Ayanna Williams knows a thing or two about receiving puzzling looks from members of the public. After all, she’s been growing her fingernails for more than two decades now, with her talons reaching a remarkable 18 feet in size. Due to that, she went on to earn a Guinness World Record for her efforts – and once you’ve seen them, you’ll certainly understand why.
Williams first decided to grow her nails out over 20 years ago, but she didn’t plan on writing her name in the history books. Indeed, the future record holder had no real intention of reaching the lengths that she has done today. She was merely looking to emulate a very important person in her life.
For you see, when Williams was growing up, she noticed that her mom had long fingernails. And as the years went on, that look continued to stick in Williams’ mind, leading to a defining moment over two decades ago. Then, in 2017 Guinness World Records finally recognized her unusual achievement.
After receiving this accolade, Williams also earned a place in the 2018 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. In addition, she found herself in the spotlight at the time of the announcement of her new record in September 2017. At that point, the record holder revealed some intriguing details about her remarkable talons.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have certain features that make us unique. From hairstyles to body shape, these physical attributes play a big role in defining who we are as individuals. However, there are other people out there who take things a step further in that regard.
In the case of Williams, her eye-catching nails have certainly caught the attention of the public since she hit the headlines. Given the incredible length of her nails, each one extends well beyond her fingers, curling slightly at the end. But aside from her hands, though, other aspects of her life are quite normal.
A resident of Houston, Texas, Williams was a student at Jack Yates Sr. High during her younger years, before entering into life as an adult. From there, the future record holder eventually found her calling with a job – of course – at a local nail salon. She now plies her trade as a manicurist.
Williams has enjoyed an eventful personal life too. Her marriage lasted for more than 20 years and although the couple eventually split up, they have five children and 15 grandchildren, which makes for a large family. But despite all that, the focus inevitably comes back to Williams’ fingernails, and the lifestyle she has to lead because of them.
With that in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Williams was alone on that front. Incredibly, though, she was able to form a connection with three other women in a similar position to herself a few years ago. Together, they dubbed themselves the “Real Nail Qweenz” and created their own Facebook page back in 2014.
Since then, the social media page has attracted close to thousands of fans. But as a result of that attention, Williams and her three friends have had to face down some horrible abuse on the internet. The grandmother subsequently touched upon that sensitive subject while speaking with The Houston Press in November 2016.
“We get the most hated, absurd comments on social networks,” Williams explained. “People say that we’re nasty, that we’re the ugliest person in the world. We are bullied. But we’re just like everybody else, except for some extra additions.” From there, another member of the group offered their thoughts on the situation as well.
Indeed, fellow Nail Qween Edith Graham made an intriguing point about those who are reluctant to embrace certain aspects of the group members’ physical appearance. “I just don’t understand when there isn’t something about you that’s all your own,” she admitted. “That just seems like such a bleak existence.”
Graham’s strong words on the matter didn’t end there, though. “I don’t care if it’s an earring, a tattoo, a haircut,” she added. “Whatever it is, everyone needs to have that individual thing about themselves. It’s like an instant lesson in tolerance. And it makes the world a lot more interesting.”
Several months on from that interview, Williams hit the headlines again, albeit for more positive reasons. For you see, the Houston resident was honored by Guinness World Records in 2017. She earned the record for the “longest fingernails on a pair of (female) hands” at that point, dethroning the previous holder.
The lady in question was named Chris Walton, and her nails had measured in at more than 23 feet long. However, she gave up the record after trimming her talons, which opened the door for Williams. And by the time that Guinness World Records took her measurements, Williams’ fingernails were close to 19 feet in size.
Due to those extraordinary numbers, Williams became one of the latest names to enter the famous book. The publication itself has been running for close to 65 years now, and it continues to uncover many more unusual records. In a surprising twist, though, the concept behind Guinness World Records actually stemmed from a simple disagreement.
Back in 1951 a man named Sir Hugh Beaver was in charge of the Guinness Breweries’ daily operations. One day that November, he attended a shooting event in County Wexford, Ireland, where he targeted a golden plover. Beaver went on to miss the bird in question, sparking a debate in the aftermath.
In fact, Beaver and his fellow guests entered into a heated discussion about the speeds of two particular birds, one of which was the aforementioned golden plover. He believed that the latter was Europe’s quickest, while someone else claimed that the red grouse was faster. And before long, the managing director came to a significant realization.
Even though Beaver was correct in his assessment of the golden plover, there was no way he could prove it at the time. From there, a plan started to form in his mind, as he thought about other people having their own disagreements on various other subjects. However, he would have to wait another three years until his idea came to life.
Beaver went on to task two brothers named Ross and Norris McWhirter with the responsibility of putting a book of records together. They subsequently set to work on publication in the summer of 1954, ahead of a big moment the following year. At that stage, the inaugural Guinness Book of Records hit the shelves.
