The "Claws" Nail Artist on How the Show Shaped Today's Trends — and What's Coming Next

At POPSUGAR Play/Ground, TNT's "Claws" nail artist Morgan A. Dixon was having a busy day. The M.A.D. Nails owner (named after her initials) was in Los Angeles doing nail sessions at the event, gracing the fingers of attendees with her one-of-a-kind nail art. Dixon, whose list of clientele includes names like Issa Rae, Niecy Nash, and Janelle Monáe, spoke with POPSUGAR about how she got her start, how "Claws" influenced the nail trends we're seeing today, and what we can expect for the future of nail art.

"I was a broke college student, going to school in Jacksonville, FL," Dixon tells POPSUGAR of her beginnings as a nail artist. "I got tired of serving tables and just working retail jobs that I always quit in the first week, so I got my nail license while I was in school."

Dixon went to school for art history and international relations, and she says her art background is really what helped lay the foundation for her future. She started out working in different salons and then eventually created her own brand, based in New Orleans, which is where "Claws" was being filmed.

"Someone who worked in the show was looking for a nail artist that could do art and keep up with the film industry stuff," Dixon says. Quite a few people recommended her for the job, and she started out working part time on the show, only two days a week. However, it wasn't long until she became the key nail artist running the entire department. "It was a growing process for me . . . after working with the cast and seeing how I operated, Niecy Nash wanted me to be her personal nail artist on the show, so from there I started doing a lot more of the art on season two," she explained.

CLAWS, Karrueche Tran in 'Muscle & Flow', (Season 3, ep. 302, aired June 16, 2019). photo: Patti Perret / TNT / courtesy Everett Collection
Patti Perret | TNT / courtesy Everett Collection

In the beginning, Dixon says, there was a lot of unprecedented territory in terms of production that the crew had to figure out how to navigate, but eventually, it all came together. And once it did, it started becoming apparent just how influential the show was. Dixon began noticing certain designs she did for "Claws" becoming mainstream, like bold patterns and wild accessories. "I played with a lot of nail charms and things that dangled and moved, and I did start seeing that more after the show [aired]," she says.

Plus, Dixon says she thinks "Claws" gave people the freedom to be more daring with their nails: "They can be ridiculous, they can be as elevated and as raised as possible; I felt like I started seeing that more after the show — people going bolder."

"We all get our nails done, so we can all appreciate and relate. It's a trend that people can understand and appreciate together."

When it comes to beauty in film and television, we typically see hair salons represented, not nail salons. "Claws" was the first show to feature not only a nail salon, but nail salons for and by Black women. "It was obviously very significant," Dixon says. "We all know that nails are bigger today than they were 10 years ago. We all get our nails done, so we can all appreciate and relate. It's a trend that people can understand and appreciate together, and it was nice to see that represented officially, because it hasn't been done before."

Still, just because Black women were finally getting their recognition didn't mean that their influence on nail-art trends was anything new — "Claws" just made it apparent. "Black women were the ones wearing those nails and saying what [they] wanted on [their] nails before there was a vision for that, and Black women are always going to be the ones testing the waters and doing what they want to do and feeling more comfortable in that freedom," Dixon says.

"Even me," she adds, flashing her nails, "with this really bright red. I threw these on before I came, but I knew it would be a statement piece."

Making a statement with her art will always be central to who Dixon is, whether it's with her nails or her clients', and she's constantly looking for inspiration in her everyday life. "I see a lot of stuff in the world that will make me want to try something," she says, pointing to a clear acrylic container with gold accents. "That container, for example. It's little textures and color palettes I see around; that's what I get inspired by."

Given that Dixon is essentially creating nail trends every single day, we couldn't part ways without asking her what we can expect to see when it comes to nail art in the future. "People are going more gaudy, they want things to stand out more. Now and again, we want a nude nail so we don't have to think about it, but there's going to be more metals, more metallics, more textures, but on a larger scale," she says. "People are going to be pushing limits; nails are going to be a further form of expression than just a color."