The third season of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist was a season of firsts. It was the competition’s first year in Chicago at America’s Beauty Show for the finale. It was also the first year we welcomed three international competitors for a shot at the top spot. Canadian Winnie Huang was met by Sweden’s Celina Rydén and Australia’s Sarah Elmaz to round out the Top 3.
Rydén shattered the record previously held by Lexi Martone for most wins in a single season (six challenges) and Elmaz had two wins under her belt before Chicago. But it was Huang who captured the two most important wins of all. It all started when she clinched the final CND Last Chance Design Lab challenge. For this win, Huang honed her sculpting and fine art skills to create a replica of Jan Arnold offering her the golden ticket into the Top 3. It was then Huang’s speech at the Miss America-style Q&A on the ABS show floor that really wowed the judges. That plus her continuous ability to push the envelope with unexpected nail art concepts and her unfailing positivity made Huang the contender of choice.
Rydén was named first runner-up and Elmaz won the second runner-up title. All three artists participated in a grueling finale that involved several surprises and jet lag along the way. Contestants had to bring all five final sets of nails to Chicago, do a cover shoot, demo at the NAILS booth, participate in the Beauty Changes Lives Experience Shout Your Beauty runway show, film a segment for the Cosmetologists Chicago board meeting, and answer questions from head judge Jan Arnold at the CND booth. All of this took place before the final announcement at the NTNA finale party on Sunday night, March 13 at the ROOF on theWit.
So Just Who is This Year’s NAILS Next Top Nail Artist?
A nail tech for only two years, Winnie Huang of The Rawr Shop in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has wanted to be a nail tech for much longer than that. On the advice of her parents, she decided to first attend college and obtain her undergraduate degree. But Huang’s desire to create took over, and after saving up the money herself, she finally enrolled in beauty school. Huang had competed previously in Season One of NTNA, placing fifth. She has also appeared in two other art-focused reality TV shows, making her an experienced contestant in this type of competition.
“Nail artistry is such a beautiful way to express yourself. I’m passionate about it for its versatility, its ability to deliver a message that words could not possibly describe,” says Huang, “It’s like technology, it is always evolving, and to a creative person, that’s the icing on the cake. You are always challenged, and always presented with new things to learn.” Huang infused both wording and technology into her final sets, including a fantasy nail art display that featured a fan and LED lights.
But what stood out to everyone during the finale challenge was Huang’s friendship with her fellow contestants. “I am all about sharing the love, making friends, and most importantly having fun,” said Huang at the beginning of the competition. Now that it’s all over, she says the biggest prize of being in the Top 3 was being able to spend time with Elmaz and Rydén, whom she had met through the competition, but had never met in person prior to the Chicago finale. Head judge Jan Arnold even praised all three at the awards ceremony for having an exemplary bond, one that proves what is possible when women in the industry come together. Huang further acknowledged her fellow competitors in the closing of her acceptance speech when she said her dream was for nail techs to be themselves through their art, whether it be elegant, authentic, or maybe even a bit goofy.
Huang will continue to represent NAILS Magazine and NAILS Next Top Nail Artist by doing nails at New York Fashion Week in September, judging next year’s competition, receiving coverage in Modern Salon Magazine, and serving as NAILS’ guest editor for an entire year. NAILS Magazine and CND along with sponsors Akzéntz, Bio Seaweed Gel, China Glaze, Dashing Diva, Entity, EzFlow, Gel II, Gelish, INM, and Orly congratulate Huang on this hard-earned victory.