My nails are 23 inches long!

Published Thursday, Dec 4 2014, 20:00 GMT  |  By  |  Add comment
Ayanna Williams, 56, has spent 20 years growing her nails to incredible lengths!

Ayanna Williams attracts attention wherever she goes because she has a unique quality that is always close to hand – her 23in fingernails.

She has been growing her enormous talons for 20 years and she's had to adapt her whole lifestyle to keep them from snapping or breaking, from no longer washing dishes to using the side of her finger to open ring pulls.

Ayanna Williams has 23in nails

© Ayanna Williams

Ayanna's nails have been growing for two decades

"My mum always had long fingernails when I was young," says Ayanna, from Houston, Texas. "She'd keep them polished all the time and I thought they looked great, really feminine. So when I grew older, I always kept mine about two or three inches long."

But it wasn't until the early 90s when Ayanna met a promoter online who was looking for women to grow their nails to extraordinary lengths and appear in shows and magazines that she decided to extend them even further.

"Nothing came of the work he offered me but I decided to grow them anyway. At first, I had some accidents and cracked a couple as I was getting used to them but overall, it was pretty easy day-to-day.

"I didn't plan on them getting quite this long. It was almost as if I woke up one morning and they'd suddenly grown overnight. But now they're nearly two foot, everyday tasks are a lot trickier. I have to take my time and be careful.

"And I've had to give up my hairdressing salon and I can't do any housework at all – it's a good job I've got five children and 17 grandchildren to help me!"

Ayanna Williams has 23in nails and they can take 20 hours to paint

© Ayanna Williams

It takes up to 20 hours to paint her nails

Not only that, her nails also take a lot of upkeep. She cleans them every day and she spends hours filing and polishing them each fortnight. If she has time, she'll decorate them, which can take up to 20 hours.

"I can't walk down the street without someone stopping me to comment on them, usually to ask if they are fake – they're not! I use acrylic to strengthen them but they're 100 per cent natural.

"I've had lots of compliments from people saying they're art, but some are more negative. I've been told they must be dirty and they wouldn't eat anything I'd serve. I don't care though – I haven't offered to cook for them anyway!

"When children talk to me about them I ask how old they are. If they say nine or 10, I tell them that my nails are double their age. Their faces are priceless."

Ayanna had also grown her toenails, with her longest ones measuring five inches. But she ended up cutting them recently as she could only wear sandals.

"I loved how exotic they looked, although my youngest son said I looked like a reptile!" laughs Ayanna.

Ayanna Williams has 23in nails and spends hours doing her make-up

© Ayanna Williams

Doing her own make-up takes a steady hand

She is now in London for the launch of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! new annual at the store at Piccadilly Circus and has been mobbed by fans.

Ayanna also speaks to other long-taloned ladies online, who hope to start a reality TV show.

Although she admits that her nails are incredibly important to her, she hasn't ruled out cutting them off eventually.

"Who knows how long they will grow – or when I'll get rid of them? But I'd definitely feel weird without them. They've become a huge part of who I am."

Ayanna is in Ripley's Believe It Or Not! 2015: Reality Shock annual, £20, available from bookshops