EZ Nail Lifter Lady: Darlene Willis

It’s the nail removal process for me, yall.

This pandemic had my nails looking sad, sorry, and all out of sorts—and I know I’m not alone.

In addition to nail salons shutting down, technicians are booked up weeks in advance, and there is little sign of an end in sight. While I realize this certainly isn’t the worst problem or even a big deal in the grand scheme of things, the uncertainty of future nail appointments has left me scrambling to find affordable, between-appointment solutions to keep my nails looking good.

I’ve taken to the habit of getting a full set each appointment so each set lasts a little longer, but that brings us back to the nail removal.

Whew chile.

I’m either ripping apart my nails bed, or taking time I don’t have to soak them off while simultaneously drying my nails out from all the acetone.

Well, I’d like to introduce you all to Mrs. Darlene Willis, or as I like to call her, the EZ Nail Lifter Lady, and like many other lady entrepreneurs, an answer to our (broken-nail) tragedies.

I had the opportunity to pick Mrs. Willis’s brain and get the skinny on her new invention, EZ Nail Lifter, a beauty tool used to separate and lift the false nail from your natural nail in a quick, easy, and painless way. Check out the Q&A below.

Who is Darlene Willis?

A Universal Child of the MOST HIGH with intensive training in Customer Care and Human Relations skills.

What do you do?

For over 35 years I was an Administrative Assistant until 2016 I had to take a medical leave do to carpal tunnel and Rheumatoid Arthritis. That lead me to developing the E-ZNAILLIFTER and my company TRY Product, a product development company.

How did you start?

In 1997 I started wearing artificial nails and did not like the removal process. Acetone makes my eyes tear profusely, and my throat gets scratchy due to an allergy. Plus my fingertips would be dried out for days. I knew there was a better way to remove them, so I went all over Michigan looking for something to take them off without soaking and could not find anything. So, I created a handy tool that would remove the acrylic nails and made it look like a tool a manicure set.

What has your journey entailed thus far?

A lot of INTERNAL FORTITUDE and learn as you go. Sometimes it feels like I’m in over my head to even want to launch a product without knowing where to start or having the finances to develop it properly. I work as an Administrative Assistant and saved to get a patent. I found a manufacture company to make me a prototype. I saved to get them made and test on the market. I’m building a brand with the goal of becoming a household name product.

How do you know you’re (not) within your purpose.

I look at life differently. My purpose in life is not to be the problem, but a solution and the best person I can be. If my mission is simply to be a solution, then any project The Most High allows me to take on is my purpose.

What is my magic —-the one thing you need no outside validation on?

I know I am a child of THE MOST HIGH. The Spirit gives me the will to manifest anything I put my mind to, the only thing it never said is it would be easy.

Biggest life lesson thus far?

Never think someone will see your vision. I realize God gave the vision to me and they just might have not arrived to it mentally.

You can learn more about E-Z Nail Lifter, and get your own at www.e-znaillifter.com —tell them Ari sent you, and tell your nails I said you’re welcome.

Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel

Last week I got the chance to meet up with Latrice Phoenix, a business minded mommy from Pittsburgh who owns not one, not two, but three businesses BY HERSELF. In addition to her photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and her non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh, Latrice’s newest endeavor is called Melanin Theory Apparel, which happens to be a pro-black fashion line designed to uplift and empower black folk through our biggest and brightest superpower, melanin. Naturally, when I found out about this dope brand, I had to learn more. I was able to catch up with Latrice and get the inside scoop on Melanin Theory Apparel and the direction she plans to take it.


Latrice in Got Melanin? Tee and Ari in Melanin Queen Tee

Ari: So, for those that don’t know, yes, you founded and own Melanin Theory but this endeavor is not second, but third to your photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and your non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh. What inspired you to not only launch a third business, but also to create and supply pro-black fashion in Pittsburgh? 

Latrice: Melanin Theory has always been an idea of mine. I first designed the shirts a few years ago and went to my graphic designer with the idea. Unfortunately, I just had too much going on at the time to really launch the line, and it’s still not perfect. I eventually would like to add more apparel and accessories.

Ari: As a rising entrepreneur, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced with not only running multiple business, but also with being a double minority business owner?

Latrice: Financial support is always a struggle. I am juggling so many endeavors and I am a one woman show. Melanin Theory is fairly new, so it’s not perfect; I’m not perfect, but every day I strive to get better and put more into the brand.


Latrice in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What motivates you to keep going every day? What is your “why?”

Latrice: My daughter is my why. I want her to always see her mom working and striving to accomplish her dreams. I want her to see me building towards wealth and financial freedom. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but I show her that it’s an option. When I was growing up I didn’t have anyone showing me other options. I knew going to school and going to college– even with that I’m the first in my family to graduate high school and college.

Latrice and her “why” in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What can customers expect to see from Melanin Theory in the coming months?

Latrice: Great question. Customers can expect to see more apparel for kids. I’ll also be scouting for brand ambassadors and doing local photo shoots.

Ari: How would you explain your personal style?

Latrice: Honestly, at 29 I’m just coming into my “personal style”. I’ve done a lot of trial and error over the years trying to find my “style.” I’ve even hired a stylist a few times. I mostly wear what I’m comfortable with, I dress by my mood. If I’m feeling flirty and sexy I’ll look that way, if I’m feeling afro-centric I’ll look that way as well. Then sometimes, I want to look completely different and cater to my alter egos.


Ari in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What is your overall goal with Melanin Theory Apparel? What is MTA’s legacy?

Latrice: My goal with Melanin Theory is to create apparel centered around the actual theory of the power in Melanin skin. Melanin Theory is an Afrocentric claim that the higher level of melanin in the skin the higher intellectual and physical ability ultimately creating supernatural powers. That is such a powerful theory and I want young black people to wear something that represents that–our magic.

Ari: What advice would you share with young WOC starting their own small business?

Latrice: Take the leap. Do it whatever it is. Just do it. Fight for your dreams and keep fighting. Yes, it’s hard, but no one said it would be easy so why not now?

Latrice and Ari for Melanin Theory Apparel

Special Thanks to Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel. Be sure to check out the Melanin Theory Apparel website here and keep up on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well.