Profiles

The NAILS List: The Most Influential Nail Technicians in the Professional Nail Industry

Who leads when other follow? Who sets the standard? Who are the trend setters?

This is the first installment of a five-part series. Over the coming months, we’ll profile the artists, the teachers, the newsmakers and celebrities, and the manufacturers and inventors who have made this $6.5 billion industry what it is today. These selections and profiles reflect the research of the NAILS editorial staff. There is nothing scientific about our research except for the fact that we talked to hundreds of people who had both history in the industry and deep involvement to come up with individuals of influence, today and yesterday.

 

This list, which will cause us as much anguish for those we left out as joy for those included is a look at individuals who have done something that affected the industry as a whole. You’ll note that many of these professionals have been involved in licensing legislation, MMA issues, and other business concerns. We have included primarily nail techs and salon owners whose main focus is in the salon. There are many, many nail techs who work as teachers or who developed products and ultimately became manufacturers, and those will be profiled in upcoming issues.

 

Obviously, those people still working in the industry now are on the forefront of people’s minds and we may have missed some early pioneers. But we are compiling the ultimate list… the 50 Most Influential People in the Nail Industry, which will run later this year. We will produce this list based on the voters and input from readers after this series concludes. Each month, if you feel someone deserving has been left off our list, send us the information, call us or e-mail us, and we’ll be certain that they make the “ballot” in the June issue.

 

Diana Bonn

Many nail technicians have taken up the fight against MMA, but few have gone as many rounds as Diana Bonn, owner of Color Classiques in Muncie, Ind. Her efforts to educate consumers, clients, and legislators culminated in an appearance before the Indiana State Senate committee. Soon afterward, Indiana enacted a law banning MMA use.

 

Mindy Borrego

For many years, the next sure thing to Connecticut’s changing of the leaves each fall was that the year’s nail tech licensing bill would be passed over by the state legislature. Finally, Mindy Borrego, owner of Granby-based Mindyfingers, called her local representative, and handed him a NAILS Fact Book at a breakfast meeting to bolster her argument for the need to license nail technicians. That same session, a licensing bill, passed. Now, she says, her goal is to work with the state board to develop regulations.

 

Maggie Boyd

Nail technician, salon owner, educator, lobbyist … you name it, Maggie’s done it. Boyd spent seven years fighting to get Illinois nail technicians licensed. A founding director of NIA, she’s also active in NCA, CCA, NailsChicago, and the Illinois Cosmetology Association.

 

Marlene Bridge

When she’s not running her Pittsburgh-based business, Elegant Distributing, Bridge usually can be found in a classroom somewhere, either for the NCA or a manufacturer.Bridge is currently the overall chair for the Americas, the educational division of the NCA. Over her 22-year nail career, Bridge has taught both business and technical skills and has mentored up-and-comers.

 

La’Shaun Brown-Glenn

A member of the CCA and an advisory board member and educational committee co-chairperson for the Nail Care Association, NAILS’ 1999-2000 Nail Technician of the Year, Brown-Glenn won for her total immersion in the industry. In all that she does – from running her salon to working on her clients to field testing new products, from creating educational videos to doing the nails of actors in the upcoming movie,”The Visitor” − Brown-Glenn is definitely a “mover and shaker.”

 

Linda Champion

Linda Champion and her partner Peter Ventrone run a charming and very successful salon in New Jersey and twice wound up in the winners’ circle for NAILS Salon for the Year. Champion is living proof that nail salons can retail and make money, offering clients everything from jewelry to handbags she hand chooses on shopping trips to Manhattan.

 

Christine Derr

Nail technician, salon owner, instructor, author, winning competitor, video producer … Suffice it to say that if she hasn’t done it all in the industry, she will by the time she retires. When the Pennsylvania State Board updated its test, they called on Derr to help. She now directs the nail competitions for the Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis ICE shows and was invited to Japan to judge Takara Belmont’s World Beauty Congress last spring.

