How fingernails icon inspired man to leave his house for first time in 30 years

By Vicki Newman
lee redmond and melvin boothe split image

Record-breaking fingernails icon Lee Redmond once gave a man who hadn’t left his house for 30 years the courage to step outside.

Lee, who tragically died last year, once held the records for longest fingernails on a pair of hands (female) and longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (female).

Lee’s golden talons measured a total length of 8.65 m (28 ft 4.45 in), and her personality was just as dazzling.

After unveiling her record-breaking nails, she became a star, regularly appearing on TV.

And it was one of those appearances that convinced Melvin Boothe to step back out into the world.

Lee and Melvin

Melvin had lost his job and became somewhat of a recluse, staying indoors for decades and inadvertently growing his fingernails longer than anyone before him had.

His incredible story features in an episode of Guinness World Records podcast Behind the Book.

Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday said it was in 2009 when we first heard about Melvin.

“Completely out of the blue, we receive an email with a single intriguing attachment that would change everything,” he teased.

“It’s a photograph that appears to show a man with extensive fingernail growth on both hands.

lee redmond and melvin boothe met shortly before his death

Who is this man who never once appeared on our radar? Who never once appeared on a photograph on social media? - Craig

Craig flew out to Michigan, USA, where Melvin’s nails were measured to have a combined length of 9.85 m (32 ft 3.8 in), making them the longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (male).

Melvin said: “I just got into growing the nails […] it gave me something to do as I got into it.

“You know, like people have a hobby, that’s how I basically started.

“Once I found out how to deal with a crack or a break, you know I didn’t know what was coming next, but that was my start.”

lee redmond and melvin boothe smile as they pose together

Craig said as he looked back on the podcast: “We fly to Michigan and quickly arrange a meeting with Melvin and discover that he’s remained housebound for decades.

“A private and reclusive man, Melvin had previously worked in the automotive industry but had locked himself away after losing his job.

However, inspired by seeing footage of Lee Redmond on TV, Melvin’s wife got in touch and for the first time in 30 years, Melvin stepped out into the sunlight. - Craig

Melvin confessed at the time: “At this point, I feel good for what I’ve accomplished but the mission isn’t over.”

Melvin sadly passed away just a few months after securing his record, which still stands today.

But shortly before he died, Melvin met Lee.

@guinnessworldrecords Longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (male): 32 ft 3.8 in (9.85 m) combined length by Melvin Boothe 🇺🇸 #nails♬ original sound - Guinness World Records

We captured their meeting on camera, with them very carefully shaking hands while expressing their joy at "finally" meeting each other.

Melvin told Lee: “Finally, I see somebody who’s just like me.”

The pair posed for pictures together, which featured in our book.

Lee said: “The picture that they selected with Melvin and myself is totally awesome - he’s my brother.

Again, it isn’t so much the fingernails. I mean, that brought us together from clear across the country but take away the fingernails, we are the same. - Lee

Lee helped Melvin just by being herself.

Craig said: “Lee had always proved the perfect ambassador for Guinness World Records, and she reassured Melvin that his new-found fame, although short-lived, would be an inspiration to others who might be struggling with body issues.

“Lee would often visit schools and teach the importance of celebrating differences, and I know she had a profound effect on Melvin.

“But what Lee didn’t know when she spoke with Melvin, was that her own record-breaking journey was soon to come to an abrupt end.”

That’s because Lee lost her fingernails in a car crash.

Thankfully she wasn’t seriously injured, but her nails didn’t make it through the collision.

Although her status as a record breaker ended there, with someone else taking her titles shortly afterwards, the positive effect she had will live on forever.

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