Vicki Peters, mentor to many in the nail industry, nail know-it-all, one of the earliest competitors, competition judge and show-runner, product creator, cover tech, nail cruise director, e-file expert, former competitive roller-skater, dog-lover, sweet sister, and dear, dear friend, died today at the age of 60. Vicki found out that she had cancer less than two months ago and she knew that her time was short, although none of us thought it would be this short.
Vicki loved nails, the nail industry, nail technicians, nail magazines, nail jokes, nail cruises, nail trends, nail memes, nail salons, nail shows, and just about anything nail-related.
I first met Vicki in 1990 when I joined NAILS Magazine and she was running the NAILS Magazine Shows (we had nine tradeshows back in the day). She ran our competitions and handled the entire show, from sourcing locations, selling booth space, creating attendee marketing, and developing the educational programs. She’s done the nails for eight covers of NAILS Magazine, including her first in February 1992.
Funny story: Vicki helped the editors find nail techs to do our covers, a role that put her in a power position in the nail industry. She was picky and discriminating about who she “allowed” to do the nails, so picky, in fact, that she didn’t allow herself to do them. She worked on perfecting her cover nails for over a year before she did a cover.
She would go on to do so many cover-worthy sets of nails for us and others (including lots of advertisements) that it’s amazing she ever thought she had to audition to do the nails. But she did audition – on me – and it was the most painful set of nails I have ever gotten. My full set took over four hours to do and though the nails themselves were quite beautiful, polished to a high shine, my fingers and cuticles were a bloody mess from the filing and buffing. We still laughed about it all these years later because when I’d see her, I’d retract my nails as if simply being near her brought back the pain.
Vicki was a competitor back when nail competitions were a new thing, when the competitions were called WINBA and NASA and the Gary Sperling Show, when the trophies were so tall they couldn’t be flown home in one piece. She was a regular on the circuit and in the winner’s circle, competing with the likes of Jewell Cunningham, Debi Burger, Victoria Sozio, Kym Lee, and a not-yet-famous Tom Holcomb.
She personally mentored hundreds of nail competitors and taught classes on winning techniques. She instituted the first judges’ certification program to ensure that competitions were consistent and fair. She came up with new events that are standard today, including the Decathlon, where you do a different technique on each nail.
When her competing days were over, she came to NAILS and helped us run the shows that we’d recently purchased from The Goddess Company. She was a great ally to the editorial team and the sales crew. She was our in-house expert and guided us novice nail editors on the subtleties of terminology and showed us how the different products worked. She’d read our copy and though she was a terrible speller herself, her expertise was invaluable and prevented us from making embarrassing nail mistakes. She was our troubleshooter and trend-spotter and truth-teller (she did NOT mince words). For a time, her father Max also worked at the company.
She moved on after NAILS to our competition (the nerve!), but eventually left publishing and event planning to get into the manufacturing side of things. She had been affiliated with Kupa for a very long time and educated frequently for them. Although she was an original hand-filing snob (that’s HER word, not mine), she ultimately came around to seeing the glories of electric files and became not only an advocate for e-filing, but a trainer to ensure that they were used safely. She worked as an original board member of the now-disbanded Association of Electric File Manufacturers, developing standards for education, terminology, and safety.
With the support of the Kupa team, Richard Hurter specifically, she launched her signature brand. Her Team Vicki, with their royal blue smocks, was a fixture on the competition circuit for a while. Though the brand was fairly short-lived, the young (and not-so-young) nail technicians who were part of Team Vicki during that time got the best of her energy. She seemed to love nothing more than seeing someone’s skill burnish under her tutelage.
She originated the nail cruises that are so popular. She was vocal and active online very early when Debbie Doerrlamm launched her original mailing list.
She was a sister to three (Natalie, Diane, and Valerie), two of whom she got into doing nails too. She was a rescuer of dogs, particularly miniature Doberman Pinschers.
But most of all, she was a dear friend. All of us here at NAILS are grieving her loss. We worked with her very closely over the course of our own careers and we’re the better for knowing her. I called her Vicki Vaca (which means Vicki Cow in Spanish) and she called me Cyndy Drumstick. She reminded me a lot of my older sister because, like my sister, she’d tell me a certain color didn’t suit me or that something I was doing was unbecoming. Vicki and I could tease each other brutally because it was done with love and with the benefit of a long shared history. We had a period when we were mad at each other (see leaving NAILS to work for the competition, above), though it didn’t last.
We shared one very fun Christmas with a bunch of us who didn’t have anywhere to go and to this day it is one of my favorite holiday memories. Suffice to say that a Christmas that ends with all the guests covered in Silly String is one that’ll be remembered.
She handled her illness and final days with grace. In her way, she wanted to get things in order for her sisters and spent her final weeks primarily with family, corresponding with friends, and cuddling with her dogs. She had the chance to receive the outpouring of love and warmth from the industry she gave so much to, but she couldn’t know just how much she would be missed. Because you simply can’t know. And we couldn’t have known how painful it would be when she passed, despite knowing it was imminent. Because you can’t know, you can only feel.