Operating a beauty business in the epicenter of politics and power comes with unconventional challenges. During a State of the Union address, for example, the nailsaloon gets “call after call” from clients sharing their traffic and road closure woes, apologizing for running behind. When there’s a state dinner at the White House, clients come in for a midweek manicure with elaborate updos and professional makeup.
“We also get lots of calls from our hotel concierge colleagues asking us to come and perform a service for a VIP,” Vieira says. “Oftentimes I have to sign a blind NDA saying I can’t reveal who the service is for.” She can say, however, that Vice President Kamala Harris was a client during her time in the Senate. And at a recent White House event for Hispanic Heritage Month, Vice President Harris gave shout-outs to local Latine business owners in attendance, including Vieira.
Yene Damtew, a salon owner and hairstylist behind some of Michelle Obama’s most iconic looks is one of Vieira’s regular clients. Damtew already has her biweekly appointments at nailsaloon booked through the rest of the year, always with nail technician Marnae Orton at the Logan Circle location. “No one else touches my nails,” Damtew says. “I’m very particular.”
Nailsaloon’s attention to detail makes all the difference for Damtew: the refreshments offered upon walking in, the sugar scrub included in each service, and the soothing music selection, which creates a calming atmosphere that transports clients far away from the sounds of urban construction and motorcades. “It’s like my escape,” says Damtew.
I interview Vieira via Zoom while she’s visiting family in Brazil, during which time we discuss coming from a large Latine family, bootstrapping a beauty business, and what it means to her to have support from some of the most powerful people in D.C.
Allure: Tell me about your upbringing. Where did you grow up and how did that influence your life path?
Andréa Vieira: I was born in Brazil. I’m currently in my hometown, Belo Horizonte, meaning beautiful horizon. It’s in the mountains; a really beautiful city in a valley. I come from a massive family. I have 20 aunts. My parents are each one of 10. My parents were next door neighbors. You can imagine what family life is like here. When you’re in a family of 150 people, 160, you need to be loud to be seen.