When Kimberly Spiekerman, a nail tech at Image in San Jose, Calif., approached NAILS for advice on becoming a hand model, we had to do some head-scratching. Although we employ hand models from time to time, we didn’t know a lot about the profession. The compensation, we discovered, varies greatly—anywhere from $100 a day to more than $300 an hour. As to how to break in, we asked veteran hand model Lisa Kenny, whose 11-year career has included modeling for the likes of Avon, Revlon, and Sally Hansen, for the real low-down.

How did you first get involved in hand modeling?

Lisa Kenny: Originally, I studied to be a graphic designer and painter. I moved to New York and got a job designing books. We did a book on creative gift wrapping and they needed a pair of hands to model in the photos, so I volunteered. The photographer told me I could be making more money in modeling than in graphic design.

So how did you go about starting your professional career?

LK: It was complete luck. I worked with a photographer to get a portfolio together to show to ad agencies and modeling agencies. An agent liked my book and called me the next day and said, “I’ve got five commercials for you next week, can you do it?” So I quit my job.

What physical attributes are important in hand modeling?

LK: There are all different “types” of hands, like beauty, mommy, product, or older hands. Basically, you need nicely shaped hands and nail beds. It’s important not to have wrinkles or spots.

Hairy hands, big knuckles, and bitten cuticles are also a complete no-no.

What’s the work itself like?

LK: You have to be really patient. It’s not an easy job. You need to be able to sit still while you’re working—no caffeine or chocolate or your hands may shake. One tip someone gave me was to teat anything you hold while you’re modeling as if it’s fine crystal.

How can someone break in?

LK: Unfortunately, the old Catch 22 still applies—you can’t get an agent until you get work, and you can’t get work until you get an agent. Still, I think the best way to start is to find a photographer who is also starting out and work together on building a portfolio. I don’t recommend paying for the photos since he or she is getting exposure out of this too, but you can help out on the film and developing costs.

Do you have to live in New York?

LK: It doesn’t have to be New York, but it should be a big media town, like Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, or Chicago.

Who have you worked for?

LK: Vaseline, Sally Hansen, Avon, Revlon, Cutex, Maybelline, Coke, De-Beers, 3M, and plenty of others. I was Julia Roberts’ hand double in “The Pelican Brief.” It’s not that there was anything wrong with her hands, it was just that she didn’t have the time to do it. I also doubled for Brooke Shields, Madonna, Claudia Schiffer, and Priscilla Presley.  

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