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.
Next page: Agency Profiles