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7 Celebrity Nail Artists On The Future Of Nail Art

Beauty
Nails pictured: @nailsbymei and @britneytokyo.

“Make no mistake nail art culture is here to stay”

I didn’t grow up getting acrylic refills or nail embellishments, but I know plenty of women who did. The act of going to the salon to get, as T.I. would put it, their “nails done, hair done, everything did,” was a regular ritual for many women in my life, each weekend resulting in nails longer than last time, and a style pointier and more flashy than ever before. Back then, though, nail art was niche—today, it’s a movement.

The shift happened a couple of years back. Instagram had a big part in its rise (as with most “trends”), but so did celebrities like Cardi B and—though we hate to give them credit—the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Television shows like Claws also helped amplify loud nails. People previously uninterested in the state of their cuticles made nails a priority rather than an afterthought. Even I, a person who can count on one hand the number of times they’ve experimented with their nail look, found myself adding designs to a collection I’ve since named “cute nail styles I like, but will probably never get.” Suddenly, it seemed, nude nails were out, and crystal FloJo-esque nails were in.

In response to the shift, we asked some of the most in-demand nail artists—hailing from Tokyo to Brooklyn—about the work they’re doing. Ahead, read up on how they got their start, their favorite trends, and what they think the future of nails will look like.


Honey Nailz
Clients: Maybelline, L'Oréal, and Vogue Italia

How did you get your start in the industry?
I taught myself. When I got my nails done, I just watched how the nail technicians did it. My big break happened when I was working at a salon in the East Village, and someone I knew through the salon knew the photographer Steven Klein. He needed a nail tech for a Dsquared2 campaign shoot, and I did it... and the rest is history.

What about nail art intrigues you?
Nail art got its start in Brooklyn where I grew up and still live today. I used to do the nails for the women in my family right before the Labor Day Parade (or West Indian Carnival) in Crown Heights. Everyone would wear these elaborate costumes, and I’d dress up the nails with sequins, stones, feathers, and paint to match the costumes. That’s how I first became interested in nail art. And when I got my nails done for the first time at the young, tender age of 13, I realized that I could do it myself.

What’s your favorite part about nail art culture?
How everything that was “in” back then is coming back now. What’s old is new again; for example, the use of wire or magnets. I love how you can use any type of medium in nail art—paint, acrylic paint, nail polish, paper, alcohol inks. Just about anything from the arts and crafts store can be used on nails if you’re creative.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes to me when I pick up the brush, nothing is planned out. You show me a color and I’ll figure it out. I almost never create nails in advance prior to going on set.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
The possibilities in nail art are endless. You can take it to wherever you want to take it. Nail art isn’t going away, it’s here to stay. People will always want a line, a sparkle—a little something extra.

Mei Kawajiri
Clients: Gigi and Bella Hadid, Ariana Grande

How did you get your start in the industry?
When I was 19 years old, I start working at a nail salon in Japan, and at 23 years old, I started my own salon in Tokyo called FOXXY.

What about nail art intrigues you?
Nails are the best accessory that I can always have on myself. It’s a part of my body. I can’t live with naked nails.

What’s your favorite part about nail art culture?
It's getting more creative and insane. A lot are based on Japanese ‘00s style, which I grew up with. Now, I’m inspired by the old time Japanese culture and I add new spice for 2018.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
Always what I have on me. Right now, it’s been very fun to coordinate nail color with clothing color and hair color. Otherwise, I love 3-D nails; those are very dramatic and always surprise people.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
Right now, jelly nails, square shape, neon. A new trend for nails: SUPER-LONG in length and crazy decorations. I am obsessed!

Elle Gerstein
Clients: Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez

How did you get your start in the industry?
My father manufactured the raw product for many nail products, and I loved how I felt when I had my nails done at such a young age. I was grandfathered my license in 1992 and had over 80 clients weekly. I used to work the International beauty show when I met Oribe’s team. I used to visit his salon and I used to do Rita Hazan’s nails in exchange for my hair color. Then, I was introduced to Jennifer Lopez in 1998 through Rita and Oribe because of my work, and that is how I was brought into the freelance fashion and beauty industry. I still work with her 20 years later!

