1st Place: Allison Baker
Allison Baker has been a nail tech in southern Oregon for 15 years, and an educator for EZ Flow and its sister companies for 10 years. She is the owner of Nail It! Professional Nail Studio in Medford, Ore., and travels the world educating for EZ Flow. NAILS asked Allison about her outstanding year of competing.
What competitions did you enter this year?
It all started with the Nailympics in London last September. I didn’t place individually but was part of the winning team entry, and I got the taste [for competing] back. After that I competed in Sacramento, in the Nailympics USA, at ISSE in Long Beach, Premiere Orlando, and IBS Las Vegas. I also just competed at the Nailympics USA again in June. (Ed note: Those results aren’t included in the 2011-2012 Top 25.)
What led to your increase in competing this year?
My big push came from the director of education at EZ Flow, Dennise Mason. She threw me into the London Nailympics, and since then she’s been my biggest cheerleader.
How do you feel about your competitions this year? Do you plan on competing next year?
I’m really happy about this year. I did better than I ever expected to. I do nails full time in my salon and I educate worldwide for AII and EZ Flow, but the level and style of nails in competitions is so different. I have been extremely surprised with myself. I’m naturally a competitive person and my worst critic. I do plan on competing next year. There’s always room for improvement.
What is your favorite competition category?
I think I would have to say stiletto. They’re challenging but I love the way they look. It’s also my favorite shape to wear.
What win are you most proud of?
Definitely my second place spot in Perfect Match at IBS Las Vegas with Nikki Payton. We work together in the salon and in January I somewhat forced her to partner up with me for that event in Long Beach. She had never competed before and was extremely nervous. I made some mistakes and changed applications on her last minute and we blew it. It was a disaster to say the least. We decided to give it another shot in Vegas and things just clicked. They called our names for second place and I really don’t think I have ever seen Nikki more shocked and excited in my five years of working with her. I was so happy and proud at that moment and still am. Our trophy sits in between our tables at work.
What is the greatest challenge in the competition arena? How do you deal with it?
Time and temperature. I always seem to be pushing the time limits and rushing to finish. It seems at the beginning it’s plenty of time but when you are trying to create that “perfect” set of nails it just flies by. It is always freezing cold too. My poor models sit there for hours at a time through the competition and then judging turning blue and shivering. Product doesn’t work optimally in the cold either, so that affects my time. My answer to both: heating pads and Snuggies.
What don’t we know about you? What do you do for fun?
I watch a lot of football games and wrestling matches and I love to get on my Harley whenever I can and just ride. I call it bike therapy. When I really think about it, my career is the most girly thing about me. I love camping and outdoor stuff. I have two teenage boys that have always been very supportive of what I do, and I’m also newly married and have five great new stepchildren, and a wonderful husband.
Next page: Top 25 competitors Erina Ogawa, Seo Sang-Mi, and Shannon McCown [PAGEBREAK]
5th: Erina Ogawa
Erina Ogawa has been in the U.S. for one year and seven months, living in New York City. It didn’t take long for her to develop an intricate and tasteful nail art style to make her nail work into competition caliber winners.
“When I first started doing nails in the U.S., I never made crazy nail art stuff, like handpainted nail art or 3-D because the clients I worked on in Japan preferred conservative nail styles,” she says. “I wanted to win first place so I knew I had to try it. And I found out I could do it, which really surprised me.
“I was worried though because to make these detailed nail art tips, I needed a long time, like one month or more for some, and I thought I might lose friends because I could never hang out with them and had to work on these designs. But when I won at the shows they would celebrate with me when I got back, and this made me so happy.”
7th: Seo Sang-Mi
In addition to competing, Seo Sang-Mi currently serves as the director of creative technology for the Korea Association of Nail Knowledge Services (KANK).
In 2011, she won the Winner of Winners for Division 3 (Masters) at the Nailympics USA and London Beauty Expo.
8th: Shannon McCow
Shannon McCown is an educator for Nubar and returned to the competition arena this year after a six-year hiatus.
She had her first ever competition back in 2005 at ISSE Long Beach, and placed third in the Division 2 Gel Category at the Nailympics in March 2005.
Next page: Top 25 competitors Viv Simmonds, Trina Ngo, and Ryoko Garcia
11th: Viv Simmonds
The Australian fantasy nail virtuoso, Viv Simmonds, had another fine year of competing and creating excellent works. She got off to a strong start with a first place win at ISSE Long Beach in the veteran category for 3-D Nail Art. Then Simmonds took home two second place wins in the veteran categories for 3-D Nail Art and Fantasy Nail Art at Premiere Orlando. Viv often has her work published in leading international nail magazines.
16th: Trina Ngo
Trina Ngo scored some early points in 2012 at the ISSE Long Beach show with a third place showing in the Soak-Off Gel Manicure Non-Divisional competition. She continued honing her soak-off gel skills and scored another third place win in the same category at Premiere Orlando. The practice paid off, and culminated with her winning first place in this category at IBS Las Vegas. She hopes to continue to compete next year and improve her skills.
19th: Ryoko Garcia
Ryoko Garcia won first place in the Hand Painted Nail Art Veteran category with a theme of alien life at the IBS Las Vegas Nailpro competition. “I couldn’t believe that I won,” says Ryoko of her win. “I was so impressed with the other entries it took a minute for it to register that I won.”