Extremely fancy footwork: ‘Pedicure Prince’ Bryant Arthur sees feet as calling from God

Bryant Arthur, the 'Pedicure Prince,' works on a client's feet at the Ritz Carlton's Salon in Naples recently. The one time U.S. Army special operations soldier and maximum security corrections officer was called by God to serve people's needs.

Photo by ERIK KELLAR // Buy this photo

Bryant Arthur, the "Pedicure Prince," works on a client's feet at the Ritz Carlton's Salon in Naples recently. The one time U.S. Army special operations soldier and maximum security corrections officer was called by God to serve people's needs.

You may be ready for a pedicure after Tuesday. It’s International Children’s Day, and a campaign is mounting to observe the occasion by going without shoes.

A 13-year-old boy, Bilaal Rajan, of Toronto, Canada, began the barefoot day last year, in an initiative of living life without shoes to raise awareness about child poverty in the developing world.

“I’ve visited countries in Africa and met with hundreds of children who walk miles every day barefoot to fetch water, work on their farm lands, or go to school,” says Rajan, who is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. “It made me think of what life would be like to live without something we take for granted.”

To learn more about the Barefoot Challenge, see this website: www.makingchangenow.

The Ritz-Carlton Naples

280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, FL

— When Bryant Arthur looks at the beautiful beaches that have made Southwest Florida so famous, he doesn’t see suntans or seashells.

He sees shoes. Sandals, actually.

More specifically, he sees pretty, candy-colored toenails peeking out of those sandals. It’s why he relocated to Naples from Dallas in March and took a position as the salon supervisor at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Pedicures aren’t just his business – they’re his calling. And he believes there’s nowhere like Naples to soak, shape and smooth.

“Look at that beach out there,” Arthur, 38, says. “The more pedicures, the better.”

Arthur’s pedicure passion is so profound it may be difficult to imagine a time when he existed without it. But prior to pedicures, Arthur’s life was significantly different. He served in the United States military for six years – he was with Special Operations – and after leaving the service, he became an officer with the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

The facility where he worked was a maximum-security prison, and Arthur was assigned to prisoners on lockdown 23 hours a day.

For anyone, this would be a job where it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to occasionally make appeals to God. But for Arthur, who is deeply spiritual, talking to God was an everyday occurrence. One day, Arthur asked God the question that would change his existence.

“I said, God, what do you want me to do,” Arthur recalls. “I was on lunch break, and He said, ‘I want you do to feet.’”

It’s important to make this point clear. Arthur doesn’t “believe” or “feel” he heard God. As surely as a new pedicure is the ideal incentive to go shopping for slingbacks, Arthur says he absolutely, positively heard God’s voice. He will gently correct you if you suggest otherwise.

“I didn’t hear a voice,” he says. “I heard The Voice.”

There was only one, major problem with this plan.

“I thought feet were disgusting,” Arthur admits.

Ah, well. God has notoriously mysterious ways, and wasn’t letting go of Arthur that easily. The pedicure prophecy nagged at Arthur until he finally relented and enrolled in nail school.

“When I applied, the lady laughed at me,” he recalls. “She never saw a guy my size doing nails.”

It wouldn’t be the last time Arthur’s imposing physical stature created career confusion. Just recently, a Ritz-Carlton guest asked him what was amiss in the salon. She thought Arthur was a security guard.

Arthur, for the record, is 5 foot, 10 inches. When he was a corrections officer, he weighed 255 pounds; now, he has slimmed down to about 224. After all, a proper pedicure is a tremendous workout, he explains.

It’s a workout he loves, however.

“Pedicures to me are like coffee in the morning,” he says. “I have to give someone a pedicure to get my day started.”

So what happened? Between feet-are-foul and pedicures-are-peachy, what happened? Once nail school was underway, Arthur says his feelings immediately altered. It was like “something opened up inside me,” he says.

“It seemed like I fell in love instantly with pedicures,” he says.

That’s just about the best thing that could have happened, not only for Arthur, but for anyone in need of a little buff and polish. Around the Ritz, Arthur is known as the “Pedicure Prince.” That isn’t a clever bit of corporate marketing, either: He gives his clients the royal treatment, complete with flawless filing, soothing massage and effortless, error-proof polish.

He also sings. The song varies and is inspired by the client’s feet, he explains. Although Arthur credits his abilities to divine inspiration, there’s no doubt he did plenty of good, old-fashioned industry research, too. After he graduated from nail school, he went to work in a North Carolina salon. There, his abilities – and his pleasant, quirky charm – landed him on the local television news three times.

He also received plenty of pedicures, too. What he discovered was that “no one pampered, no one genuinely cared about your feet,” he recalls with surprise.

The same can’t be said about Arthur. Although he is also a manicurist, he has made it his mission to perform the perfect pedicure, treatments that make a client feel nurtured, comforted and confident. Pedicures, in his opinion, are to be considered a form of physical therapy.

“Your feet are very important,” he says. “I can’t stress that enough.”

For many clients, especially women, pedicures are a kind of emotional outlet, too.

“This is a therapy session for some of them,” he says.

If that’s true, it seems like a steal at $85 for 50 minutes. The Ritz’s salon is open to the public; appointments are made by calling the luxury hotel at 514-6100.

Ritz spa member Barbara Burris has become a client of Arthur’s since he arrived at the salon. She’s a longtime pedicure devotee, and no stranger to trying new treatments or practitioners. But she considers Arthur exceptional, worthy of a spot on a pedicure pedestal.

“I’ve never experienced anything like his pedicures,” she says.

Burris describes him as having a natural gift, but also credits him for constantly striving to develop it. The result is pedicures that have an “amazing grace and kind of rhythm,” she says. Then there’s Arthur, whom she calls “a very special person that makes you feel very special.”

“He likes giving,” she says.

Michelle Kelthy, the Ritz’s spa director, praises Arthur for his pedicures, especially for the strength and finesse of his massage abilities. There is just something special about him, she explains, a quality that causes clients to rave. She is quite proud to have him at the Naples Ritz – and a bit proud to have successfully spirited him away from his job at the Dallas Ritz-Carlton, too.

“I poached him,” she says, smiling conspiratorially.

Arthur, for his part, is pleased to be poached. He doesn’t know how many pedicures he gives in a day — “not enough” is all he can estimate — and intends to use his role at the Naples Ritz to share his skills with the salon’s other nail technicians and to introduce new, toe-tingling treatments.

And on Sundays, he’ll do as he always does: Give a pedicure to his girlfriend, Evelyn. Unless they’re on vacation. Then he’ll give her a pedicure every day.

“I love it so much you know,” Arthur says. “I want her to look beautiful.”

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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