It’s with much excitement that we announce the 12 finalists in our inaugural NAILS Next Top Nail Artist contest. With talented entries from all over the world, narrowing down the contestants was no easy task. In order to select our final 12, we asked 24 semifi nalists to compete in two challenges that were judged by the team at NAILS and Gelish founder Danny Haile. Six contestants were eliminated in each of those two early challenges. (You can log on to to see all 24 semifi nalists.)

The weekly competition will take place beginning August 30. Each week the contestants will be given a challenge to complete, and one will be eliminated. Judges include NAILS’ team members, Gelish’s Haile, and guest judges from our weekly sponsors (including CND, Dashing Diva, Entity, Gel II, INM, It’s So Easy, Misa, NSI, OPI, and Orly). In addition, voting will be open online for everyone to cheer on their favorite contestant. 

The final two contestants will be flown to ISSE Long Beach in January 2014 for the live finale.

Without further ado, here’s who will be competing for the coveted title of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist:



Harold “Buddy” Sims
Bella Dea Day Spa, Omaha, Neb.

Preferred nail art medium: I love them all, but seem to do the most painting or sculpting.

Favorite nail trend: I love the combo of inlay with 3-D elements on top, creating an intensely dimensional design of depth and beauty.

“My endeavors into nail technology began as a pre-teen in Omaha. Even then, I was fascinated with being able to ‘transform’ nails and create beauty. Later in life my interests expanded, leading me to an artist position with a designer makeup company, and I had work published throughout the Midwest. Around the same time, the opportunity to further explore nail technology presented itself. I attended The College of Nail Design in 2012 and accepted a position at the adjoining Bella Dea Day Spa. Though I was scared (and not all that experienced) my fascination with the endless possibilities pushed me further. Being accepted as a contestant is a dream come true. I am creating art that I love and live.”


Christian Mans
Jeweled Nails, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Preferred nail art medium: gel

Favorite nail trend: jewelry nails

“Competitive in nature, I strive to set myself apart in the nail industry with advanced techniques and unpredictable methods to create one-of-a-kind nail art. Born and raised in South Africa, I take nothing for granted and have committed my life to prove that nails is a form of art just like painting, drawing, and sculpting.”


Jane Weiner
Gloss Salon, Asbury Park, N.J.

Preferred nail art medium: freehand designs using nail polish

Favorite nail trend: I love the current obsession everyone seems to be having with art deco patterns. The clean lines and cool color combos really work on everybody.

“I see nails as a perfect canvas for miniature masterpieces and every client as an opportunity to help them showcase what they love, what they connect with, and what they think is just plain awesome to the world. I have loved making crafts and art on a small scale since I was a child, and one day I realized that the smallest scale happened to be attached to my fingers. My love of pop culture and nerd culture is what drives my designs. I love clean lines, bright colors, and the look on my client’s faces when they see a finished nail and go, ‘This is just so cool!’”


Julie Ventura

Bliss Hoboken, Union City, N.J.

Preferred nail art medium: hand-painted using nail polish or acrylic paint

Favorite nail trend: Textured nails! Textured nails (caviar, velvet nails, etc.) are much bolder fashion statements and you can get super creative with the placement of the velvet and caviar. It’s art you can feel!

“I may be a new nail tech, having my license for only two years now, but I’ve been doing nail art for countless years before that. There is no greater feeling than to WOW my clients with nail art and have them love their nails as much as I love doing them! I try to innovate new and old nail trends and turn the simplest trends into extraordinary works of art. Whether it is as simple as a French tip or as complex as a mini portrait, I dedicate every ounce of my passion to making each design the best of the best! In the end, I’m just here for fun and to share my love for nail art!”


Lexi Martone
Finger Painted, Dix Hills, N.Y.

