Two nail technicians proudly stepped up to the podium to accept their top honors at the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) banquet held February 11 at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers in Anaheim, Calif. LaCinda Headings of The Strands in Hutchinson, Kan., Kerri Sorell of The David Broadway Salon in Toledo, Ohio who won the award for Natural Makeover, were honored not only for their models’ flawless nails but also for theme, art direction, and composition.

Last years’ NAHA was a landmark for nail technicians because it was the first time nails were recognized by NAHA, which has honored hairdressing for six years. And this year proved to be just as monumental with the addition of the Natural Nail Makeover category. Finalist in the Nail Enhancement makeover category include Marti Preuss of Hooked on Nails in Houston, Texas, and in the Natural Nail Makeover category included Lann Nguyen of Blades in Wichita, Kan., and Preuss, last year’s winner in this category.

Entrants in both divisions were required to submit before and after photos of their models’ nail. Preliminary judging was done by editors of beauty-care trade magazines. Final judging was done by photographer Chris Astley, Liz Brous of Seventeen, hair stylist Peter Coppola, Linda Evan of Family Circle, Jean Goodfrey-June of Elle, Gale Hansen of Harper’s Bazaar, Jane Larkworthy of Mademoiselle, Maureen Lippe of Lippe Taylor Public Relations, Marcia Menter of Redbook, Andrea Pomerantz of Cosmopolitan, Gina Roose of Marie Claire, and Harris Shepard of Harris Shepard Public Relations.

Produced by The Beauty and Barber Supply Institute (BBSI). NAHA honors the crème de la crème of beauty care professionals in 12 design categories. Sponsors for this year’s award included the BBSI, Clairol Professional, Creative Nail Design System, Graham Webb International, Image Laboratories, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Joico, Kenra haircare L’Oreal Technique Professionalle, Mastey, Matrix Essentials, Modern Salon, Redken Laboratories, Revlon Professional, Studio USA, Takara Belmont, Tressa, and the Wella Corporation.

Emceed by Terry Murphy, co-anchor of the television show Hard Copy, the gala awards banquet was revered as the Academy Awards of the beauty care industry. Nearly 1,100 artist, manufacturers, distributors, and journalist attended. Opening the ceremony was Team NAHA, a group of salon professionals representing each sponsor, who were accompanied by well-coiffed, stylishly dressed, models. All paraded on stage, resembling the latest fashion release, to the sounds of hip music and flashing lights.

Following the lavish production, the awards themselves were handed out by well-known industry professionals. Presenters in the Natural Nail Makeover category included Vicki Peters of The Peters’ Perspective, R. Douglas Smith, also an educator for Creative Nail Design System, and Victor St. Sure of Revlon Professional. Peter and St. Sure also presented the Nail Enhancement Makeover award.

Says Headings, “I can’t even put into words how I felt when my name was called. Winning this award is such an honor.” Headings, who was a finalist last year, opted for more dramatic consisted of praying hands holding a cross. Gold lighting enhanced the photo. Her winning nails were featured on the March cover of NAILS.

Headings came up with her concept by rummaging through a basket of clearance jewelry at a salon in Dodge City, Kan. “When I picked up the cross, I immediately envisioned the picture,” she says. “If it makes you catch your breath that’s what the judges are looking for,” she adds.

Possessing that certain something was also the case for Sorell, who chose a male model for her winning photograph.

“It was difficult to come up with a female model, you can use perfume bottles or flowers.” After brainstorming with a client of hers, Sorell’s award winning concept was a pair of hands reaching for a pile of poker chips.

Says Sorell, “I’ve been in the business for 6 ½ years and have a loyal clientele. It’s nice to be nationally recognized for my skills.”

Smith says preparing was a great experience that taught him a lot. “It took me five hours to do the nails because photograph shows every flaw and imperfection.”

Smith chose a Zen rock garden theme because of the Japanese influence on U.S. business today. “Since NAHA judges are looking for beautiful nails, something current, and something you would see in a fashion magazine, I thought my theme would fit right in.”

Smith got a chance to participate in the glitz and glamour also as a member of Team NAHA, representing Creative Nails Design Systems.

In addition to the technical awards, NAHA and its sponsors honored Geri Cusenza, co-founder/senior vice president/creative director of Sebastian international, with the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her talent, skill, experience, and contributions to the professional salon industry.

A new award, the Hall of Leaders debuted this year. Paula Kent Meehan, founder and chairman of Redken laboratories, is the first inductee in recognition of her long-term dedication to the professional salon industry.

The $30,000 in proceeds from the evening were donated to the Cosmetology Advancement Foundation (CAF), a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop a unified approach to issues and trends affecting the professional salon industry.

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