Blogger has been growing her record-breaking fingernails for four years without cutting them
Most people - whether they realise it or not - have something about their image that makes them appear unique. For some, it might be an unconventional haircut or sense of style; for others, perhaps it's the colour of their eyes or the way they smile. For video blogger Elena Shilenkova, however, it's her nails.
Shilenkova, who is 34 and lives in Russia, started growing out her nails back in 2008 when a friend of hers bet that she wouldn't be able to grow them to 5cm (just under 2 inches) within a year.
“It was really just a joke between me and a close friend,” she explained. “One night we were messing around and he said I wouldn’t be able to do it. I don’t think he realised how stubborn I can be and, a year later, I came back to him and said, ‘You lose!'”
Shilenkova won £2,500 ($3,239!) from the wager, but - more than that - she also realised how much she enjoyed having long nails. So, in 2014, she started growing them even longer... and never stopped.
“My nails are my identity card," Shilenkova said, adding that she refers to them as her "babies".
As much as she enjoys having such long talons, though, the blogger admitted that she has had to change a lot of things about her lifestyle in order to maintain them.
"I love playing tennis but I really can’t run the risk of tripping over and having to break my fall with my hands," she said.
“I also don’t really go abroad anymore because the only thing I like doing on holiday is swimming in the sea. I can’t swim because the risk of snapping a nail is too high so I don’t go on holiday in case I’m tempted to get in the sea.”
She went on:
“It’s a hard job growing your nails out. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment looking after something that is so fragile.
“I am constantly wary of breaking them and looking after them can be a full-time job.
“Even when I’m sleeping, subconsciously, my mind is worrying about them – that’s why I call them my babies because I have to take care of them.”
What's more, even the most basic everyday tasks such as holding cutlery or getting dressed have proven to be tricky;
“Picking up bank cards is probably the most annoying thing,” she said. “I can do it with time and a lot of concentration but, usually, when I’m in a shop I ask people to help me taking coins or cards out of my purse.”
Plus, she often gets a lot of strange looks or negative comments from passersby.
“It tends to come from older, more traditional women,” said Shilenkova. “They call my nails ugly, say they look like a witch’s and that they’re spooky. It irritates me because they don’t realise how much patience and dedication it has taken for me to grow them.”
Her dedication has paid off in some ways, however, as this year she made it into the 2018 Russian book of national records.
“Sometimes, when life is hard and I’m feeling down, I look at my lovely nails and realise that they show that I’m a patient and single-minded person,” she said. “And that makes it worth all the trouble.”
So, while her long nails might not be everybody's cup of tea, they certainly seem to make Shilenkova happy.