Since then, the book has gone on to enjoy incredible success, with in excess of 100 million units being sold in 100 nations around the world. Since its launch, of course, a host of different people have been celebrated in the publication for their own unique records. And one in particular continues to stand out.
The record for the world’s tallest man is one of the most intriguing entries in the annual book series. The title currently belongs to Robert Wadlow, who was born back in February 1918. While he appeared to be of a fairly typical size as an infant, that soon changed before he even turned five.
At that point, Wadlow already measured in at more than 5 feet tall, towering above other children his age. He then continued to grow at a remarkable rate over the next few years, quickly surpassing his dad’s height as an eight year old. And by the time he reached 17, the teenager came in at over 8 feet.
Some five years after that, the 22-year-old Wadlow tragically passed away in 1940 due to an infection. A few weeks before his death, though, his height was checked again, which led to a stunning discovery. The record holder was just short of 9 feet tall at that point. That suggests his title might not be taken for some time yet.
As for Williams, she was set to join Wadlow and many other illustrious names in the 2018 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. After the announcement was made, the grandparent then revealed a little more about her nails during an interview with Houstonia magazine. And the resulting conversation proved to be fascinating.
“It was a man that convinced me to grow my nails,” Williams told the publication in November 2017. “I never intended to let them get this long, but I always loved long nails because my mother had them. Although they were nothing like this.” Following that admission, she confirmed that she hadn’t cut her nails in nearly 25 years.
Williams then spoke about her nail-care routine, offering up a detailed description of what she does. “I use antibacterial soap,” the Houston resident continued. “I use bleach to keep them white, and they also have a thin layer of acrylic underneath to keep anything from getting under the nail.”
And Williams’ efforts don’t end there, either. “If I’m removing the nail polish, I’ll add a hardener, because they do crack in certain seasons,” she added. “And then if anything gets underneath. I take my drill, get it out, fill it in with acrylic and then buff it. If I’m doing paint or nail art, it can take up to five days.”
However, while Williams clearly puts a lot of care into maintaining her massive talons, there still are some notable drawbacks. As the record holder went on to explain, her nails have had a detrimental impact on her finances over the years. In addition, she’s fairly restricted with regards to where she can go.
Furthermore, Williams is forced to face down a few other issues in her everyday life. “It can become challenging a lot of time when I’m dressing,” she told the magazine. “When I put my nails through a bra, I have to be careful that I don’t break them. Tying shoes, I don’t do that.”
“My hair, I don’t call it dreadlocks because mine are maintained and dreadlocks sometimes aren’t, but I don’t comb my hair,” Williams continued. “And when I drive, I’ve already planned it in my head how I’m going to do it and exactly where to turn, because my nails could get caught in the steering wheel.”
Despite all of those unavoidable challenges, though, certain aspects of Williams’ daily routine are no different to the average person’s. For instance, she can still eat food with normal utensils and has no problem using her cell phone. But in both cases, the grandmother only uses one of her hands.
Away from that, Williams then touched upon the Real Nail Qweenz group and what it means to her. “We all found each other on social media,” she said. “I’m the one that likes to reach out to people like myself, see how their life is, living with long nails. We’re very close, we’re like sisters.”
On the subject of social media, Williams couldn’t help but bring up the criticism she’s received as well. And much like she had done in the Houston Press interview, the mom of five again delved into the online bullying issue. Sadly, it appears to play a rather prominent role in her life.
“[I have] millions of [haters]!” Williams revealed to Houstonia. “I can’t understand it. On social media I’m cyber-bullied, and not only me, but also others like me. I just want to make people aware of the issue. We have a choice to grow our nails, but kids getting bullied don’t always have a choice.”
Williams’ thoughts on the matter didn’t conclude there, either. “It’s serious,” she added. “The way people talk about me, if I was weak, I’d dig a hole and jump in it. I just want to tell people to be yourself and don’t be afraid to be who you are. Just let people live their lives.”
Elsewhere, Williams offered some advice to those who want to follow her lead in a special video. The post was subsequently shared on YouTube via Guinness World Records’ official channel, going up in September 2017. In the clip, the Houston native brought up a few simple tips for growing nails.
“You must have patience,” Williams says at the start of the video. “I started growing my nails probably about 23, maybe 24 years [ago] now. Next, [you must have] endurance. You gotta endure all the trials that you’re gonna go through with growing your nails. There’s gonna be some trials, trust me!”
Williams then explains that hurtful comments will no doubt come your way as a result of growing your nails, before revealing how much nail polish she uses. Unsurprisingly, the mom goes through two or three bottles at a time. After this, she shares a further piece of advice to conclude the clip.
“If you have a nail that’s broken, go ahead and reattach it,” Williams adds. “Get some glue that’s for nails only, and glue that nail back together. Just like you would a puzzle. Then just buff it smoothly, and voila!” And since being posted on YouTube, the video has earned close to five million views and just under 20,000 likes.