Moonlighting Manicurist Finds Bright Lights, Big Money

Laurie Tedesco, who manicures the hands of television, film, and beauty magazine models and celebrities, has discovered there’s no business like show business.

The next time you leaf through Mademoiselle or Cosmopolitan, it just might to Laurie Tedesco’s nail artistry you see on a model’s prominently displayed hands. As owner of Les Mains Jolies in Greenwich, Conn, Tedesco has her hands full doing nails in the salon as well as at magazine photo shoots and sound stages for television commercials.

Doing the nails on a model for a Cream of Wheat commercial launched Tedesco into the world of show biz nails. A client of Tedesco’s informed her that the film company for the ad was looking for a nail technician for a close up hand shot. Tedesco landed the job, and little did she know that this was only the beginning of a prosperous supplementary career.

Tedesco’s next lucky break came when Glenn Close walked into her salon one day to get her nails done for the movie Fatal Attraction Tedesco’s salon was chosen because it was close to where the film was being shot. Close liked Tedesco’s work and suggested she talk to Close’s hairstylist and makeup artist about doing more movie work. When Tedesco called, she was given a list of agents and the name of a makeup artist. She then called agent after agent, but they all told her she needed to get tearsheets from magazines before they would see her. (Tearsheets are sheets pulled from a magazine showing your published work.)

As a last-ditch effort. Tedesco called the makeup artist, who happened to own a salon, and they worked out a deal. Tedesco would work at the salon owner, who was friends with many beauty editors, would help get Tedesco work. They put together a trend release with a picture of an airbrushed French manicure and sent it out to beauty magazines. Mademoiselle called and wanted to use their work. Next, Tedesco went to Seventeen magazine with her one tearsheet. They liked what they saw and hired her, again, and again. Later, armed with the many tearsheets she had accumulated from seventeen, Tedesco set asked a number of beauty editors who they recommended, and once she got an agent, things really began to happen. Her agent got her commercials for Band-Aid and Always Maxi-Pads and magazine work for Women’s Day, Women’s World, and Working Woman, just to name a few.

Working for the beauty magazines, Tedesco met a number of assistant to the beauty editor who went on to become beauty editors themselves at other magazines, and Tedesco soon developed a wide network of contacts. When Tedesco is hired for magazine work, the editors usually have already written the story. Sometimes, though, they ask for her input, and she has actually learned a thing or two, such as putting the model’s fingertips in a grapefruit to whiten the back of the nail. “It really works” says Tedesco.

Working with the models is enjoyable, Tedesco says. “They’re very gracious because there isn’t always a manicurist on the set. Their hairdo and makeup will only last a few hours, but the manicure will last for two weeks,” she notes.

Hand models, on the other hand, are more difficult to work with because their hands are so important, according to Tedesco. “They’re very particular and pay close attention to detail. They’re hesitant at first, and they ask a lot of questions.”

On top of having to do a grade A nail job, Tedesco had to learn to deal with the pressure of working on a fast-paced photo shoot. Since the adage “time is money” is especially true in the ad industry, she has to churn out a perfect set of nails as quickly as possible.

“I’ve learned how to judge how long it’s going to take and, if necessary, I’ll take shortcuts since the nails only need to last during the shoot. If I know I have a lot of work to do, I will ask if I can work on the model’s nails while she is getting her hair and makeup done.”

When she first got into this line of the nail business, the makeup artists and hairstylists were pri-madonnas, Tedesco says, and would say they couldn’t work around her. “But now it’s different and we all work together,” she happily notes.

There is now more respect for nail technicians among hairstylists and makeup artists because the nail industry has grown so much, says Tedesco. She has noticed a raised consciousness about nails and beauty magazines as well. Instead of the emphasis on makeup and hair, there is now more emphasis on the total look, which includes nails, she says. “When I first started working for magazines, a lot of my work was cropped out of the picture because the editorial didn’t focus on nails. But even if the nails weren’t shown, I always got paid.”

Tedesco makes more money in one day at magazine shoot than she does seeing clients all day in the salon. And now that her work is so well-known among beauty editors, she seldom has to solicit magazines, they contact her. Fortunately for Tedesco, many beauty magazines are based in New York, so she doesn’t have to travel very far for photos shoots.

For nail technicians interested in this line of work, Tedesco recommends they contact modeling agencies and possibly render services for free, just to get started. Though there is a lot more respect now for nail technicians, Tedesco says nails are still considered a lower priority than makeup and hair in beauty magazines. But if you have the drive and determination, Tedesco hails this advice. “Go for it and don’t ever give up!”

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