Jenny Bui, also known as the “Queen of Bling,” revealed some of her more fascinating life stories, including traumatic events during her childhood in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.
Bui was born in Cambodia in the late 1970s to a father who was a cook and a mother who was a soda street vendor. She had eight siblings.
“My childhood was really bad,” Bui told Inside Edition. “I used to see people step on bombs and die in front of me. It’s really bad. Even now, sometimes, I dream about bad things about my childhood.”
Their lives turned upside down after the Khmer Rouge took over when she was only 5 years old.
“I [had] no shelter, nothing. I just lived in the air and [rain]. We don’t have shoe, we don’t have clothes to wear. We don’t have toothbrush and we don’t have nothing to eat,” Bui said.
“One spoon of rice, we eat [between] 30 people. We eat papaya trees. We cut it, we scrub inside and we eat. And [it made] all our mouths and stuff infected.”
She fled to Thailand at the age of eight and was separated from some of her family members. Bui recalled how the Thai government dropped them on a mountain that was covered with bombs that when “you walk, you step wrong spot, you die.”
Bui also recalled how people fought and died for water. She said they had no water to drink at the time and it was so scarce that when someone found water, they would steal it.
“You have to dig a little hole to get a little water to come out,” she said. “You dig, and people just come and [steal] your water and [there would be] fighting. I see seven people fighting in front of me to get the water and they die because the bomb is right there.”
Bui witnessed the death of her younger brother, who was four or five when he died of chickenpox.
“Nobody talks about that because they’re scared,” she said. “People tell me, ‘Oh, over there is so nice,’ but I’m thinking about my life before and I really don’t want to go back.”
Bui then immigrated to Canada as a teenager but moved to the Bronx when she turned 22. At 25, she started studying cosmetology.
She worked on her own nails but they did not look good at first. Her lack of experience left some of Bui’s customers dissatisfied that they would resort to shouting racial slurs at her. Despite the struggle, she pushed on to reach her goals.
“I keep going, because I know I have to feed my kid,” she said. “I had three kid at that time, very hard, work hard, because I’m a single mother, that’s how.”
She became inspired by manicure trends in Japan.
“One of my friends in Japan, she send me one book [and] it’s a lot of bling. And I say, ‘Oh, maybe I should try that, because nobody in United States do that,’” she said. “Since that time until now, Queen of Bling.”
Bui became widely known after reality star Yandy Smith shared about her and encouraged her to post her work on Instagram. She has since amassed over 740,000 followers on the social media platform.
Celebrities such as rapper Cardi B has been going to one of her salons — one in the Bronx and one in Harlem — for years.
“Cardi B, she been [coming] to me for six years,” she said. “[The first time], she dressed like sweatpants, sweatshirt and I asked her, ‘What kind of nail you like?’ She said, ‘I want a lot of bling, and a lot of crazy stuff on my nail.’”