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Instagram-famous and celebrity-favorite nail artist Ami Vega started painting her nails in middle school.

At first, she and a friend would experiment with different nail polish colors, but when she hit high school, she got daring with bold crackle nails, and people started to take notice of her talent. It was then that she realized that nail polish had power.

Montenegrin handball players painted their nails like the Olympic rings at Rio 2016. Photo by Franck Fife/Getty Images.


"Nail art allows you to express any emotion, situation, belief, or life event," Vega explained over email.

People get their nails painted for a number of occasions — a big game, a date, a Tuesday — but the reason why is universal: self-expression. Over the years, Vega has honed her talent for painting incredibly small pictures on nail canvases.

It's the subject matter she showcases, however, that makes her work so special. Whether it's a cultural homage, a social commentary, or a shoutout to feminism, Vega's art is as creative as it is impactful.

1. Like these tiny masterpieces that honor her friend's Dominican heritage (as well as her own).

2. And this design that captures the essence of one of Vega's favorite artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat, well-known for infusing his art with social and political commentary.

3. Black Lives Matter is a huge movement, and the message rings loud and clear in this nail design.

4. These gay pride nails shine with every color of the rainbow.

5. This design, featuring a comic by The Akward Yeti, is all about the importance of loving yourself.

6. And this design is perfect for anyone who cares about honeybee colony collapse — or who just loves bees.

#SaveTheBees 🐝🐝🐝 #nailart #handpainted #gelpolish #ignails #naillife #amivega

A photo posted by Ami Vega (@amivnails) on

7. A common theme in Vega's designs is a celebration of female power and empowerment.

8. Like these nails, which celebrate an entire spectrum of feminist icons from Oprah to Frida Kahlo to Roxane Gay.

9. Culture and womanhood are some of our strongest roots, so Vega splashes them across these fingertips like badges of honor.

10. She doesn't shy away from things that are hard to talk about either. These nails are Vega's artistic plea to stop violence against women.

11. And there's something incredibly powerful about seeing this message, in honor of Suicide Prevention Week, every time you look at your hands.

12. Vega's nails are all about love — for yourself, for others, for animals, for the world around us — and these Keith Haring-inspired designs are exactly that: a celebration of the universal feeling of love.

While Vega's art canvas may be small, it speaks volumes and, like any great manicure, will get the attention it deserves.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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