After 10 weeks of elimination rounds last fall, three finalists were left standing in NAILS Next Top Nail Artist (NTNA) competition sponsored by Gelish. NAILS flew the Top 3 — Buddy Sims, Lauren Wireman, and Ryoko Garcia — to Long Beach in January for the International Salon and Spa Expo to compete in the final challenge and find out who would be crowned the winner.

Japanese-born Garcia cinched the win after a grueling four-part finale.

So just who is NAILS Next Top Nail Artist? A nail tech at Bella Day Spa and Salon in Navarre, Fla., Garcia grew up in Japan with her mother after her father passed away when she was only seven. “My mother worked hard to raise me into the ­person I am today,” says Garcia, who drew her own designs on press-on nail tips when she was in high school just as a hobby. “She was there from grade school through college, making sure I never quit during the toughest times.”

After she graduated from college, Garcia realized she wanted to do nails professionally. While still in nail school in Tokyo, she started competing. “The first competition I entered was French sculptured nails. I did terribly! It was awful,” she says, laughing. “Since then I’ve been practicing and competing. I’ve lost so many more times than I’ve won. That’s what keeps me motivated. Competing is the best way to learn something new and discover your weaknesses. I think it’s worth more than taking a class.”

Garcia met her husband in 2006 when he was stationed in Tyoko with the Air Force. They were married in 2008 and soon after relocated to Altus, Okla. Four years later, they moved to Florida, where they’ve been living for the last two years. “My husband will soon retire from the Air Force after 20 years of service. He thanks me for following him through deployments and relocations. He has pushed me to achieve my goals. And he constantly reminds me that this is my time and he will follow and support me wherever my career takes me.”

Doing nails wasn’t the only thing Garcia had to learn in order to compete. “English is my second language and at first I couldn’t communicate my ideas as well as I could in

Japanese,” says the gifted tech. “I had to put just as much time into learning English as I did into learning to do nails. I’m still learning. The best nail techs are not just good technically; they are well-rounded in all aspects.”

In addition to her amazing hand-painted skills and attention to detail, Garcia focuses her attention on great customer ­service for her clients. She also wants to teach other nail techs that if you love what you do and you are passionate, your dreams will come true.

“I don’t know what I’d be doing in life if I wasn’t doing nails,” she says. “I believe this is my calling in life. I want to show my work to the world and I want to provide my clients with the very best. And of course I want to make my family here in the U.S. and back in Japan proud.

And proud they should be. Garcia, who says she likes to “talk the talk, walk the walk, and carry a big brush,” was ­consistently in the top during each of the weekly challenges and her hand-painted portraits and intricate sculpting techniques wowed the judges. She dedicated herself to this competition and she says it was worth every minute (and every hour). “It’s the ­biggest achievement in my life so far. I can’t describe how thankful I am.”

Follow Ryoko to see her latest designs and tutorials:

Instagram @nailsbyryoko

Twitter @nailsbyryoko

You can also click here to see all of her weekly challenges.


For more on the final challenge, click here.

For a photo gallery from NAILS Next Top Nail Artist party, click here.

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