Ever since Marbles Valdez was a kid, she had a creative mind. Her dream was to become a fashion designer with her own streetwear brand, so she was ecstatic to start college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she majored in fashion business management, in 2019. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, she ended up feeling completely lost, second-guessing her decisions.
Now, the 20-year-old is a bonafide nail artist with nearly 12,000 Instagram followers working in her own studio on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, where she does manicures and sells cute accessories, such as phone cases and keychains. In addition to having a massive New York City-based clientele, she has also done Whitney Peak‘s nails for HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot and for the 2021 Met Gala, Yung Baby Tate‘s for the 2021 VMAs, and other TikTokers and influencers.
Growing up in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side as a first-generation Dominican, she was immersed in the beauty world, as her mom worked at a salon. So when she found herself with a lot of free time while self-isolating in 2020, she found solace in creative projects — including making press-on nails, drawing, and crafting beaded accessories. Soon enough, she learned to do acrylic nails on herself and practiced on friends, posting the manicures on a public Instagram spam account. Unsurprisingly, she blew up.
Just by visiting her Instagram @ibedoingnails, you’ll see that her account’s title is, “XTRA NAILS FOR XTRA PPL,” and, boy, does she live up to that title. She’s a self-taught expert in all sorts of nail art, including cartoon characters, gems, nail charms on gel polish, and acrylic extensions. Although the most popular designs she’s asked to do these days have varying textures like raindrops, blooming gel designs, airbrush designs, animal prints, and mix-and-match designs, her inspiration initially came from Japanese cultures (think kawaii and Harajuku-inspired designs).
“I love to see how much detail I squeeze onto a small surface; [it’s] really fun and challenging,” Valdez tells Allure. Her favorite designs are the “super-extra” kawaii 3D charms and rhinestones, but she’s so talented that sometimes clients will ask her to freestyle, in which case, she’ll use new techniques she’s been dying to try out. Most of her sets take around two to three hours to complete.
Valdez has fallen in love with meeting new people and helping them channel their self-expression through nail art. “I love providing a fun service that helps people to ‘match the outside with the inside,'” she says. “I’m helping with feeding their inner child.” I mean, just take a scroll through her Instagram, and you’ll see how many nostalgic nail designs are trending right now — ’90s designs, Vivienne Westwood-branded charms, and chrome sets, to name a few.