When Christopher Whan Truong first came to the U.S. 13 years ago from Vietnam, he didn’t speak a word of English, let alone know how to do nails. Today, he is the proud owner of Glamour Nails & Training Academy in Chesapeake, Va., and is currently in second place on NAILS’ 1997 Competitors Ranking.
Truong originally came to the U.S. to reunite with his family. His sister owned a chain of nail and hair salons and Truong was instantly intrigued by the process of sculpting nails. Since nail licensing wasn’t required in Virginia at the time, he spent hours perfecting his technique as well as teaching himself English. “I have to work harder here to succeed than in Vietnam because it’s more difficult to adjust. Since the chance of failure is greater, you have to push yourself even more,” he says.
About five years ago, Truong decided to branch out on his own and open Glamour Nails. “I had a large clientele and I wanted to run my own business and be in charge,” he says. A year later, he opened the training academy, which is headed by his wife. “There aren’t many nail schools around here and I wanted to incorporate something else into the business,” says Truong, who also teaches.
One of his own best teachers, though, has been competing. Truong entered his first nail competition in June 1995 and walked away with a first-place win in sculptured nails. “Competing is a journey,” says Truong. “The competition is the excitement and winning is the triumph.” His commitment to being the best garnered him an impressive third-place in NAILS’ 1996 Competitors Ranking. He’s looking to capture the top spot for 1997, and says, “If I can be number one in the country, it will be breathtaking.”
His secret for keeping his competing skills intact? “Every time I compete I have a different model—it just works out that way. So each time I do a new set of nails in the salon, I pretend that it’s for a competition. That way, when I pick up a new model I’m practiced at making any hand perfect.”
Truong is as active in his personal life as he is in his career. In addition to being a karate instructor and playing the piano (it’s in the salon!) to entertain clients, he also enjoys tennis, swimming, and building and flying model airplanes.
As for the future, the soon-to-be first time dad is looking forward to helping his children be successful, too.