The Idle American: Nailing Down a Record

Ayanna Williams…world record holder prepares to lose record-length nails

Her fingernails measured over 24 feet, an average of 2.4 feet of nail length for all of Ayanna Williams’s fingers and thumbs.  

  “I’m gonna snatch you baldheaded” was an idle threat made by my saintly mother throughout my youth and beyond. She never did such snatching literally, but this was her expression of choice when she was truly ticked off.

Had she ever made good on the threat, such snatching to remove hair from the head of a poor soul would have stretched into multiple days and perhaps weeks. Even then, there might have been a few strands left.

This memory flashed across my mind recently when I read about a Guinness World Record holder who forfeited her crown for having the longest fingernails of any woman on earth before they were dermatologically removed recently in Fort Worth.  They measured just over 24 feet; yep, the average 2.4 feet of nail length for all of Ayanna Williams’s fingers and thumbs. Wow, if she had chosen to snatch others baldheaded, she could have taken on a half-dozen folks at a time….


   Albert Einstein got it right when he suggested that mortals are fools, at least many of us most of the time. We are suckers for foolish involvement, and if there are records for such, so be it.

The record was Ayanna’s for the taking, albeit it took a while to accomplish. The all-time record-holder had more than 28 feet of nails, but an automobile accident in 2017 took her nails, so the crown became immediately available.

That’s where Ayanna came in. She hadn’t trimmed her nails since 1991, so she had a head start on others who may have wanted the crown…..



Don Newbury

When nails are headed for a Guinness World Record, I suppose, it would likely be best to engage a dermatologist. That’s what Ayanna did, perhaps after first getting estimates, which certainly I would have done.

The nails have been growing since 1991. That’s more than 29 years of “being careful,” and virtually unable to open doors, or, for that matter, to scratch her head. Washing dishes and making beds also were out of the question.

It doesn’t take a whole bunch of thinking to consider the difficulty of facing routine daily tasks. Many might be improbable to tackle, and in some cases, impossible. Whatever, she’s eager to see her nails on display at the Orlando, Florida, museum….


   She hopes her dedication to growing the nails–which required four bottles of nail polish and several days to apply–will help her children and grandchildren realize they can accomplish pretty much what they set out to do.

Ayanna admits that nails “don’t make me. I make my nails.”

While she plans to grow long nails again, it won’t be to record lengths. After all, at age 62, she has spent almost half of her life growing her nails to record lengths to claim her crown….


   Could there be any upside to growing nails so long?

I can’t think of any, except perhaps for making the Guinness Book of Records.

In bygone years, there might have been circus opportunities, but, even then, there’d have been expectations of other performers to help with multiple tasks. No, I don’t think two-foot nails would have ever been desirable for circuses….


   Switching topics, Stan Owen, 84-year-old retired educator/coach in Burkburnett, was tickled to see the Baylor Bears “put the whomp” on Gonzaga for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

A three-sport star at Howard Payne University, he was NOT a BU fan on Dec. 1, 1955. That’s when the 18-year-old freshman hit a “nothing-but-net” 30-footer at the buzzer to give his Yellow Jackets a 51-49 win in the season opener for both teams at Heart O’ Texas Coliseum, the Bears’ basketball arena until the Ferrell Center opened in 1988.

Owen started in every game during his four college years, and the 1959 graduate also played baseball and ran track. The unlikely win was “ballyhooed” in college basketball discussions, but was muffled somewhat, since the Bears’ coach, the late Bill Henderson, was a 1925 graduate of HPU….


Dr. Newbury is a long-time public speaker and university president who writes weekly. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.

Don Newbury is the author of his humorous and inspirational memoir When The Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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