Preferred nail art medium: gel-polish and acrylic paints

Favorite nail trend: pointed/almond/oval nails

“I’ve been an artist my whole life. I could probably draw before I could walk or talk. I’ve explored just about every area of art there is. When I was in high school I fell in love with fashion design and went off to study it in college. It was there that I discovered that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wasn’t happy and art wasn’t fun anymore. When I came across the nail world I was hooked instantly. It was new and different, something I had no experience with. Just as in fashion, I was creating wearable works of art, but you don’t need to be a 6-ft.-tall, size 0 model to wear it. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like — nail art is for everyone. I want to show people the true art behind nails, that we aren’t just ‘polishing our nails.’”


Lauren Wireman
Wildfl owers, Cape Coral, Fla.

Preferred nail art medium: acrylic paint

Favorite nail trend: moon-manicured almond shaped nails

“Hi, I’m Lauren, and I love to learn! My learning obsession has fueled my career in nails over the past four years. I started with the traditional red polish in three strokes for the boards back in 2001, and just about everything after that was self-taught, mostly from hours of late night nail videos on YouTube. After teaching as a nail instructor at a beauty school, I now own a bright and peaceful private studio called Wildflowers. It’s there that I service my loyal clientele and provide private nail education for salons and techs up and down the coast.”


Ryoko Garcia
Bella Day Spa and Salon, Navarre, Fla.

Preferred nail art medium: I love all nail styles.

Favorite nail trend: stiletto

“My name is Ryoko (Ree-yoh-ko) and I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and am now living in the United States because my husband is in the United States Air Force. I’ve been doing nails for nine years. I love doing nails more than anything. I’m dedicated to creating whatever my clients want. I always set out to achieve whatever I put my mind to 100%. I’m very passionate and it shows in the work I do. I remain humble because there’s no limit to learn something new. I’ve also been competing in nail competitions for the last five years. I like competing because I know the more you challenge yourself, the more you learn.”


Temeka Jackson
Custom Nails by Temeka, Orange, Conn.

Preferred nail art medium: all different styles and designs

Favorite nail trend: pointy nails

“My passion for nail art derives from the fashion and art industry. When I look at fashion and art it’s unique, different, and you can make it your own. When I design nails I look at the shape of the nails, the customer’s taste, and how I can make every single design unique, and I begin to create something that would be breathtaking to others. When you are passionate about your work it will show in the design. I love to see the smiles on my customers’ faces when I am done creating their beautiful looks. Making people look and even feel good and creating custom art brings joy to the quality of my work, and that’s what makes me passionate about my nail art.”


Victoria Zegarelli
Nail Bar Lounge, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

Preferred nail art medium: Acrylic paint is mandatory in my arsenal, but I love anything that sparkles.

Favorite nail trend: Deco nails! I’m also inspired by Japan’s “kawaii” nail art and a mixed jumble of funk and swag. 

“I am a nail couture nail artist who strives to learn and create the latest nail designs and trends. I love when my clients challenge me to create nails unique to their own style. If you love nail art, I’m your nail girl! You dream it, I’ll draw it!”


Truc “Max” Nguyen
Bellagio Nails Salon, Lebanon, Tenn.

Preferred nail art medium: freehand painted designs

Favorite nail trend: nail enhancements and art design

“I personally think that everybody has their own different way of showing their art. My art is a little different because it’s more like a mixture of tattoo and hand-painted fi ne art. I only use polish paint to paint my nail art.”


Winnie Huang
The RAWR Shop, Surrey, B.C., Canada

Preferred nail art medium: flat art, mixed media

Favorite nail trend: neon/pastel gradients

“Chocolate-loving, fun, and possibly the most random person you will ever meet! I embrace my weirdness, and sometimes I like to do nails — kidding! My love for nail art just keeps growing more and more each day. I’m grateful to be living in a city that inspires me constantly and I can’t wait to soak in all the amazing talents in this competition.”

Editor's Note: Britney Tokyo was a top 12 finalist, but she stepped down from the competition, citing creative differences. Lucky for all of us, this meant we were able to save one of our previous contestants: Ashley Gregory, a newly licensed nail tech from Chicago. Learn about Ashley here.

Learn more about our Top 12 finalists here (including their signature nail styles, the best lesson they learned in nail school, and their most embarassing nail moment).

Related Video:

NAILS Next Top Nail Artist Competition Teaser


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.