Tom Holcomb, a full-time educator for EZ Flow Nail Products, did pink-and-white sculptured nails on this month's cover model. Photography by Caesar Lima; makeup and hairstyling: Helen Cepeda; models: Michelle Thomas, Chic Models; Chris Lohr.

It's hard to imagine that the first male to gain notoriety on the U.S. nail competition circuit could have been someone other than 'Tom Holcomb, which would have been the case if he hadn't followed his mother's advice to give cosmetology school a try.

"I was the lost, wild child in high school. I was always very artistic with my hands and I had a lot of funky hairstyles growing up," says the full-time educator for EZ Flow Nail Products.

"In cosmetology school, I fought doing nails because it wasn't my bag. One day a manufacturer's educator was giving a demonstration. She saw my work, liked what she saw, and talked me into competing in a student sculptured nail competition and I won."

Needless to say, Holcomb, who lives in Riverside, Calif., got hit by the competition bug. That was 12 years ago. "At the time, no men were competing. I started winning right away and I got a lot of flack from the other competitors who had been competing for a while. I had to prove myself," he says.

He proved himself all right, and in the process, he ended up as co-owner of a nail company. After two years, Holcomb hit burnout and left the company. "I was working full-time in a salon, competing, and traveling to plug our products. I became totally strung out," he says.

At one point, he even threw in the competition towel. "Competing became monotonous. I was doing the same technique over and over again," he says. Eventually, he started competing again, and practiced doing softer-looking nails by sculpting the moons.

"There are many great competitors right now," says Holcomb. "I love it when a competitor who asks for my advice goes and beats me. It makes me work harder during the competition, which keeps me motivated."

Three years ago, to break up the day-to-day routine of salon life, Holcomb became an educator for EZ Flow Nail Products. He is constantly on the move teaching across the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

Believe it or not, Holcomb's unrealistic goal for the future is to be a dentist. "I'm a tooth freak," he admits. But luckily, his hand and foot fetish will keep him in the nail industry. His realistic goal? "I'd like to work full time in a salon again and be able to come home at a decent hour and make dinner. I'm looking forward to settling down and leading a normal life." In the next millennium?

After 12 years in the nail industry, Tom Holcomb has no regrets about anything he's ever done. "I always learn from my mistakes," he says.

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