What about nail art intrigues you?
The expression of yourself is why I love nail art. Creative and fun, it adds character and detail. I love a story told through taste!

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! Fashion, art, prints, photography, and style.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
Meticulous crystal placements, nail shapes, and colors that are not typical, such as mustard yellows like LeChat Dare To Wear Golden Boy-Friend and rich greens like LeChat Dare To Wear Dark Forest. Delicate nail art like the Russian culture is doing. Nail art tells a story, it’s not thrown on nails just because!

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
I love seeing companies like LeChat Nails that are catering to the pros and the masses by making trends accessible to all. Again, I think trends are personal styles that aren’t limited but are individual.

Jenny Bui
Clients: Cardi B 

How did you get your start in the industry?
I went to cosmetology school for hair, but then I found that nails were more interesting than hair so I switched.

What’s your favorite part about nail art culture?
It’s a type of fashion for your hands, like jewelry.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
Bling nails! I’ve recently created some fun bling nails with LeChat Dare To Wear Metallux Unicorn Tears that has a multi-tone metallic effect for extra shimmer. With bling on top, these nails really sparkle.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
They will incorporate more technology.

Britney Tokyo
Clients: Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Hailey Baldwin

How did you get your start in the industry?
By doing my own nails. I would post my nail art on my Instagram and, eventually, a few people contacted me. Before long, I was getting contacted by celebrities. Now, here I am. Social media changed my life.

What about nail art intrigues you?
When I was a kid in elementary school, I would draw on my nails during class. I didn't have a canvas for my drawings except for my nails, so that's where I would draw. At the time, I had no idea that was considered "nail art."

What’s your favorite part about nail art culture?
Nail art, to me, is similar to fashion. For example, if you get a tattoo, it's basically with you for life. There's no changing that tattoo based on how you feel. With fashion, you can change your look based on how you feel. Nail art is similar in that you can change your nails based on how you feel at the time.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
I'm currently really into clear coffin round shaped nails. I really like polka dots, too.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
I think men's nail art is the future, if not already the present. Half of my customers are currently male, and not just cuticle care customers. They are doing nail art!


Morgan Dixon
Clients: Key nail stylist on Claws

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was just a broke college student who went to nail school for a flexible schedule and a way to keep my creative hands busy.

What about nail art intrigued you?
Looking at nails made me happy, and art is supposed to make you happy. I love that anyone can experience that happiness by simply looking down at your nails.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
From random places. Random meaning a pattern I see someone wearing, the way colors in the French quarter sit next to one another, or an idea of shapes and patterns meshing together. Inspiration is everywhere.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
I love ridiculously long and obnoxious nails. I’ve always been into kawaii nails. You can’t miss them, you can’t look away, you get into a trance and try to notice every detail. I love the textures, patterns, depth, glitter, color combos. They’re just fun.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
In a direction in which it will be recognized as a true value in the world. Like other movements in previous times in history, art is recognized on a higher scale, and I’m a firm believer it will be mentioned in books in the years to come. There is a movement going on, and it’s seen not only to one demographic or social class, and that is something to pay attention to.

Gina Edwards
Clients: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tiffany Haddish

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was working for an on-location spa company, and I manicured a woman in PR. She loved her mani and gave me a number for a celebrity manicurist who was looking for an assistant to do set work.

What about nail art intrigued you?
I love the diversity of nail art, which allows you to express yourself on a small canvas.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
What I love about nail culture is the reflection of one's personality. You can take any small element from a stone to fabric and design a nail look.

What are some of your favorite designs/trends?
Jelly nails and futuristic metallics.

Where do you see the future of nail art heading?
I see nail art branching out into full art exhibitions and becoming more of an art form as opposed to a trend. Make no mistake nail art culture is here to stay.