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Who Will Be Named NAILS Next Top Nail Artist?

The fourth season of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist once again brings together three international competitors to meet for the first time at America’s Beauty Show in Chicago. All three arrive as finalists, but only one can leave as the Season Four champion. 

The fourth season of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist once again brings together three international competitors to meet for the first time at America’s Beauty Show in Chicago. All three arrive as finalists, but only one can leave as the Season Four champion. 

NTNA Season Three winner Winnie Huang set the bar high for international nail art competitors. Since being named the number-one nail artist to watch, Huang has enjoyed a trip to New York Fashion Week, stateside nail shows, and served as NAILS’ first guest editor. Season Four competitors Jonny Diep Pham of Sydney, Liina Leino of Helsinki, and Tracey Lee of Eindhoven, Netherlands, will go head to head to see who will earn the title next.

The Top 3 began their journey to Chicago in the summer of 2016 when they competed for a slot in the Top 24. After two pre-challenge rounds, the real fun began in September when the Top 12 began completing weekly challenges. They battled it out through underside art, wearable nails, Halloween, and even an avant-garde acrylic challenge. In the end, Jonny Pham and Tracey Lee were left standing. Artist Liina Leino endured CND’s Last Chance Design Lab to secure the last spot in the finale.

All that remains between these international competitors and the grand prize is the grueling final challenge sponsored by CND. Inspired by the Met Museum’s Manus x Machina exhibit, the Top 3 were asked to put their talents to the test and create nails from both handmade and machine-made materials. These five finale sets serve as the ultimate test, helping fans and judges alike determine who will be named NAILS Next Top Nail Artist. Read on to learn more about our Top 3 contenders.

The Nailympian: Jonny Diep Pham
@jonnydieppham
It’s been three long years since we’ve had a male competitor in the Top 3. Australian Jonny Diep Pham is one of NTNA’s veteran nail competitors, having won Nailympia Australia. He won three of the weekly challenges this season. While he has a distinct skillset including gradient work, he has also proved that he can mix things up and surprise the judges. With an ever-growing social media following, we welcome Jonny and his loyal fan base to the Top 3 and to Stateside nail fame.

Challenge 10
<p>Challenge 10</p>

Challenge 3
<p>Challenge 3</p>

Pre-Challenge 1
<p>Pre-Challenge 1</p>

How does it feel to make the Top 3?
Jonny: Initially, I was numb. I had to check and double check as I remember it was 3:43 a.m. Sydney time when the results came in. Then, I felt overwhelmed. As the day went on (I couldn’t sleep and was so excited at work that day), I actually started to cry. I felt so humbled. Nothing can quite prepare you for that. Then to see Tracey and Liina make it…I was so happy for them also. 

What’s been your favorite NTNA challenge so far? Least favorite? 
Jonny: It’s difficult to choose a favorite NTNA challenge because each and every single challenge has pushed me to my limits, but if I had to choose, it would have to be the Avant Garde challenge, as it was that one that got me to the finale, closely followed by Timeless Treasure as that was my first win in the competition. As for my least favorite, I honestly didn’t have one. I enjoyed all of them for different reasons, whether it be to take me out of my creative box, to push the creative juices, or to just see what I could come up with. 

What do you think is the greatest strength of each of your two final competitors?
Jonny:  Liina is a natural at making videos. I love watching her creativity in every challenge because she is always so entertaining, fun, and her personality just shines. She shows amazing new ideas and is the most likely to take risks. Tracey’s photography and editing skills are insane, and her hand poses are awesome.  She has lots of techniques up her sleeve, and her creativity is endless. Her videos make me laugh too!   

What has it been like being in the Top 12?
Jonny: It has been an amazing journey with many emotional moments. It is such a privilege to be competing alongside so many talented fellow nail techs. I have learned a lot throughout the competition and it has been an honor to be in the Top 12 sharing my creativity with everyone. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

What has been your best NTNA moment so far?
Jonny: Making it to the Top 24 was one of the highlights. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I read the email from Beth! Then to have won my first challenge was just crazy because it was my birthday week, so it was a lovely present. Making it to the grand finale with Tracey and Liina was just the icing on the cake. I never imagined something like this would happen to me.

Who have been your biggest supporters?
Jonny: My mum, my family, and my friends have been there for me every step of the way. I’ve been so fortunate to have my clients and fellow nail techs worldwide support me through the entire NTNA journey. I am very honored and forever grateful to have so many people behind me and supporting me. Honestly, there are too many to be specific and to name, but you know who you are.

What’s your advice to future NTNA competitors? 
Jonny: Don’t be afraid to apply for NTNA, because it is so much fun and you never know what you are capable of creating until you enter. Once you’ve entered, and the excitement is there for your challenges, be organized, dedicated, and take risks — but importantly, don’t forget to have fun.  It is a competition, but I always find that you enjoy an experience more when you have a smile on your face.

Finish this sentence: “If I win NAILS Next Top Nail Artist...” 
Jonny: After picking myself up off the floor, I will take the honor of winning this prestigious competition as the highlight of my career.  For someone like myself who has grown up through a lot of turmoil, this would show everyone that anything is possible. All you need to do is believe in yourself.   

The Fun Finn: Liina Leino
@kohokukkia
NTNA is full of characters, and Finland’s first representative in the competition is one of them. Not only did Liina’s personality absolutely stand out in every single video she created, but her fresh and clean take on art is unmistakable. This young tech is playful, social savvy, and set the bar high by winning the very first challenge. If ever there was an artist to keep your eye on, it’s this Finnish firecracker.

