For cover artist Tracey Lee, nails really are a love story. Lee was working in recruitment in her native South Africa before she decided to follow her heart and partner to the Netherlands. Once in Eindhoven, she completed her course in gel and acrylic in 2002. “If I hadn’t followed my heart and my partner to the Netherlands, I would never have had the opportunity to experience this dynamic industry,” she says.

Since 2015, Lee has been working as a freelance educator, training with some of the strongest in the industry. The highlight of her career, she says, was competing in Season 4 of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist, in which she took home the title. “This journey helped me to push my limits, experiment with techniques, and took me way beyond my comfort zone.”

The June cover look is also beyond the comfort zone of most. Based on the fourth challenge of this past NTNA season, Lee referenced the brand Melli Mello, which is loosely translated from the French term “Méli Mélo,” meaning hodgepodge or mixture. The shape of the nail is a fun mix as well, with the base created as a Russian almond, but the view from the top is stiletto, while the side looks like an edge. Lee’s tip for creating this shape-shifter effect is to ensure that the upper and lower arch run parallel to one another.

Here are Lee’s steps for how to get this month’s cover look:

1. Create an extension on a form with cover acrylic polymer. Apply a single layer of white art gel to the entire extension and cure.

2. Cut out parts of a floral water decal and place these around the cuticle area and at the free edge. Apply silver striping tape at equal spaces across all of the nails.

3. Paint alternative sections between the silver striping tape with black acrylic nail art paint. Seal the entire design with a flexible top gel and cure.

4. Sculpt the head and the tusks of the elephant with white acrylic polymer. The trunk is created separately by dipping a piece of bent wire into LED gel. Attach this coated wire to the head of the elephant and sculpt into place using white acrylic polymer. Create the elephant ears using Minxlusion. Cut them into shape and coat them with a thin layer of clear acrylic polymer. Paint the ears with an aquarelle technique to allow the effect of the Minxlusion to shine through.

5. Using gel paste, create baroque curls around the floral water decals and cure.

6. Enhance the baroque curls by coating them with a gold chrome nail lacquer.

7. The butterfly wings are created in the same way as the elephant ears. While the wings are polymerizing, wrap them around C-curve sticks to create more shape and movement. The body of the butterfly is created using black acrylic polymer. Create antennae using fine metal wire and insert them into the head of the butterfly to secure them before full polymerization takes place. Attach the wings to the body of the butterfly using a small bead of clear acrylic polymer.

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