 

Debbie Doerrlamm

Debbie Doerrlamm has developed not just a comprehensive website in www.beautytech.com, but a community of professional colleagues and personal friends. Nail technicians enjoy targeted mailing lists, message boards, and live chats as well as a salon referral program, resources and research areas, product information, links to manufacturers and distributors, and much, much more.

 

Maisie Dunbar

A frequent contributor to both trade and consumer magazine articles and photo shoots, Maisie Dunbar was awarded Nail Artist of the Year in 1995. She strives to meet those same standards of excellence as both a nail technician and educator, working with aspiring nail technicians in individual and group settings. She is an accomplished industry spokeswoman in the consumer media.

 

Athena Elliott

Always # 1 with her clients, Athena Elliott, who recently accepted the position of general manager of the nail department at Houston’s Beautique Day Spa & Salon, became an instant star upon winning NAILS Nail Technician of the Year in 1998. Since, she’s been a visible force in trade magazines and in the consumer media as spokesperson for Toma Industries.

 

Shari Finger

Runner-up for NAILS Salon of the Year in 1996, Shari Finger returned in 1997 to accept first-place for Finger’s Nail Studios (W.Dundee, Ill.) as well as NAILS Nail Technician of the Year for her personal achievements. That same year she received the IBS Editors Choice Award, and in 1998 was a NAHA finalist. In addition to managing her salon and servicing her clientele, she now judges and coordinates nail competitions and appears regularly on a local radio station to discuss nail problems and trends.

 

Paula Gilmore

It came as no surprise when Gilmore, owner of Tips Nail Salon in San Mateo, Calif., was awarded the first IBS Editor’s Choice Award in 1994. A popular manufacturer’s and independent educator, Gilmore also wrote “Booked Solid.” She was a founding director of the NIA and, more recently, The Salon Association (TSA). Today she continues to help research and develop products and, she says, her door is always open to anyone who wants training or advice.

 

Lin Halpern

A 37-year veteran of the nail industry, Lin Halpern may not be someone whose name you know, but surely you’ve run across at least one of the products she’s had a direct hand in developing. An inventor’s daughter, Halpern became an outside consultant to NSI in 1989. For the past 10 years she has worked with a group of chemist, melding their chemical knowledge with her technical know-how to invent and co-develop professional nail products. From heat-activated polish sealers to French manicure drill bits, from NSI’s Simplicite French Fin Tip to Line-Out, Halpern’s hand is apparent.

 

Debra Harden

The first time we heard from Harden, vice chairperson of the Georgia State Board and owner of Harden Salon Images in metro Atlanta, she was scrambling to collect supporting information to present to the state legislature as part of her argument to keep nail technician licensing, which was under attack in 1996. Harden personally lobbied several state legislators, presenting information from NAILS and dermatologists, and even personal testimonials from consumers to prove that nail techs need to be licensed.

Tom Holcomb

Holcomb has inspired a generation of nail technicians with his cutting edge creativity. The winner of more than 200 competitions, Holcomb has always sought to sharpen his skills and raise the bar industry-wide. In 1989, he introduced sculpted moons competition; in 1997, his sculpted, colored design nails dazzled all who saw them. Based in Florida, Holcomb travels the world to educate nail technicians while continuing to sharpen his own skills as well.

 

Beatrice Kaye

Though she never got movie credits, MGM Studio’s manicurist Beatrice Kaye did the nails of many of the all-time great actors such as Clark Gable. According to her daughter, Ila Hirsch, Kaye set the trends on-screen for the moon manicure, the Cuban manicure, and the French Dip, to name a few. Though long since retired, Kaye’s legacy lives on with her annual Hollywood Hand Awards that recognize the best groomed nails in the year’s movies.

 

Nancy King

Appalled when she learned a few years ago that Maryland’s sanitation regulations were outdated and incorrect, King lobbied the state board for change. Since, she’s become the first nail technician to be appointed to the Maryland State Board. She’s also generated press releases on consumer awareness issues to the press – several of which have resulted in news stories −− and she’s even testified before the Maryland State Senate.

