At one salon in the Bronx, every client feels like a princess — and gets a glam-up to rival any fairy godmother’s spell. Manicures, pedicures and mini-facials come with a “fancy drink,” glittery make-up, and pink robes that match the hues of the fanciful decor.
Pink Princess Nails, the brainchild of Dominican Bronxite Milagros López, is a no-details-spared salon for ages 3 to 12 in Westchester Square. Alongside spa services, it hosts party packages whose themes range from Barbie to unicorns to Wednesday Addams. It’s also a place where kids get to be treated like royals while their parents or guardians catch a break.
“The most rewarding part for me would be knowing that the kids have a safe space to come to, where they feel empowered and that makes them happy,” López says. “They come in and there’s a sense of ‘wow, I can’t believe that there’s a place like this just for me. It’s just not for mom to go and have a spa day.’”
Learning about self-care at such an early stage might hone youths’ ability to make better choices to take care of themselves later, she says. This sense of responsibility helped López deal with challenging aspects of the business, which opened in 2016. It also helped her adapt at the peak of the pandemic, when the spa saw a drop in in-person services but started offering gift baskets for DIY home activities.
“You are still a child and it’s OK to dress up”
When Saray Lin Ferrer, the 23-year-old manager at Pink Princess Nails, first learned about the kid spa through her father (López is a family friend), she recalls feeling surprised and “a little jealous.” She remembers wishing, on her first day of work at the spa, that she’d had this kind of pampering place as a girl. Nearly five years later, she says she realized the lessons in self-love and self-confidence are essential for youths.
“Some 11- and 12-year-olds act like they don’t want to be there, but when they’re more comfortable, [with] a robe and headband, and I talk to them, they do talk about how school is stressful, how [other] kids can be mean or rude,” Lin Ferrer says. “Ever since the pandemic, little girls are a little bit scared and unsure being around everything and everyone.”
Lin Ferrer hand-holds the more timid girls, and feels a great sense of accomplishment when she sees them “relax, have fun and be themselves.” She also encourages older girls who are self-conscious about playing to let go of messaging around age-appropriate activities.
There’s a moment that stuck to her mind like glitter glue: one day, while others were busy painting in the salon, a girl was crying in the corner by herself.
“What’s the matter?” Lin Ferrer asked.
“I feel like I’m too grown to paint and do these girly things,” said the girl.
“How old are you?” her host asked.
“I’m 10 years old.”
“Just because you’re 10 and you’re here doing this does not mean you’re childish,” Lin Ferrer told her. “You are still a child and it’s OK to dress up and all that. You’re supposed to have fun. Don’t let people judge you for being at a quote, unquote, kid spa here. Why don’t you come with me, have a seat and we can all paint together.”
She did, and she and Lin Ferrer proceeded to talk the whole time.
Tapping into her own inner child
Comforting these girls has also opened up her most genuine self from a magical time, before facing bullying as a tween or before her mental health suffered around age 18, Lin Ferrer tells Epicenter.
“When I was little, I was a girly girl; I love pink, I love wearing dresses and makeup,” she says. “But then, when I hit middle school, these girls were mean … and it drained my color. So I just acted like a grown kid. Then, when I started working here longer, I felt like my inner child was coming back. If you see my bedroom [now], I have so many Plushies and little dolls.”
It’s also a self that started drawing in earnest at age five and loves sketching human-like cartoons. Last February, Lin Ferrer — who comes from a family of tattoo and graffiti artists and hopes to pursue her art further someday — started offering free weekly arts and crafts classes at the spa as a form of community outreach. She leads the younger artists through painting or sketching basics, teaching them how to mix paint colors or make flower crowns or fashion figures out of clay. The last art class of the year will be held at the spa next Thursday, Nov. 30 from 5 to 6:15 p.m.
López has an artistic bent herself. She studied business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and delights in the details of dressing up her space. Before Pink Princess Nails, López ran an adult nail salon in the neighborhood, also with “pink” in its name. With her background running self-love workshops for youths at nonprofits and after-school programs, it made sense to offer children’s salon services too. But after weaning off the adult services, she can’t imagine going back.
“When you work with kids, there’s nothing but honesty, love and what you get from them is just how it is,” López said. “There’s no hidden agenda. Their feelings are so pure and that just makes everything so worth it.”