In Portland, you can do a lot of things while smoking weed.
But you can’t do everything. Concerts still have to be book-ended with a hurried joint sesh in a nearby parked car. If you’re trying to loosen up before getting a massage, you need to time your lunch breaks to afford a quick stop at home before airing out your kush-scented hair on the way to the clinic.
Similarly, Nomi Miraj liked to get high before a manicure.
While living in Gwangju, Korea—which makes America’s concept of nail art look basic by comparison—getting her nails done was a fixture in Miraj’s weekly rhythms, as much as cannabis had become a part of her life after being raised on the West Coast. But the side eye she received every time she asked to step out for a smoke break mid-mani was getting old. So she started doing her own nails at home. Then her friends began making appointments with her, too.
Before she knew it, Miraj was at the helm of Portland’s first cannabis-centric beauty service. One order of business cards later, and Nomsternailz was born—a 420-friendly nail service where Miraj hosts a pop-up salon in the comfort of your own home, with your own bong.
“When I go to a salon, I want to enjoy it to the most,” says Miraj as she fills the foot-soaking tub at her chic apartment at the Yard complex. “I would usually smoke weed right before, and then ask to step outside for a second and smoke a block away. All the ladies working there would glare at me. they wouldn’t talk to me. I want to relax, but I don’t want to be judged.”
Watching Miraj’s huge rose gold hoops glint in the light as she arranges an ashtray on the table beside the massage chair, it’s clear that Miraj’s style occupies a space somewhere between creative Korean nail techs and American-style salons. She doesn’t speak perfect Korean anymore, but hints of her accent come through occasionally when speaking English.
Although she’s from Korea, Miraj, 24, attended high school in Long Beach, Calif., interned as a photographer in New York, and ended up in Portland studying graphic design at Pacific Northwest College of Art, eventually graduating from Portland Community College. It was there that she realized how the beauty industry could be a way to make art and still make a living.
“People pay for graphic design services every once in a while, but many pay for beauty every week,” Miraj points out. “I don’t have to wait around for a project—it’s a constant need.”
Miraj, 24, points out that while only certain salons in the states get reputations for adventurousness, every salon in Korea has one or two artists in-house with skills to embellish polish with the client’s visions of hand-drawn designs, layers of gold flake, Swarovski crystals, flower decals, dangling charms and everything in between.
“It’s just another level over there,” says Miraj. “Office women there can get whatever kind of manicure they want. It’s culturally acceptable and normal to have really wild nail art. And affordable.”
Miraj started inviting friends over to her place to get their nails done last year. Women would bring their own cannabis, or beer and booze if that was more their speed. Ultimately, Miraj wanted to create the environment that cannabis consumers, and women in general, constantly search for: a place where they can be themselves.
It’s also proved to be a creative outlet for her to use her free-hand illustrating skills and develop her own style.
Miraj turned my gnawed stubs into a set of cherry blossom trees, each flower dotted with a speck of glitter, with plain red on my toes. The total for the manicure and pedicure together was $90—a steal for a custom hand-drawn look. And an even better deal when you consider it includes a 22-story view of the Willamette and the westside, a CBD lotion hand and foot massage, and the freedom to be myself.