R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For Debra Shoaff, owner of The Nail and Hair Gallery in Wampum, Pa., the title of Aretha Franklin’s hit song is crucial to the professionalism of the nail industry. Shoaff’s strong commitment to the industry and gaining the respect of her peers and public were why she entered NAILS’ 1996 Nail Technician of the Year Award. And guess what? She won.
As part of her award package, Shoaff was flown to California to do a NAILS cover. “I definitely felt more pressure than in any nail competition I’ve done because the cover is seen all over the world,” she says.
With more than 21 years of nail experience under her belt, Shoaff has seen her share of changes in the industry since she was a 17-year-old fresh out of cosmetology school. Most noteworthy, she says, is the availability of continuing education. Another improvement she’s seen is that many of today’s manufacturers are placing more importance on sanitation. Shoaff does her part by having each of her clients purchase their own Client Guard Kit.
For business as well as pleasure, Shoaff enjoys going to competitions to watch her nail technicians compete. She recounts a touching story: “Two years ago, one of the girls who works for me won second place and told me she won the award for me and wanted me to know that she was paying attention.”
Over the years, Shoaff has worn different hats in the industry. She’s been an educator, a nail competitor, and a salon owner. Currently, she’s very active in getting MMA banned in the state of Pennsylvania. She’s gathering information from the NMC, the FDA, and articles from trade magazines to send to the Pennsylvania Cosmetology Board. She’s even asked her dentist for MSDS and has taken pictures of clients’ nails damaged by MMA. “I want us to keep the respect we have gained in the beauty industry and not see our professional image ruined by salons using MMA,” says Shoaff.
One of her personal passions is community work. She has been a volunteer on the city’s Christmas parade committee as well as the bicentennial committee. “I’m successful in my salon, and who better to give my time to than the community that supports me,” she says.
Spoken like a true Nail Technician of the Year.