Welcome to our column "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!
At the risk of getting too vulnerable On Line, I must admit: My cuticles are very rarely not a mess. I could get incessant manicures, yet the moment I step foot out of the salon, no doubt on my way to treat myself to a big, dumb green juice that costs $14.99, no more, no less, my nail beds will have decided to dry up like a houseplant after a long weekend away.
This means I find myself especially attuned to nice-looking manicures and how I, theoretically, may be able to enjoy one someday. And this is how I first started noticing Modern Pamper Salon, the tag for which routinely flashes across Kendall and/or Kylie Jenner's latest Instagram Stories.
Every few weeks, I noticed, Kendall and/or Kylie will post a look at their perfect glossy manicure — maybe negative-space nail art, or maybe a twinkly gold foil — with the handle "@modernpampersalon." Before long, TikTok royalty Charli and Dixie D'Amelio started doing the same, no doubt around the time they relocated to Los Angeles to claim their spots in the infamous Hype House. If you follow at least one (1) KarJenner and/or D'Amelio, you've no doubt seen the @modernpampersalon handle in your own Instagram spelunking, too.
At no point throughout any of this did I think to tap into @modernpampersalon's profile. It became a sort of fun, low-stakes Instagram mystery I never really felt pressure to solve. Surely if I did any rudimentary research at all I would have collected answers to my questions, like, most essentially, what is @modernpampersalon? Is it simply an at-home manicure service for LA's PYTs? But more interestingly, is it also a status symbol of certifiable fame for on-the-rise starlets, like the D'Amelios? And could any old Los Angelenos call them up and ask for the Kendall special?
Eventually, upon further investigation (Googling) of my own, I learned the establishment is in fact an actual brick-and-mortar salon outside Burbank. So I enlisted an expert of sorts — Kirbie Johnson, journalist, producer and co-host of beauty podcast "Gloss Angeles" — to help me break it all down. (Modern Pamper Salon didn't respond to my request for comment. Cue even more ~intrigue~.)
"As it turns out, this salon is based in North Hollywood, which makes sense why I haven't seen or heard of it," Johnson says. "I know, LA girl talking about the valley? Groundbreaking." As for the non-geographic specifics, Johnson agrees: It appears to be a pretty-low key operation, with a definite genre of customer. "Their clientele scales more to the LA reality show and TikTok crowd, and I'm sure they have a flood of clients coming in because people like Kylie and Charli tag them."
In LA, Johnson explains, having a celebrity client is pure clout. If a business is able to accrue followers (hopefully, and convert those followers into clients) simply because a famous person tagged them on Instagram, demand may be higher — and thus, said business may be able to charge more for appointments since those slots may be limited. Kris Jenner, however, is not able to give anyone or anything free publicity. Remember when Kendall blurred out that Kacey Musgraves billboard when they are actual, real-life friends? No! Free! Publicity!
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"I am obviously not able to say this for sure, but usually, if celebrities are posting about certain salons or spas in LA, it reeks of a comped service," Johnson says. "I truly hope this is not the case because these celebrities certainly can afford a manicure. Plenty of salons offer free services for free promo on Instagram. It's like currency."
So Instagram followings the size of the population of Russia may — merely theoretically, of course — enable some free grooming here and there. Although, Johnson argues, they don't typically pay the bills!
"When it comes to celebrities, I think there are two ends of the spectrum: the salons that they pop into for a manicure-pedicure on a whim before the pandemic shut them down and the nail artists who work for themselves and make house calls," she says. "Typically the most in-demand nail artists don't take clients because they're busy on set or they have clientele they built before they blew up on Instagram, and will only take new clients if they're referred by someone they know."
Which is where my initial intrigue comes back in: @modernpampersalon ticks both boxes, offering an in-salon experience for those celebrity-hungry clients while also, I assume, offering house calls — because there's absolutely no way Kylie is going to waltz into a nail salon that's a) in public, and perhaps more importantly b) not physically in Calabasas, and sit there for 45 minutes to an hour, in public, not in Calabasas.
If you're a newly-famous TikToker or contracted E! star and don't have an actual "in" with @modernpampersalon quite yet, never fear! Johnson has a few Los Angeles recommendations to peruse at your leisure, post-pandemic. "DIME Nails, The Nail Lounge and Marie Nails have devoted followings in LA," she says. "You may see a celebrity there from time to time, but they thrive on the professionalism and talent of their staff."
Los Angeles County is beginning to loosen restrictions on salon closures, but COVID-19 rates there, and in many parts of the country, are continuing to skyrocket. So if you take one thing away from this unhinged examination, please let it be this: Even if salons are open in your area, please think twice before making an appointment at the risk of exposing any of the incredibly hard-working staff. "Our fabulous nail techs have not been working most of the year," Johnson says. "Make sure to check on them and see how you can support them while they're unable to work!"