Final Last Chance Challenge
<p>Final Last Chance Challenge</p>

Challenge 1
<p>Challenge 1</p>

Challenge 4
<p>Challenge 4</p>

Challenge 4 (backside)
<p>Challenge 4 (backside)</p>

How does it feel to make the Top 3?
Liina: I still haven’t internalized it. My biggest idols in our industry have been in the Top 3. I feel like I have worked so hard for the competition that I have forgotten about my achievement. I am very pleased and honored.

What’s been your favorite NTNA challenge so far?
Liina: My favorite challenge was the Last Chance Design Lab. I love the outcome of the set. I felt like I was creating something special when I was working on it.

What do you think is the greatest strength of each of your two final competitors?
Liina: Jonny is extremely talented when it comes to 3-D assignments and coloring. Tracey’s strength is in the shaping of the nails. They both have their personal style.

What has it been like being in the Top 12?
Liina: It’s been the most stressful time of my life. I have balanced weekly competitions, work, family, friends, and my social media. One moment you are filled with rage and the other moment you cry with joy. I wouldn’t change a thing. This competition has taught me more than anything.

What has been your best NTNA moment so far?
Liina: My friends talking on the phone with me to keep me awake through the night until 4 a.m. I felt loved.

Who have been your biggest supporters?
Liina: My partner who has been a single parent for our daughter for almost half a year; my friend Henry who has been my shoulder to cry on; my followers, who have sent me so much love that I cannot handle it.

What’s your advice to future NTNA competitors?
Liina: Have no expectations, you really do not know anything about the competition until you participate.

Finish this sentence: “If I win NAILS Next Top Nail Artist...”
Liina: Nothing will change, I will still be the same old idiotic me. I don’t compete to win, I compete to learn.

The Teacher: Tracey Lee
@traceyleenails
Editorial hand poses have become a calling card for Netherlands-based competitor Tracey Lee. Not only can Tracey create out-of-the box videos and nail art, she also travels throughout Europe attending shows and teaching techniques. A former competitor and judge, it’s no wonder Tracey’s talents won her the most challenges this season (four, to be exact).

Challenge 4
<p>Challenge 4</p>

Challenge 5
<p>Challenge 5</p>

Final Challenge Part 1
<p>Final Challenge Part 1</p>

How does it feel to make the Top 3?
Tracey: In a word, “surreal.” I have been watching the NTNA competition over the past couple of years and finally built up the courage to participate. Each step of the way I kept saying to myself, “If I could just make it into the Top 24,” “If I could just make it into the Top 12”… I was gently pushing the expectations of myself at each step. When looking back to the announcement of the Top 24, I could never imagine that I could to make it into the Top 3. There is just so much passion and talent in this competition.

What’s been your favorite NTNA challenge so far?
Tracey: Each and every challenge had something exciting to offer. If I have to narrow it down to one it would be the final one from CND. I am loving the fact that we need to combine handmade and machine-made processes in our high-fashion nail art. This has really taken me right out of my comfort zone, allowing me to develop as an artist and experiment even more.

What do you think is the greatest strength of each of your two final competitors?
Tracey: I don’t believe it comes down to one particular strength that makes Jonny and Liina exceptional, it’s a combination of factors. Jonny’s work is always meticulous and gorgeously executed. Liina can blow me away with her “out-of-the-box” creations and has a phenomenal video and social media presence.

What has it been like being in the Top 12?
Tracey: Being in the Top 12 has been a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Like any journey there are hills and valleys, however when you finally get to your destination, it is all worthwhile.

What has been your best NTNA moment so far?
Tracey: If I had to choose an absolute best it was the challenge from Akzentz — Decade Decadence. The challenge took me back to my roots and also gave me an opportunity to share a small part of the South African history with my fellow nail artists through my eyes.

Who have been your biggest supporters?
Tracey: My dad and my father-in-law have become global nail experts along this journey and share their honest opinion in detail with me and anyone else they come into contact with. I could never have done this without the support of my husband Maurice and my children Cameron and Jordan. Going into this competition is also partly about making sacrifices and if you don’t have an amazing, understanding, loving support system behind you, it will be an even tougher journey. My entire family in Holland and South Africa, close friends, colleagues, and even some new friends established through this competition have continued to support me in this journey and have kept me motivated to improve and inspire at each step and for that I am ever grateful. Beth Livesay has been a huge support to all of us in the background too, as well as the other competitors.

What’s your advice to future NTNA competitors?
Tracey: It doesn’t matter what stage you are in in your nail career or what you have done or haven’t done, this is a competition that is going to allow you to grow and challenge yourself at every corner. When entering this competition remember one thing: “Look in the mirror, that is your competition.”

Finish this sentence: “If I win NAILS Next Top Nail Artist...”
Tracey: I will embrace the opportunity to share the experience of this competition with others to continue to encourage them to push their limits and never stop learning. We are in a very dynamic industry, change is at every corner and we as nail artists need to keep abreast of these changes and develop our skills to meet that change.

Catch up on the competition at ntna.nailsmag.com 

See the Top 3 live at ABS Chicago! Go to NAILS’ booth to meet the artists.
Celebrate with them and NAILS Magazine at the ROOF Restaurant at theWit Chicago on March 25. Can’t make it? Watch the ceremony live at facebook.com/nailsmag.

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