Congratulations to NAILS’ Top 25 Competitors of 1996 — those tireless perfectionists who’ve raised the standards of excellence throughout the industry and made nails a little more beautiful. Beginning in January 1996 and concluding at the end of the competition year in November, NAILS has kept a tally of the nail competition winners from most major U.S. beauty shows. First-place wins earned six points, second place earned five points, third place earned four points, and fourth place earned three points. An award for best overall competitor earned an extra three points. We compiled the ranking based on the information supplied to us by the shows’ sponsors. The Top 25 competitors will be honored at the NAILS Show this fall.
Our top competitors, Sonia Glover, Claudine Morgan, and Christopher Truong (ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 respectively), took time from their very busy schedules to talk to NAILS about their experiences competing — from the best of times to the worst of times — and to give us some insight into the strategies of a top performer.
Sonia Glover, Owner of The Nail Boutique in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Nail technician for 6 years
Ranked No. 2 on last year’s list
Is there a difference between competition nails and salon nails? Competition nails are thinner and more precise. They’re supposed to look good, not last.
How do you keep your skills sharp? Before we go to a show, all the technicians in the salon get together to brush up on our competition technique by doing each other’s nails.
What was your worst competition experience? I was going to a show in Orlando and I had someone else at the salon pack my supplies for me. When I got there, I discovered I had no forms, acetone, or competition white powder with me. If it were not for the kindness of a fellow competitor; Michele Baker who loaned me the supplies I was missing, I wouldn’t have been able to compete.
What was your best competition experience? My best experience started out as a disaster. The night before the IBS show in New York, my model went ice skating at Rockefeller Center and broke three nails right down to the quick — to the point that they were bleeding. At the competition, I applied the nails, but the blood showed through. Then I got fabulously lucky. They randomly drew numbers to determine which three fingers were to be painted with red polish. It turned out to be the three with the broken nails, so I was able to completely cover any signs of injury. Who does your nai1s? Ordinarily I do my own, but if I’m at a show I try to talk Danny Haile or Tom Holcomb into doing them.
If you could do any one person’s nails, who would you choose? Oprah Winfrey I really admire her, and she doesn’t wear nails, so she needs them.
#2 Claudine Morgan, co-owner of At Your Fingertips in Fayetteville, N.C.
Nail technician for 6 1/2 years
Ranked No. 8 on last years list
Has ranked on NAILS’ Top 25 list every year since its inception
What’s your worst fear during a competition? Breaking a nail with only a few minutes left It’s happened to me twice — with 10 minutes left — but both times I got the nail back on and won.
What was your best competition experience? I especially enjoy winning in a really great field of competitors. For instance, I think Tom Holcomb’s work is really great; I’ve learned a lot from him.
What was your worst competition experience? My worst competition experience was two years ago during the Top Gun competition at the WINBA show in Las Vegas. After sweating for three hours over a set of nails, I discovered that my model had neglected to see all the judges, so I was disqualified. The competition director took me aside and told me my model had seen only two of the judges, but that I received the top score from those judges. That was a tough one. Since then I hand-walk my model to each judge.
What’s the hardest part of a competition for you? Spending my time wisely 1 tend to spend too much time on the’ unpolished hand, trying to make it perfect. My model always has to tell me to move along.
If you could do any one person’s nails, who would you choose? Rosie O’Donnell. I admire her and think she’s very genuine. I imagine it would be a pleasure to spend an hour with her and listen to her stories. Besides, we’re both from Long Island.
Do you have any unfulfilled aspirations? I’d like to sit on the other side of the curtain for a change. It must be hand when everyone’s nails are so good.
#3 Christopher Truong, owner of Forever Nails and Training Academy in Chesapeake, Va.
Nail technician for 12 years
First year on Top 25 list
How do you keep your skills sharp? Every time I compete I use a different model — it just works out that way. So each time I do a new set in the salon, I pretend tend that it’s a Competition. That way when I pick up a new model I’m practiced at making any hand perfect.
What was your worst competition experience? One of my models had an asthma attack just as the judges got to hen I asked her not to stay out too late the night before, but I don’t think she listened to me because when she showed up the next day, she wasn’t looking her best. She got more tired and nervous as the competition went on. By the time the judges came to the table she had an asthma attack and turned all shades of blue. We got her some water and fresh air; but it was 20 minutes before she was OK. We did take first place, though. What was your best competition experience? I lost my model the day before a competition. We split up and I just couldn’t find her with two competitions to do. A friend of mine lent me one of his models. She had a difficult hand to do, but I did my best. Then I managed, completely by chance, to find another model for the second competition. It turned out I won both competitions and even took best overall competitor. That was a nice surprise.
If you could do any one person’s nails, who would you choose? There’s a jewelry model on QVC with really nice hands. If you look closely, you can see her nails aren’t always so great. I’d like to put a perfect set on her... and write my phone number on one of them.
Comments from the rest of the Top 25:
#10 Nanda Khin: It’s not so much whether I win or place, but I enjoy seeing what everyone else is doing; that’s the most exciting part of competing for me. At every competition you learn what to do and what not to do.
#22 Victoria Sozio: I’ve been competing since 1985, and the changes have been phenomenal; the products are more sophisticated and refined, and the colors are more vivid. The nails just look better than they did. The competitions are much more demanding in terms of what the judges expect.
#6 Trana Nguyen: I’ve been competing six years and I plan to continue; I want to be #1. Competing has made me more confident dealing with customers as well as more skilled.
#24 Charlotte Nuszbaum: After doing nails for 11 years. I entered a sculptured French competition -a technique I had just learned - and came in second. I thought “Wow, this feels good.” It’s like a high and you want to keep getting the same drug.
#25 Bambi Johnson: The wildest design I ever did was “Looney Tunes in Outer Space.” I used acrylic to sculpt the characters. The design took first place in a 3-D art competition called “Let Your Imagination Go Wild.”
#9 Catherine DePoole: I compete because I love stress. I enjoy seeing how I can make myself better each time - make each set better than the last. I set one goal every year. My goal for ‘96 was to get on the Top 25 list and stay on it.
#13 Lynn Caudle: What inspires me to compete is obvious - working with Sonia Glover, the #1 nail technician. She’s full of encouragement and valuable tips and pointers.