 

Lianne Koziol

Home-based, but not home-bound best describes Koziol, owner of The Little Nail Shoppe of Rehoboth (Mass.) and eduction coordinator for R.G. Shakour. In 1994 she worked with the Massachusetts Cosmetology Board to rewrite the salon and school regulations. Later that year when the Governor wanted to sunset the board, Koziol took a cameraman from the local TV station to film her appearing before the legislature, which she credits with helping to save nail tech licensing.

 

Debbie Krakalovich

Krakalovich’s resume is dotted with notable accomplishments −− the 1997 IBS Editor’s Choice Award, two 1996 Salon of the Year awards, and the 1996 Contessa Nail Technician of the Year, to name a few. Owner of The Nail Shoppe (Toronto), Krakalovich deserves acknowledgement for efforts to establish a regulatory body for the Canadian nail industry, opening of a training school, contributions as an NIA board member, and work as a contributing editor to Salon (a Canadian trade magazine).

 

Karen Lessler and

Denise Andresen

Concerned by a lack of educational standards and the poor image of professional nail technicians in New York, Lessler and Andreson founded what was to become in 1989 the National Nail Technicians Group (NNTG), for nail technicians. Both were instrumental in organizing thousands of members nationwide around regulatory and educational issues and in the passing of the New York’s licensing legislation.

 

Anita Lime-Sims

Anita Lime-Sims specialized in fiber glass (although she does everything beautifully) and was one of the most winning nail techs while she was actively competing. She’s an avid teacher and is probably one of the highest paid nail techs based strictly on a jam-packed schedule and full sets that boggle the mind.

 

Dana Malpass

Sometimes, it’s only by looking back that we can see how far we’ve come. When Malpass started Mainly Manicuring in the early ‘80s, it was the first opportunity for many nail technicians to learn about new products and send for trial kits. The tabloid offered more than product puffery, though Malpass wrote about MMA well before it was a common concern.

 

Gina Marsilli

Distressed that the Delaware State Board inspected salons only when there was a complaint and by her suspicion that salons’ use of MMA was growing, Marsilli, owner of The Perfect Ten (Wilmington) formed the Delaware Manicurists Alliance. The Alliance lobbied a state representative to address the issue, and Marsilli’s address of the legislature resulted in 14 proposed bills, one of which was passed as a law banning the use of MMA by nail technicians.

 

Sharon Martin

While perhaps best known to competitors as the developer of innovative and fun competitions such as Give Yourself a Hand and Mirror Image, Tampa-based Martin has directed competitions for many top shows in the country. In one of her first jobs as NAILS Shows competition director, Martin developed, along with the show staff, the judges’ certification program that helped to qualify judges and standardize judging criteria.

 

Janet McCormick

The author of two books and more than 200 magazine articles geared to the professional nail industry, Columbus-based McCormick is well-known for her varied salon experiences and her willingness to advise and mentor fellow nail technicians. In addition to developing various training classes and seminars, McCormick has innovated a number of products and holds the patent for TabForm nail forms.

 

Rebecca Moore

Like so many other technicians listed here, what makes Moore (owner of Just Nails, Erlanger, Ky.) influential is her attitude of “one person can make a difference.” Dismayed by the increasing number of nails damaged by what she strongly suspected was MMA, Moore began a letter writing campaign that resulted in an appearance before state legislators. She also mentors students at local cosmetology schools and teaches.

 

Betty Morgan

In the mid-‘80s, Morgan published The Manicurist’s Bible, which many “old- time” nail technicians say was the first comprehensive resource available to them. Covering nail diseases and disorders, business practices, and techniques in step-by-step detail, the book, although outdated today, was an invaluable resource at a time when non-product-related information was hard to come by.

 

Claudine Morgan

Morgan has won a spot on the NAILS Top 25 every year since its inception in 1993, and she never hesitates to share her knowledge with NAILS readers by making herself available for technical input and interviews for the magazine. Morgan’s unflagging dedication to always horning her skills and challenging herself and others is an inspiration to us all.

