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Male nail tech ignores naysayers

Observer writer

Saturday, July 31, 2021

BLUEFIELDS, Westmoreland — Having grown weary of being a handyman and bagging pig feed for a company, 28-year-old Garfield “Benjamin” Billings decided to become a nail technician at age 18.

For years he has endured raised eyebrows from those who question his entry into a female-dominated field. There are even snide comments about his sexuality; but Billings has remained focused on his craft, pushing ahead to become certified and carving out a niche for himself by doing house calls.

His foray into the world of manicures and pedicures began when his friend with a nail salon, who listened as he complained about his job as a handyman, suggested that Billings try his line of work. The friend, whom Billings only identified as Howard, even provided basic training.

“Day in day out, [on my] day off, [during] lunchtime mi just walk guh up deh [his friend's nail parlour],” shared a passionate Billings who said he was serious about the craft from the very beginning. Now he has a long list of certifications from Heart Trust/ NSTA, including a level three certificate in nail technology.

But his qualifications do little to impress the men who ridicule him for his choice of profession.

“Males, on a whole, tend to think that my sexual choices are aligned with my job. But that is stupid,” said Billings. “If I tell you I'm a nail technician that should not allow you to say that I'm gay.”

Despite the ridicule, each day he packs his spa machine, tool kits and towels as he journeys to his female clients' homes. He began making house calls as he saw the need in the market, and it is also a way to avoid being around males who are often harsh in their comments.

Now, with 10 years of experience under his belt, Billings said he is no longer overly concerned about the box in which others try to place him. He simply remains silent in the face of rude comments.

His client Yanique Irving-Nelson, who told the Jamaica Observer that Billings is an excellent nail technician whose services she has used for two years, is annoyed by those who ridicule him.

“They need to stop it, cause it's a job and everybody needs to earn their honest bread,” she said. “He always provides top-of-the-line service. I'm always satisfied.”

Danielle Forrester also sang Billings' praises. She has been his client for the last seven years.

“Some people are sceptical because he is male, but I think he's the best I've seen so far,” she said.

For Billings, the compliments are appreciated. He is determined to leave his mark on the nail tech business. “This is my legacy. When I'm recalled this is what they're gonna remember me doing,” he said. “There will be someone that will say, 'I remember Benjamin and would love for him to [give me a pedicure], if he was here'.”