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Why is Tippi Hedren Dubbed the “godmother” of the Vietnamese Nail Industry?

Tippi Hedren was one of the quintessential blond beauties who captivated us on screen and helped a lot of immigrants earn a living.

The star of Hitchcock’s The Birds, Tippi Hedren, is why 40% of nail salon techs are Vietnamese women. She introduced nail work to them during her humanitarian work in the 70s, which led many to become licensed nail salon techs.

Who is Tippi Hedren?

Tippi Hedren was born Nathalie Kay Hedren on January 19, 1930. Hedren was born in New Elm, Minnesota, to Swedish general store owners Bernard and Dorothea Hedren. Tippi, her nickname, came from her father and translated as “little girl” in Swedish. (Source: Biography)

Hedren started her modeling career in high school and soon was one of the models for the Eileen Ford Agency. Soon after, Hedren found her way to the silver screen. Her acting debut was in a 1950 musical titled “The Pretty Girl.” She was later discovered by the thriller director Alfred Hitchcock when spotted in a diet drink advertisement. Soon after, she was cast in the 1963 thriller “The Birds.” (Source: TCM)

She was then cast for “Marnie” in 1964 and for “A Countess from Hong Kong” in 1967 with the great Charlie Chaplin. Hedren’s acting career spanned up until 2013, with “Return to Babylon.” Hedren received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002 and has also received many awards.

Hedren is also the mother of Melanie Griffith, another blond beauty who has captivated the hearts of many in her romantic movies. (Source: Biography)

Off-Screen

Hedren was captivated by exotic cats when she traveled to Africa for one of her films in the late 60s. She grew concerned about the exploitation and mistreatment of these wild cats to the point that she began working with wildlife charities to rescue and protect them. She then established the Shambala Preserve, later the Roar Foundation, for wild cats and other rescued animals. (Source: Biography)

To this day, both the Shambala Preserve and the Roar Foundation are still up and running.

Hedren was also a known humanitarian. She volunteered in a refugee camp in Sacramento after the fall of Saigon in ’75. During her stint in the center, she noticed that the Vietnamese women were admiring her fingernails. (Source: ABC)

Vietnamese Nail Industry

Hedren saw this as an opportunity to help Vietnamese immigrants to earn a living and support themselves by becoming nail salon technicians. She invited her personal manicurist Dusty from Sherman Oaks, to teach a class about manicure art. There were initially twenty participants from the refugee group. (Source: ABC)

She wanted the Vietnamese refugees to learn advanced techniques during her time. So she helped them learn silk nail wrapping – an advanced process during her time wherein artificial fingernails were created from silk materials.


Soon after, the twenty women passed and earned their cosmetic licenses, and they passed it with flying colors. From those twenty women, an industry grew. The nail industry brings in several billions of dollars each year. Thanks to Hedren, the Vietnamese community earned its place in California, where 80 percent of the licensed manicurists are Vietnamese. (Source: ABC)

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