 

Dee Nguyen

Nguyen, owner of Dee Nails Enhancements in Canoga Park, Calif., refuses to be stereotyped as an “Asian salon owner” with all the accompanying negative connotations. And with good reason – Nguyen’s professionalism and efforts to educate and lead by example are slowly but surely showing results. Patient but persistent, she works to build a trust with nail technicians, visiting their salons and inviting them to hers, to discuss products, sanitation, pricing, technique, customer service, and any other topics they would like to learn more about.

 

Trang Nguyen

Announcing his retirement from the competition circuit this year while at the top of his game, so to speak (he was the #1 competitor for 1998), Nguyen has introduced an acrylic line and plans to coach other competitors. Nguyen once told the editors at NAILS that his goal was to market an acrylic line into Vietnamese salons and reach out to them with training and technical support in a manner that suits their needs and methods of working.

 

Vicki Peters

Since a meteoric rise in the industry in the mid-‘80s catapulted her on a four-year winning streak in competitions, Peters has worn several hats in the industry, most recently as president of The Peters’ Perspective, a consulting and education-based company. Not long ago she spearheaded the creation of the Association for Electric File Manufacturers, on whose behalf she has lobbied state boards for drill education. She also has created the first standardized curriculum for drill use.

 

Chesley Phillips

Having seen the industry from many angles – nail technician, salon owner, independent educator, nail instructor, state board member −− Phillips knew better than anyone the need for nail technicians and estheticians to organize for education, legislation, heightened standards, and the challenge of competition. Hence the founding of NAILS & SKIN America, of which she’s served as president since its creation in 1996.

Nilsene Privette

Intrigued by the workings of the state board and hoping to learn more about the industry while contributing to it, Phoenix-based Privette served seven terms as a volunteer member of the Arizona State Board, where she offered both the nail technician’s perspective and helped to shape regulatory changes. Privette also has been actively involved in the NCA and its education programs, and she served two terms on the NIA board.

 

Marti Preuss

The winner of the first NAHA nail enhancement competition in 1994, 34-year industry veteran Preuss has been a finalist almost every year since. Throughout her career she has reached out to other nail technicians both at local and national levels to educate, advise, and mentor. In 1998, she appeared oh her local news station to caution consumers on what to look for when it comes to MMA and salon sanitation practices.

 

Pat Johnson-Rambo

Along with Maggie Boyd and Brenda Roberts-Brown, Johnson-Rambo was instrumental in the licensing of Illinois nail technicians. Co-founder of CCA NailsChicago, Johnson-Rambo educated nail techs on diseases and disorders for many years and (although she now works as national sales manager for a manufacturer) still oversees the CCA’s government affairs committee.

 

Jacquelyn Randolph

Randolph, a member of the NCA and chairperson of the Washington Cosmetology Association nail fashion and education committees, testified in the early ‘90s before D.C.’s Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Commission to strengthen nail tech licensing, and later worked with the National Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology to revise the national exam for nail technicians.

 

Lori Ribar

Ribar, owner of Perfect 10 Nails in Mendota Heights, Minn., says she’s focused her energies of late on her salon and updating her own education, but we doubt she’ll lay low too much longer. She simply has too much enthusiasm. A winning competitor; popular educator; a competition judge and “coach,” tradeshow representative, product distributor, committee member of the Minnesota Cosmetology Association, and nail designer for the print media, Ribar has done much to enhance the industry’s professional stature.

 

Deanna Riddle-Frakes

Though we couldn’t find her as of press time, Deanna Riddle-Frakes fought long and hard for licensing in Nebraska, rallying nail technicians to lobby their state representatives regarding the need (and industry’s desire) for licensing and regulation of health and safety practices.

 

Brenda Roberts-Brown

Roberts-Brown, who died in 1997, is fondly remembered for championing the causes of licensing in Illinois and continuing education for nail technicians. With Pat Johnson-Rambo, Roberts-Brown founded CCA NailsChicago and was instrumental in introducing continuing education programs at a national level.

