Tucked into the corners of dark ballrooms at nail shows, some of the best nail technicians in the world compete against one another, sculpting dazzling nail art designs and perfectly precise C-curves. But what is it like to be a competitor? NAILS takes a quick look at the competition schedule of one veteran and one novice competitor at ISSE Long Beach this past January.
Oung: Well, as it turned out, I had decided to be my own hand model for this competition, which is not typical and not something I’d recommend or do again — you live and learn right?
I remember vividly messing up on gluing the tip. I don’t ever glue tips — I sculpt — and didn’t practice gluing on tips prior to this category. So it came out off-center and too close to the nail bed.
I also forgot my Trilite gel from Akzéntz, which is a very thin one-step gel that makes bending the C-curve a breeze. I had to use a clear builder gel instead, which is too thick to really bend into a nice C-curve.
The competition nails Oung was going for would have looked more like this. With a perfect halfcircle in the free-edge.
Lammers: I think I was at the top of my game at ISSE this year with the three wins. After four or five hours of competing and being crouched over the table, I started to feel a little tired and sore, but I stayed focused on my time and my task at hand. (If I start having thoughts on how nice a Bloody Mary might be, I know I’m in trouble.)
But for whatever competition I do, I like to split my time in half, with the first half to apply the product, and the second half to finish. And I always have an alarm clock on my table so I know exactly where I am with my time.
Lammers tries to visualize every application part before she sits down so there are no surprises. And her trusty alarm clock, which she calls her “heads up display,” keeps her aware of the time remaining.
Oung: Because I was the model, I ended up staying in the room to be judged. We were divided between novice and veteran, with only five novice entries compared to the 15 or so veteran.
In a way, it was encouraging to see the large amount of veteran entries because that meant they were once novices who placed first (that’s how you move up to veteran), and it was at that moment I promised myself that my hand model would one day make it to the veteran side.
I already knew my results, seeing there were only five entrants. I knew I’d either place last, or by chance, second to last. But I was not disappointed at all because I knew my work that day was way inferior to what I usually do at home. If I were to win, I want to win because of skill. After all, it was my first competition ever and I just wanted to try it for fun and see if it was for me. I absolutely loved it — even with all the technical difficulties, and I can’t wait to try competing again.
During the judging phase, models place their hands under a curtain while the judges inspect each hand. Sometimes the judging process can take up to three to four hours for one category.
Lammers: I always stay around the competition area afterwards. I feel I need to be there in case my models need anything. We don’t have much time in between competitions, so, if I’m competing in the next one, after the models line up I get right back to my area and get set up for the next competition.
My results were exactly what I expected. That might sound arrogant but I’ve been doing this for a long time now and know what the judges expect, and I can judge my work against everyone else in a matter of seconds. I knew I had won all three competitions after the line-up.
But I don’t think I’m special in that respect. Every top competitor knows where they stand in any given competition. It’s something we learn in order to win and stay on top.
Lammers stands with hand model Jen Heard after the Mirror Image category was judged. Lammers carefully selects her hand models so they each have long and well-shaped nail beds for her to work on.
THE COMPETITOR’S KIT
Every competitor brings his or her essential products and favorite assortment of tools and implements to get those perfect applications. Here’s a quick look at what Lynn brings to her competitions.
Clockwise from top middle: 1. Roll of forms, 2. polish remover, acetone, brush-on glue, acid-free primer, red polish, monomer, 3. acrylic powders, 4. diamond file for sidewalls, assorted buff ers and files, 5. sculpting brush, detailed polish brushes, 6. two dappen dishes (so colors don’t mix), 7. C-curve sticks with emery paper for filing the underside, 8. nippers, scissors, pusher, 9. electric file (if it’s allowed), 10. travel clock, 11. manicure brush and water bowl to clean nails, 12. and lots of towels.
Lynn Lammers has her own personal blog on NAILS’ website — the Competitor’s Blog — where she tells stories of her travels, competitions, freelance nail work, and giving advice to budding nail techs and experienced artists as well. Check it out at http://blogs.nailsmag.com/competitioninsider.