Ever dream big about doing the nails on the cover of Vogue? Perhaps you want to be the next Naja Rickette or Tom Bachik, dressing up the digits of Hollywood’s finest. If you’re a nail artist who is ambitious enough, anything is possible. Having an agent can help make your dreams a reality that much faster.
Manicurists Julie Kandalec and Beth Fricke have worked on many editorial photo shoots since gaining representation. Excerpts of Kandalec’s work are on the top two rows and Fricke’s are on the bottom row.
First off, it’s important to understand what an agent’s job entails. Agents work tirelessly to get work for their clients, negotiate rates, logistics, call times, build a clientele, and collect payment. They essentially manage the career of a beauty professional. Most major agencies offer representation for hair, makeup, manicuring, and wardrobe styling. Outside of the day-to-day bookings agents can also work with their clients by helping them with their websites and social media. As celebrity nail artist Julie Kandalec explains, “The rapport and trust an artist has with her agency is paramount. It is also important that the agent sees the same goals for you, and works with the kind of clientele you want to work with (i.e. editorial, celebrity, advertising, etc.). Going without representation can be a good choice for some artists, but personally, I would rather spend my time doing nails than the invoicing, marketing, etc., that an artist who is not represented must do.”
Ask yourself what kind of ambitions you have and where you see your career going. If your ultimate goal is to own and manage a salon, working with an agent might not be helpful for your future. Manicurist Beth Fricke is represented
by Artists by Timothy Priano and has bedecked the digits of Alyssa Milano, Amy Adams, and Drew Barrymore, to name a few. Fricke explains why working in a salon is not really an option for people with representation: “I could be working tomorrow and just don’t know it yet. Even when you do know you have a job, you don’t get call time and location details until the day before. This makes regular salon hours diffi cult to maintain.” Despite the lack of salon presence, most agencies still prefer to represent licensed manicurists.
Madeline Leonard, director at Cloutier Remix — the agency to first represent manicurists — says the benefits to having an agent are endless. “An agent has a good reputation and an enormous amount of industry contacts. We have many shoots and projects going on daily. Clients call an agency because there’s a strong trust. They know we will coordinate the right manicurist for them.” Agents hook celebrities and models up with manicurists for all sorts of jobs such as editorial photo shoots, ad campaigns, and red carpet events. Due to the nature of the business, those serious about getting an agent should consider relocating to either New York or Los Angeles. If you aren’t willing to be bicoastal you might be able to find smaller markets and firms in locations like Miami, but the entertainment capitals are your best bet. For example, Cloutier represents five nail artists in Los Angeles and one who resides in New York.
Once you’ve decided you want an agent and live in the appropriate location, you will need to build your portfolio. “The most important thing for an aspiring Nailing Hollywood artist is a strong portfolio,” says co-founder Vanessa Gualy. Nailing Hollywood is the industry’s first agency solely dedicated to nail stylists and represents giants such as Jenna Hipp, Madeline Poole, Stephanie Stone, and Karen Gutierrez. “You need to be ready to approach an agent,” echoes Leonard. This means you have a portfolio of published images, any red carpet work, videos, commercials, a website (though it doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles), a resume, and bio that are all professional-looking. Social media isn’t necessary but can be a plus. “It’s good to be licensed and fully trained. If you haven’t reached a high level yet, don’t include it. Don’t misrepresent your skills,” warns Leonard.
If your work doesn’t speak loudly enough, a recommendation just might. “Network with someone the agency trusts. We do a lot through connections, not cold calling,” explains Leonard. But the best way in might be to assist someone. “Assisting is a great way to learn the ropes and network; learn about the politics and protocol,” says Leonard. This is the way Fricke got her start: “I came back to manicuring after years in production. I knew there were agencies that represented hair and makeup, so I called every single one in the book and asked if they represented manicurists. At that point (in 2004) there were only seven agencies that represented manicurists and only one that would give me an interview. They said I could be fifth call, mostly for free work, to build my book. I took it.”
Kandalec recommends finding the best photographer, including agencytype models, and hair and makeup artists in your shoot. “The nails don’t necessarily have to be ultra-long or ornate. Take tight shots of nails where they are the main focus, not the clothes,” says Kandalec about producing the perfect images for a portfolio.
Once you have built up a portfolio you can definitely reach out to agencies. Send them an e-mail along with your portfolio. The next step for an agency like Cloutier would be to ask you to
come in and meet with them. Agent Mardie Glen says this initial meeting speaks volumes so make sure and gauge the tone of the room when entering. She notes, “Agents are looking at your energy level and personality.”
To get an idea of manicurists’ work to emulate, go to an agency’s website and see who they represent. Click on the various manicurists to view their portfolios. Vanity Projects (above) and Cloutier Remix (below) list bios, artwork, and resumés.
Or in the case of Fricke, continue assisting until you get noticed. “Fifth call or not, my second job was repeat business and a celebrity cover. I started building my book, and within a few months, I had caught the attention of OPI, who offered me an exclusive contract that ran for seven years. I used to hear people say, ‘If you are busy working, you don’t need an agency,’ but I find with manicuring that those advertising and celebrity editorial jobs only come through an agency,” says Fricke. She recommends being professional, reliable, and always on time for any job a firm gives you if you want to be represented by them.
Some of the leading agencies for manicurists you may want to look into if you’re seeking representation.