 

Renee Skrocki

Like many technicians, Renee Skrocki was feeling embattled by discount salons that she suspected were using MMA because of all the nail damage she was witnessing, Skrocki took it upon herself to develop on “anti-MMA” campaign, complete with media coverage and a “tools” kit. She soon realized the demand was too much for her, which is when The Nailco Group stepped in to take over production and distribution of the kit. In the meantime, Skrocki mobilized 40 local salons to run an informational ad on MMA in the area newspaper, which became a model for similar campaigns across the country.

 

Debbie Shoaff

Debbie Shoaff, owner of Wampum, Pa.-based Nail & Hair Gallery, has immersed herself in improving herself and others since she opened her home-based salon. Winner of the 1994 Salon of the Year Award, Shoaff became very involved in the NIA, has done numerous in-salon training programs for her staff and other salons, and enjoys mentoring new nail technicians.

 

Victoria Sozio

Sozio, along with Jewell Cunningham, Vicki Peters, Kym Lee, and Diana Ulch (to name a few), was part of that first group of big-name nail technicians during the mid-‘80s. Sozio, who owns The Upper Cut in Washington Township, N.J., says she learned a lot about her craft from traveling the country to compete. Little did she and the others know they were lighting a fire for other nail technicians. The NAILS’ cover technician for two years in the early ‘90s, Sozio warns competitors to watch out – she’s planning a comeback in 2000.

 

Terri Taricco

 While officially she is corporate manager for distributor R.G. Shakour, Terri Taricco is pure nail tech in her accomplishments and contributions. Among other things, Taricco has spurred media coverage of MMA, been appointed to the NMC for her focus on diversion issues, developed a technical video series, started an advanced training academy through R.G. Shakour, and started the New England Nail Technicians Association Next up, she says, are two Internet projects: The Salon Wizard, which will let salons research products and equipment, and Beauty Web, which will link to manufacturer and salon websites.

 

Greg and Rose Tosti

Greg and Rose Tosti have a system. They know how to recruit and retain technicians (they’ve got to in order to keep their busy Florida-based salon chain fully staffed with over 100 nail technicians), they buy products in bulk, and they design so that salons are interchangeable yet unique.

Christopher Truong

A top competitor who always challenges himself, Truong is both an inspiration to the industry at large and Vietnamese nail technicians in general. The owner of both a salon and school, Truong strives to be a role model for his children, but we think he serves as an excellent one for his peers as well.

 

Janayre Vaughan

The 1999 Natural Nail technician of the Year Contessa Award (Canadian) is just the latest in a long line of awards for Ontario-based Vaughan. Also the Barrie’s Advance Number One Manicurist and Pedicurist in 1997 and 1998, the decorated technician has distinguished herself in the relatively young Canadian nail industry.

 

Maureen Volpe

The founder ofVolpe Nails, Volpe took the franchising concept as far as she could in the nail industry. Now, in addition to her two profitable locations in Bradenton, Fla., she’s developing a new concept that she hopes will help develop better and more profitable nail departments in hair salons. Volpe satellites are an “out-of-the-box” salon concept that befits both the single-station nail salon owner and the full-service salon owner who doesn’t understand nails but wants more than a table tucked in the corner.

 

Barb Wetzel

If you’ve visited www.nailsplash.com, chances are you’ve “met” Barb Wetzel, the site’s creator. An award-winning competitor, competition judge, author, and editor, Wetzel has used her bachelor’s degree in science to develop educational classes geared to teaching nail technicians about the chemicals and technologies used in their trade as well as a host of business classes.

 

Michael Wolper

In the unique position of influencing the industry even before he had his license, Michael Wolper, along with partner Tony Wootton, has introduced a salon concept in the Beverly Hills-based Hands On that has wowed the industry (salon owners and nail technicians alike would love to examine every aspect of the “spa for hands and feet”) and wooed consumers (Allure has named it one of the top five nails spas in the country) – all within three months of its opening.

 

Michelle

Yaksich and

Terri DeCort

These perfectly paired partners (one specializes in business and financial issues, the other in technical and management concerns) operate a role-model salon that attracts the best and brightest technicians with a sliding pay scale that rewards technical expertise. Technicians undergo extensive technical training that is continually expanded via in-house classes, motivational seminars regular staff meetings and shows and classes.

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