Alexa web rank

Simone Biles had an all-Black glam squad for radical ‘Essence’ cover. Meet the Houstonian behind her nails

When small-town Wisconsin native Krystina Woods moved to Houston just over a year ago, she knew her nail salon would fare better in a bigger city. What she didn’t know was that she would be filing the nails of the world’s most decorated gymnast.

Biles had an all-Black glam squad for the first time ever for her Essence magazine cover story “More Than A Medal” shoot in Houston. Meet the nail technician behind her nails. Video: Laura Duclos

“My mom was like ‘you need to start networking you might run into Simone Biles,'” Woods, 32, said from her small Katy salon. “And she literally spoke it into existence.”

As it turned out, the photo editor from Essence magazine ran into her by way of her hair stylist.

“(She) called me, and I didn’t answer because it was a New York call,” Woods said. “So I was like, who’s calling me from New York at eight o’clock in the morning?”

Then came a text message indicating that it was urgent and to return the call, so she did.

“She’s rambling on, basically, like, ‘Hey, I got your information from one of our clients and I was reaching out, because I’ve been stalking your nail page, and I like your work,'” Woods said. “And she never really told me like what it was for. So she’s just rambling on. And at the same time, I’m like, Is this a joke?”

Woods eventually let her guard down, and it was only towards the end of the conversation that the magazine’s photo editor revealed the talent would be none other than Simone Biles.

When she said Biles’ name, Woods, in disbelief, said she practically dropped her phone.

“I’m like, wait, what? You guys want me to do her nails?” she said. “And then she’s like, ‘Yeah. So see you on Monday.'”

Woods then got to work spending her entire weekend custom designing 10 sets of press-on nails for Biles only with knowledge of a nude background theme and big hair.


For the shoot, which was shot in the Montrose, they went with neutral set for the cover of the November/December issue in a special three-cover edition of the Essence titled “The Year of Radical Self-Care.”



The monthly lifestyle magazine has been around since 1970 and is written for Black women highlighting fashion, culture and entertainment. Biles is one of three successful Black women featured on the cover of the issue alongside Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times journalist and creator of groundbreaking “The 1619 Project”, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and singer and fellow Houstonian Lizzo. The magazine hit newsstands on Dec. 14.


Join the conversation with HouWeAre

We want to foster conversation and highlight the intersection of race, identity and culture in one of America’s most diverse cities. Sign up for the HouWeAre newsletter here.

In the magazine, each woman talks about having the courage to choose themselves and the lessons they learned by prioritizing their mental health, something Biles has championed since pulling from some events in the Tokyo Olympics due to a bad case of a gymnastics mental block known as the “twisties.”

“I definitely knew any stand I took would be a little bit bigger than itself,” Olympic gold medalist Biles told the magazine in her cover story “More Than A Medal” of her decision to withdraw from the summer games this year.

“At the end of the day, we’re humans. We’re not just athletes. We’re not just here for entertainment.”

But Woods was still entertained by Biles whom she described as sweet, and “pretty cool.”

“She actually was pretty cool. She was happy,” Woods said of Biles. “She came with her nails done. They didn’t tell her to remove her nails, so she was like, ‘Oh my God they didn’t tell me to remove my nails.’ And I’m like, ‘It’s okay. We can just put them right over.'”

While she did Biles’ nails, they talked about everything from TV shows to popular social media influencer and lifestyle coach Kevin Samuels’ podcast, and even the joy of having an all-Black glam squad.

“She was like this was the first time she had an all black glam squad,” Woods said. “You know, makeup artist is black. You know, her hair stylists, the nail tech. So she was really shocked.”

Jessica Smalls at The Wall Group was the featured makeup artist and Weezydidit was the featured hair stylist.

It’s something that can be rare in beauty industry circles, especially within the nail industry, which is predominately Asian or Asian American. As a Black nail technician, Woods said she had a difficult time initially because most people assumed she wasn’t qualified or skilled.

EXCLUSIVE: Johnny and Bao of ‘Married at First Sight’ Houston dish on being first Asian American couple

“When I first started doing nails, people gave me a difficult time all the time,” said Woods, who opened the first Black-owned nail salon in her small hometown of Racine, Wisconsin.

“Like, ‘Oh, you Black? You don’t know what you’re doing,’ so I had problems with that, but then, obviously the internet helps you project your skills. So when I give people my Instagram or Facebook, whatever, they look at the work and the fact that I’m Black disappears.”

Now, rather than resistance or hesitation, she gets more shock and excitement.

“Ever since COVID started, I think people you know, branched out to their entrepreneur side,” she said. “So I’m seeing more people doing hair and nails and things in the beauty industry.”

Word spread fast in her small town and she became popular.

“I’m so used to being back home that I don’t have to network, like, everyone around me does it for me,” she said. But when she moved to Houston, a bigger city with a larger pool of Black nail technicians, she was forced to humble herself, come out her shell and network. It’s the reason she decided to plant her business in Katy, where there weren’t many Black nail technicians compared to the competition within the city.

“I spent a lot of time going to fashion shows and doing little stuff around Houston, and passing on my experienced business cards building up the courage to say, ‘Hey, I do nails.'”

She enjoys doing French tips the most, but does everything from acrylic nails, to dip powder, gel, manicures and pedicures. For the first couple of months she worked in a few salons, but with a degree in business, she knew didn’t want to work for others long.

Her networking paid off and working with Biles only further boosted her resume. The opportunity opened the door to two other celebrity clients, whom she could not disclose at the moment but said they are local. They are not, however, Houston natives Beyoncé or Megan Thee Stallion, although they are dream clients of hers, she said.

“I want to know who does their nails and if they need a backup nail tech,” Woods said. “I always pop on their Instagrams like ‘hey check out my page.’ I know you’ll see it one day. I just wrote Beyoncé she had posted basically her and her kids, they did a photo shoot, I commented on there ‘cute clothes, but check out my nail page.'” Beyoncé honors ranchera legend Vicente Fernandez

The Essence cover opportunity even gave her current customers bragging rights.

“When I saw I was like, ‘You go girl,'” said one of her clients, Mayurche Yarber. “She deserves it. She’s got a loyal customer in me. I refer her to everybody now.”

Although some time has passed since the shoot, Woods said she still can’t believe it.

“Where I’m from, a small town, this would have never happened,” she said. “Even if I tried, it wouldn’t have. So me moving here and being here for a year, it’s a big accomplishment.”

Now she’s a household name in her Wisconsin hometown.

“Everyone has questions. Like, every time I get online, someone’s asking a question, or inboxing me, like, ‘How did you get that?’ Who are you around?'”

She and her family made plans to get as many copies of Essence magazine as they could when the latest issue hit the stands last week.

“My grandparents were like, ‘You need to laminate that,'”she said. “But pretty much everybody that I told or knows, they’ll probably go and buy them their own copies, because everyone lives around the world.”


Me and My Travel