The Sad Reason This Guinness Record Holder Grew Her Nails Out For Over 20 Years

The best. The stupidest. The coolest. People use superlatives like these to make hyperbolic statements all the time. For instance, "OMG he was, like, the stupidest person ever" might just mean, "I didn't like him." "No seriously, it's the best coffee in the world" probably means, "You would like the coffee." Statements like those are expressions of emotion more than expressions of reality. That is, unless we're talking about Guinness World Records, the one quantifiable compendium of superlatives that's been going strong since 1955. 

Guinness World Records might have long surpassed "the fastest car" and careened into increasingly weird, quirky, and niche territory like "fastest time to put six eggs in egg cups using the feet whilst in a contortion chest stand" (yes, for real), but sometimes they can still be legitimately fascinating and even heartbreaking. Take Diana Armstrong, for instance, the 2023 world record breaker for "longest fingernails on a pair of hands (female) and the longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (female)." Armstrong's ten fingernails, in total, measured 42 feet, 10.4 inches when they were gauged on March 13, 2022, as Guinness World Records says. Armstrong stopped cutting her nails in 1997, but not to win a competition 25 years down the line. Rather, she stopped growing her nails after her 16-year-old daughter Latisha died in her sleep from an asthma attack. Latisha is the one who did her mother's nails, and after Latisha's death, Armstrong couldn't bring herself to cut them again. 

A living memorial

As Guinness World Records recounts, Diana Armstrong's nail growing began the day her older daughter Latisha died. Armstrong calls that day "the worst day of my life." Her younger daughter Rania called her while she was "at the store," saying, "Ma, Tisha won't wake up." By the time Armstrong got home, her daughter was dead.  

Armstrong says that Latisha was her regular nail trimmer, filer, and polisher. By all accounts her and her daughter used the time to bond, and the night before Latisha died the two of them "was up all night." After Latisha died, Armstrong simply refused to cut her nails. She also didn't tell her other children about her decision. Her kids would tell her, "Ma, you need to cut your nails," and Armstrong would just reply, "Mind your business."

Eventually, Armstrong did confide in her children, who, as she says in her Guinness YouTube story, said, "Why didn't you tell us that?" Her daughter Rania said, "When she told us the backstory because of my sister, it kind of changed my feelings toward it because just as much as she missed my sister, I missed her, too." Rania says that she accepts her mother's decision to continue growing her nails as a way to hold on to Latisha. "Every time I look at my nails I think of my daughter," Guinness quotes Armstrong. "I think she's my guardian angel."

Everyday difficulties and lasting memories

Diana Armstrong's new Guinness World Record blows the previous record — Ayanna Williams' 24 feet, 0.7 inches — out of the water. As USA Today recounts, Williams often fielded questions about everyday life, like whether she can drive or how she goes to the bathroom. To the latter she replied, "Put your money where your mouth is and don't say I am nasty when I show you." Despite Armstrong receiving a lot of attention for the reason behind her nail growth, she also clarified a couple everyday issues on Guinness World Records. She can't use zippers, for instance, and uses her feet to open the refrigerator or pick things up off the floor. She also can't drive and receives a lot of attention in public. Over time, it's also gotten more difficult for her to conduct herself on a daily basis.

And yet, Armstrong shows no indication of intending to cut her nails anytime soon. She says on Guinness World Records that her lost daughter Leticia "would be proud of me because she's the last one who did my nails." In selfsame fashion, Armstrong's family continues to help her with her nails, which she only paints once every four or five years. Rania, Armstrong's older daughter, said, "It started off with my two nieces, and then once I ended up having my daughter and she got to a certain age, she just kind of joined the crowd because she loved playing with fingernail polish."