At a packed nightclub high above Chicago's Theater District at The Wit Hotel, Tracey Lee of The Netherlands was named NAILS Magazine's Next Top Nail Artist. She earned raves from the judges for her creativity, originality, and professionalism. There were both screams and tears of joy the moment Tracey's name was called. Her fellow Top 3 finalists -- Liina Leino of Helsinki and Jonny Diep Pham of Sydney -- embraced Tracey as CND's Jan Arnold and NAILS' editor Beth Livesay made the final announcement. After nearly nine months of competition and increasingly complex challenges, no one knew better than these three just how much had been sacrificed to find themselves together on this stage.
There were several NTNA alumni in the crowd and there wasn't a dry eye among them. Buddy Sims, a finalist from Year Two of the competition said, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I know just how they were feeling."
If Tracey felt that just making it to the Top 3 was "surreal" then tonight was supernatural. She accepted her award graciously, thanking her fellow competitors for keeping the bar so high, and telling her children back home that finally, "Mommy was going to be back to normal." At the afternoon's runway show at the CND booth at America's Beauty Show in Chicago, Tracey said that one of the first things she was going to do if she won was clean her house.
"There's a layer of dust over my entire house," she told the audience, a testament to the continual nail challenges of the past many months.
The party on Saturday night was a celebration and a relief, with everyone finally letting their hair down and enjoying the end of a long journey -- and the beginning of an entirely new one. Winnie Huang, last year's Next Top Nail Artist, was on stage to award each contestant their special place. She held their hands tightly, and, it looked to us in the crowd, that she might have been holding back tears herself. Who knew better than her what it felt like to be standing next to Jan Arnold, Beth Livesay, and two of the other best nail technicians in the world.
See our photo gallery of the party, visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for more details ... and keep your eyes open for details for NAILS Next Top Nail Artist ... 2017!