A sought-after session manicurist, Marian Newman’s nails have graced the covers of countless fashion magazines, including more than 50 British Vogues. Newman began her professional nail career in 1988 when she opened a nails-only salon in Hertford, just outside London. From there she took master classes and began training others. Newman authored the textbook The Complete Nail Technician, now in its fourth edition. In 2013, she was awarded the Scratch Stars Award for Services to the Nail Industry. She’s also one of two head judges at the annual Nailympia competition.
Newman boasts a long roster of celebrity clients and often works behind the scenes at fashion shows including Givenchy, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, and Louis Vuitton. Other highlights include creating the nails on all the “Interlude” films for Lady Gaga’s Monster Tour and doing the nails of the “golden super models” at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.
Recently, she played a large role in the successful launch of mastered.com, a ground-breaking online program for nail professionals that introduces students from across the globe to the world of session nails.
Lee: Marian, can you tell us a little more about how you got started in the industry?
Newman: It wasn’t a plan; it was more of an accident! When my youngest child went to play school, I wanted to go back to work. I decided not to continue with my original career as a forensic scientist, as it would mean relearning so much. So I decided to do something completely different and use the creative side of my brain instead of the science side. I took a six-week full time course for commercial makeup artists. This led me to a local chain of perfumeries/ beauty salons where the owner asked me to investigate what was available for nail treatments. That had me hooked! I made it a mission to understand the products and their chemistry.
Lee: What are some of the achievements you are most proud of?
Newman: I’m proud of quite a lot of things I’ve done over the years. I was involved in creating the very first formal, approved qualifications that took “nails” a bit further than the simple manicure. My first textbook was published in 2001, plus I’ve co-authored a few others. I love the fact that I carved a career route for myself as a full-time session technician. Back then, some nail professionals did these kinds of jobs occasionally, but in 2001 I gave everything else up to focus on working in the media. In recent years I’ve concentrated on doing as many fashion shows as possible and have developed an amazing team that allow me to do this. I also loved playing a big part in launching the Nails: Mastered program.
Lee: Where do you get your ideas from?
Newman: Anywhere and everywhere. Words from a brief [a guide laying out the designer’s vision for a collection] can inspire me, as the words will create a visual picture in my head. The other day I needed to create an original design with no brief and I happened across a designer “sculpting” a dress on a body form and wondered how that could translate to a nail design. I once had a brief that needed to be Victoriana, so I created pressed flower nails. This then evolved into leaf specimens. My ideas are often not for wearing! They are more in the category of avant-garde, but there is always a way of translating that to wearable.
Lee: For many people, September is just another month. For you, it was Fashion Week Spring/ Summer 2018. How many shows were you and your team involved in last season?
Newman: Yes, September and February are my busiest months. Last season, we did 17 shows in London, two in Milan, and eight or nine in Paris. That is a lot! It isn’t just turning up for a show for a few hours. There are the briefs to create ideas for (if one is available), beauty tests to go to for every show, making nails if that is what the show needs, and organizing the team, products, and general logistics!
Lee: What was the highlight of the last season for you and your team?
Newman: For me personally, it was getting all the shows done perfectly. I say very often to my team that failure is not an option. Even one model with wrong, missed, or bad nails is, in my eyes, a failure. I suppose one of the highlights was working on the first Tommy Hilfiger show in London with CND and Jan Arnold. It was big, bold, and fun!
Lee: Can you share a story of one of your most challenging shows with us?
Newman: Every show is a challenge in its own way. This last season, the most challenging was probably one in London with a lot of models, an elaborate process to apply the nails (including clear tips that needed perfect application with no bubbles or other irregularities), and a very difficult backstage space. There was also the added timing problem of models disappearing off for a spray tan. It was mayhem! As a high-profile show, there were more than the usual number of photographers and film crews, along with a free bar for all!
My instruction to the team was to “focus on those nails like you have never focused on anything this much before and get them done without panicking!” In the end, the amazing team work got the job done! Every model had the right nails (and toenails) and not one nail was lost in any outfit changes.
Lee: Marian, you are an integral part of Nails: Mastered. Nails: Mastered is about to launch its Accelerator Program. Can you tell us more about how this program works?
Newman: This is a 10-month-long online program. It will run alongside many other programs that are for photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, stylists, designers, and art directors. Each program will be tailored to the specific discipline, but projects will move forward together. This means that the amazing network of Mastered alumni can come together to create wonderful images and ideas. There will be massive input from experts to help every individual develop her own career, expertise, and aesthetic. A big focus in these programs is personal mentoring and one-to-one feedback.
Lee: Who are the Nails: Mastered team targeting for this program?
Newman: Essentially, it is for those that would like to create images and develop ideas for personal reasons or to work in global media. I also believe it is for those that need input and understanding on how to tap into their own creativity because it is there! It is not focussed on salon work, but I can guarantee that those who are salon based will be so inspired to provide even better client services than they thought were possible.
Lee: You are an inspiration to many nail professionals. Who inspires you?
Newman: Thank you, but that is an impossible question! Many, many people inspire me. People who are very good at what they do are inspirational, as are those who are ethical and honest. I also admire those who are willing to share and help in all walks of life, and people who are positive or have triumphed over adversity.
Lee: Do you have any advice for nail professionals who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Newman: I don’t think anyone should try to follow someone else’s footsteps as they are their own person and need to carve their own path that belongs to them. How to be successful in your chosen path is another thing. That requires a hunger — a need to succeed. That will only come with very hard work, dedication, an open mind, and striving for knowledge and understanding. Very little that is worthwhile comes easily; it usually comes at a cost in time or money or hardship or emotion or all of them. Set your goals and tick them off one by one, but achieve them fairly, honestly, and with good grace and humility.
Lee: You have been interviewed several times — what is the one question you wish someone would have asked you, and never did?
Newman: What does failure feel like and how do you learn from it? Everyone has a failure at some time and it can be so disheartening and knock confidence. However, I’ve learnt some valuable things about failure. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set goals and challenges you have a chance of achieving, then set the next one.
Secondly, you learn far more from mistakes than you do when you get it right. If you fail at something, big or small, have the attitude, “well, I tried.” Learn from all the things that didn’t work, tick it off, and move on. Do not focus on the failure; instead focus on what you learned from the experience and put that to very good use.