Hail the queen of gels. This year’s winner, Cedarburg, Wis.-based Amy Becker, has been doing nails for 23 years, competing for 20 years, and manufacturing Masterworks by Amy Becker for four years. She’s a former NAILS cover artist and past recipient of the Nail Tech of the Year Award. For the second year running, she’s the U.S. Gel Champion and she’ll be representing the U.S. in gels in Germany for the world cup in March. And she still sees clients two days a week.
NAILS asked Amy to tell us about her time in the competition circuit.
You’ve been ranked on our list for 16 of the 18 years we’ve been keeping track — quite an achievement — but this is your first year at number-one. What was different about this year?
Becker: For the first time since I’ve been competing, I set the goal to win an overall championship. I didn’t let other goals of mine stop me from competing in all of the competitions. In years past, I always had conflicting schedules that prevented me from all the competitions.
What distinguishes you from other competitors?
Becker: I do everything in gels. At most competitions, I’m the only one using them. I even sculpt 3-D art solely out of gel. I use our own techniques in the competitions as well.
How do you keep your passion for competing alive?
Becker: My passion for competing comes from needing to grow. I compete with gel in everything that I’m allowed. I love developing new gel techniques and gel products. Over 12 years ago I envisioned the industry turning to gel. I knew that would only happen when the right products and techniques were available. That goal has driven me ever since.
What is your favorite competition category?
Becker: I don’t know if I have a favorite, but one of the most exciting has been the 3-D art competitions. With a new product that I have (Masterpiece Gel Paints) I cannot only paint with them like I would an acrylic or oil paint, I can also sculpt with them with finer detail than I could ever get with acrylics.
In the last year, what win were you most proud of? How did you celebrate?
Becker: My most memorable win would probably be the U.S. Gel Invitational. With it I will represent the U.S. in the world championship in Germany next March. Good God! I celebrated by collapsing with exhaustion because it was the end of an eight-competition marathon in Las Vegas.
What is your greatest challenge in the competition arena and how have you dealt with it?
Becker: The greatest challenge is finding great models. Good ones won’t do. I’ve tried posting for models on the Internet, but pictures of the models aren’t quite good enough. Investing in models who I’ve seen in person and have had the chance to work on is the way to go.
What advice do you usually give to newbie competitors?
Becker: Newbies ... I love to help them! My first piece of advice is to set the goal of finishing. Don’t worry about who’s doing what around you. Always compete to create a personal best. For those I’ve seen tremendous potential in, I try very hard to encourage them to never stop. It’s too easy in the beginning to get discouraged.
Who have been your mentors in the nail business?
Becker: Josiane Trachsel from Switzerland has been a remarkable mentor. She is who I would most like to exemplify in business, stamina, knowledge, and life skills. There are other amazing nail artists who I aspire to create like, such as Catherine Wong, Michelle Sproat, and many others.
Becker sculpted these gel nails at the World Championship in Germany in March.
What don’t we know about you? What do you do for fun?
Becker: I am a Praise and Worship leader and elder at my church. I sing and play either the bass, acoustic guitar, or drums. I love it!
This year’s crop of top competitors hail from all over the world. Meet some of the other men and women who grace the Top 25 list this year and gain some insights into their professional and personal lives — and check out their beautiful handiwork.
To see the complete 2010-2011 Top 25 Competitors list along with previous years' winners, click here.