Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee

Unless you’ve been sleeping under your nail table for the last year, you’ve heard me talking about NAILS Next Top Nail Artist. We introduced you to the Top 12 contestants in our reality show-inspired competition last September and we profiled the Top 3 finalists this past February. And now, at last, we’re featuring the winner of our first-ever NAILS Next Top Nail Artist competition. Congratulations are in order for our winner Ryoko Garcia and our 1st and 2nd runners-up, Lauren Wireman and Buddy Sims.

It was an arduous competition that began a year ago. The weekly challenges themselves took place from September through November last fall. But the applications were due in April (like they are again this year) and then we narrowed it down to 24 semi-finalists and then 12 finalists last summer. It was a big commitment for the contestants. It was a lot of work for the team here at NAILS and for all of our sponsors and judges. But it was undeniably worth it. (I can say that now that we’re one month past the big finale weekend that took place at ISSE Long Beach in January.)

In addition to Ryoko and Lauren and Buddy, the NAILS Next Top Nail Artist competition truly lived up to its name. Through the process, we met so many remarkable nail artists and I feel so lucky to say we discovered a bunch of up-and-coming nail stars. And the variety of talent — from hand-painted masters to sculpting gurus to the jacks-of-all-trade — was astounding. I promise you these nail techs have a bright future ahead of them and I guarantee you’ll be seeing more from them (in the pages of NAILS and on a grander scale in the industry) in the years ahead.

Our contestants have told us that their lives have changed since entering the contest. There have been offers to teach classes and attend Fashion Week, opportunities to work with manufacturers and agencies, connections made between nail techs and industry heavy-hitters. Many of our contestants were featured in their local papers and on the news. They became stars in their hometowns, in addition to stars in the nail world.

But the thing I feel the most pride in is hearing that the contest pushed so many of our competitors to become better nail techs. In a note Lauren wrote me after the contest, she said, “Overall, I had a blast and it was an amazing experience. It really caused me to grow as a nail artist —not just skill-wise, but I am also more confident. When someone asks me, ‘Can you do (fill-in-the-blank)?’ I now tell them, ‘I can do anything.’”

Our winner Ryoko also told me, “You can see improvement in your salon work after each challenge. Competing is the best way to learn something new and discover your weaknesses. I think it’s worth more than taking a class.”

We congratulate everyone who participated in our first annual contest. (Read all about Ryoko here and the final fantasy challenge here.) We look forward to seeing some new (and maybe some familiar) faces entering this year’s competition. (Remember, the main requirements are that you’re a professional nail technician and you don’t work for a manufacturer.) We’ve got some exciting new additions to this year’s contest and CND has signed on as our new premier sponsor.

If you think you have what it takes to be NAILS Next Top Nail Artist, we’re looking for you! Entries are due on April 25, 2014. Click here for the application.

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