered to.”
The tension was palpable in the room as one nail tech advocate fired back at the board for its abuse of power in unfairly shutting down salons.
Mike Carter, who owned two previous nail salons in Louisville for many years, said, “The inspector had a body cam recording himself, and he told the director the correct answer should have been, ‘Yes, we’re shutting you down because you all are a bunch of ‘F-tards’,” Carter said. “That is something I cannot live with.”
The board responded that the only reason it would shut down a salon would be if they caught prohibited items being used or unlicensed workers doing nails. The board also said they are lenient and have never shut down a salon after the first violation.
However, nail techs believe the board still doesn’t understand the challenges they face with getting a license, which keeps them from working.
Lianna Nguyen, a licensed instructor and nail school owner in Kentucky, said, “The reason why we have so many unlicensed workers is because we have people with 14–15 years from different states trying to transfer, but this board makes it so difficult for them to transfer.”
Nail techs also want the state exams to be offered in multiple languages. As of now, it’s only offered in English.
Ponya Soth, a Kentucky nail technician, said, “It’s forcing them to memorize only words but not understand the material. I can assure you you don’t have to be proficient in English. You just have to be skilled, which you can become through practice. And most important of all, you have to be able to provide a safe and clean environment for your customers, and those are universally understood.”
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However, Campbell countered on why the board insists on keeping the exams in English.
“This exam that we provide via PSI is a national exam. It is legally defensible. It is weighted, psychometrically evaluated, and created by subject matter experts across the cosmetology industry. It is written in a format to test safety and infection control, specifically to ensure that the public is not being harmed,” Campbell said.
In his closing arguments, Sen. Reggie Thomas urged the commission to do something to intervene in the matters, even if they do not have legislative power.
“This committee now is in its third year,” Thomas said. “This is the third year of its existence, and to date, this committee has yet to pass any legislation—any legislation that’s gone through this legislature.”
Nail techs are hoping Kentucky lawmakers will make changes during next year’s General Assembly session.