Identity

Molly Ringwald on How DIY Nail Art Helps Her Empty Out Her Brain

"Nail art takes dexterity and focus, and when I'm doing it, I don't think about anything else. It's my form of weird meditation."

by Molly Ringwald; as told to Amy Rose Spiegel
Jan 14 2019, 4:43pm

Molly Ringwald as Carla Sheffield in Orion Classics’ All These Small Moments. Photo courtesy of Orion Classics.

This Is Fine. is Broadly's weekly newsletter about the previously private and highly personal tactics people use to make the world less harrowing. In this week's newsletter, Molly Ringwald, who stars in the forthcoming movie All These Small Moments (in theaters January 17 and on demand and digital HD on January 18), wrote about how doing nail art is the perfect zone-out respite to acting, writing, and all of the very many other things she does. Sign up here to receive a newsletter with a new dealing-with-life strategy each Sunday evening.

I do a lot of different things—I write and I act, and I'm a mother. I'm writing a script that I would like to direct, and I’m almost finished. I've been working on it for a long time. You write in front of a computer, and, sometimes, you're working on something and struggling, and it's just, like, you can't look at it anymore. When I feel like my brain is overloaded, I try to find ways to completely empty it. Some people do mindful meditation, or yoga. I’ve tried all of that, and I certainly think that it's great, but I recently found that doing DIY nail art on myself is very soothing. It’s like painting on a little, tiny canvas. Nail art takes dexterity and focus, and when I'm doing it, I don't think about anything else. It's my form of weird meditation. I'm really focused when I’m doing something with my hands—it just makes me completely zen out.

It started when I did a movie set in England in the 50s. They still did moons in the 50s, so I started to do it. Then I would go to the nail salon, and they didn't really do it. I was like, Well, maybe I'll try to do it. I got really into it about a couple of months ago. I didn't really have any real supplies—I use makeup brushes and paste. I’m the kind of person who never throws anything away, and there have been a couple times where I've come past this bag of different matte eye-makeup glitters I’ve had since nineteen-whatever, like, Oh my god, I should throw that out. I never did, and now I'm so happy because now I can use it. I also just got this nail stamper that looks kind of complicated, but kind of fun—it’s called an Art Screen, and apparently, it takes a little getting used to when you put the polish on. If you don’t get the timing right, it doesn’t work.

molly ringwald nail art manicure
A recent Molly manicure.

All of this was really hard at first. Then, one day I was like, Oh...I did that! I couldn't believe that I could actually do it—and then I started to do it with my left hand, which is a little bit like being ambidextrous. I just got better and better at it.

I don’t want to oversell myself—I'm certainly not gonna start an Instagram for my nails at all—but I found that it's something that I really like. Truly, not to boast, but I've gotten so good that my nine-year-old daughter said, "So, are you gonna be a manicurist now?" Like, kind of excited—like it could be a new career for me.

I was like, "No...I think I'm just gonna keep it as a hobby.” Now, I'm not just doing my nail art, now I'll do hers and my other daughter's. I learned how to do ombre glitter that the nine-year-old wants me to do, but her nails are literally so tiny that it might be hard—but I can do it on myself.

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Doing nail art is very low-pressure. When I'm writing for The New Yorker, I labor over every word. In my last piece, it was really important to me that I expressed myself and I wasn't misunderstood. It really mattered to me, and with that pressure comes a certain amount of stress. You don't know if you're gonna be able get it right. For a while, you don't even know for sure if you're gonna be published when you want it to be published. There's all of that, aside from just the work of the writing. You don't have any of that when you're painting your nails. It isn't even like painting a picture, where there's a certain amount of pressure in that. It's just nails. Like, What's the big deal? If I don't like it, I'm gonna take it off and paint something else. I like the no pressure aspect of it. It's perfect for a writer: I write for a while, then I stop and do a little design on my nails, then go back to writing. But you have to get pretty good at typing with wet nails.