Artists by Timothy Priano (www.abtp.com)
Manicurists represented: 9 Locations: New York and Los Angeles The scoop: Over 50 of the world’s top hairstylists, colorists, makeup artists, wardrobe stylists, prop stylists, manicurists, and photographers are represented by ABTP. Founded by hair and makeup agent Timothy Priano, the firm has cultivated relationships with luminaries such as Laura Mercier, Oscar Blandi, and Francois Nars. Today, artists work with Redken, Herbal Essences, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Vanity Fair, Elle, Annie Leibovitz, and David LaChapelle.
Bryan Bantry (www.bryanbantry.com)
Manicurists represented: 3 Location: New York The scoop: Representing photographers, stylists, and beauty artists who work in fashion, entertainment, publishing, and web. This agency’s clients have worked on InStyle, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Lucky, Teen Vogue, and Marie Claire.
Celestine Agency (www.celestineagency.com)
Manicurists represented: 4 Location: Los Angeles The scoop: Founder and president Angelika Schubert understands the needs of artists and clients alike after working as a model and fashion designer for years. The agency possesses a roster of the world’s most iconic image makers in fields such as hairstyling, makeup artists, wardrobe styling, prop stylists, set designers, and manicurists. The team of agents at Celestine strives to build long-lasting relationships for artist-client collaborations that are on trend and distinct.
Cloutier Remix (www.cloutierremix.com)
Manicurists represented: 4 Location: Los Angeles The scoop: “We are a pioneer in representing manicurists. Our main categories are hair, makeup, nails, and wardrobe styling. We do celebrity work, advertising, editorials, commercials, music videos, and partner with all kinds of brands,” says director Madeline Leonard. Leonard has been with the agency for 27 years and still represents artists in addition to directing at the company. Cloutier has provided manicurists for ad campaigns such as L’Oreal, Sally Hansen, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emporio Armani.
Nailing Hollywood (www.nailinghollywood.com)
Manicurists represented: 5 Location: Los Angeles The scoop: “The NH team is niche to on-set nail styling so we work on photo shoots, advertising campaigns, red carpets, etc. Our artists off er products in the marketplace to bring ‘on set’ styling home (HIPP x RGB, NH x NCLA, Sheswai, etc.),” says co-founder Vanessa Gualy.
Vanity Projects (www.vanityprojectsnyc.com)
Manicurists represented: 6 Location: New York The scoop: Representing leading nail artists specializing in custom manicures and cutting edge creations for celebrity, editorial, fashion, and advertising. Famous names represented by Vanity Projects includes Nail Swag, Raqstar Nails, Britney Tokyo, and Jane Weiner.
The Wall Group (www.thewallgroup.com)
Manicurists represented: 3 Locations: New York and Los Angeles The scoop: This bicoastal agency represents fashion stylists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and production designers in jobs that range from editorial and advertising to commercial bookings and long-term contractual engagements in the fashion, entertainment, or endorsement arena. Artists benefit from unrivaled professionalism and contacts with both high fashion and celebrity clientele. Recent clients include Chanel, CoverGirl, Dior, H&M, Louis Vuitton, Pantene, Prada, and Revlon.
The Celestine Agency gives a clear overview of the various types of talent they represent.
If an agency wants to take you on, a number of different things can take place next. Kandalec, who is represented by Bryan Bantry, admits to not having a signed contract. “If a tech is asked to sign a contract, definitely ask questions and show it to an attorney to be sure you understand if there are any non-compete regulations,” Kandalec advises. Fricke also hasn’t signed a contract. “I kept asking my agent and he would say, ‘If you’re unhappy here, I want you to have the freedom to leave.’ We are coming up on nine years together,” says Fricke. Leonard, however, says there is often a contract but it is mutually agreed upon and adds that 20% commission for the agency is the industry standard. A celebrity nail tech (who asked to remain anonymous) says that although she is in a non-binding contract she is looking to leave her agency after a year due to lack of bookings and cuts the agency takes for things she doesn’t see a return on. This tech says this is all the more reason to seek out a mentor. “Hit up girls for assistants. Let them show you the ropes and how to act. You can use Facebook and Instagram to contact them and many people are receptive,” she says.
Once a contract (binding or not) has been entered into, get the most out of your gigs and work closely with your agent. “It’s unlikely the agent would book something that a tech wouldn’t want to do, but yes, give an agent your wish list. It does take a while to build a career since agents aren’t magicians,” says Leonard. If an agent books you for a job you would rather turn down, Leonard says that you are free to do that too.
Julie Kandalec has worked on many mainstream magazines, but her work also appeared on the cover of our January 2010 issue.
Having an agent is not for everyone. Another nail tech (who asked to remain anonymous) points out, “Agencies don’t make their money off of nails, but with hair and makeup. Nails are less prominent in most shoots.” Her lesson learned: “You can freelance instead. Some girls are a better fit for a salon, events, or a med spa; there are different options.”
But if this article has convinced you that an agency must be a part of your future, definitely check out multiple agencies and ask around. Just as you would check references before hiring a new tech at your salon or ask questions of a contractor before installing new fixtures, you need to do your homework before making such a huge career commitment.
“Although glamorous and exciting, this job does have its diffi culties,” says Fricke. “Every day is a different location for work (sometimes fabulous, sometimes just gross), working physically close with and on different people, being able to do whatever they need when you arrive with no notice, being able to get it done before hair and makeup finish, waiting one to six months for payment (if you get paid), not really ever knowing what/where/when until it’s happening. It works for me, I thrive on inconsistency.”
Even though having an agent might make your day job more interesting, it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are positives and negatives to every career move. Kandalec adds, “Do it because you love it, not for the money. And remember, experience is priceless.”