Kym Lee

Kym Lee

VIEWPOINT: Kymberly Lee, president/founder, Galaxy Nail Products (Corona, Calif.), former champion nail competitor:

This letter has been a long time in coming, and it comes from the heart of a nail competitor.

The dictionary defines competition as “contest; rivalry; skill.”

Competition is rivalry between skilled persons, and the theory that once you have competed and won, you should step down (a policy held by several competition sponsors) is absurd. More absurd is the idea that a competitor should be penalized for his or her accomplishments (for example, being disqualified if she wins a competition once or if she is an educator or a manufacturer).

When I first began competing there was a whole different attitude among the competitors. Our goal wasn’t to eliminate the best competitor, but to conquer the best. There were then — and probably always will be — only a few competitors who dominated the circuit.

My ambition then as a novice competitor was to better myself and improve my talents to become Number One. I soon accomplished what I had set out to do; but if I hadn’t been able to compete against the best nail technicians in the business, the thrill of victory would have been bittersweet.

They say it’s lonely at the top, and it is. There are people who have: accused me of using my influence as a manufacturer and occasional competition judge to influence the outcome of competitions. But as anyone who is familiar with the closed judging system knows, no one can “fix” a competition. In fact, you’d have to have everyone invoked in the judging process conspire and cheat in order to affect the outcome.

Any competitor who truly believes that anything besides pure skill determines how one does in a competition should hang up her hat and get out of competition.

I would like to challenge all nail professionals to help our competition industry grow and mature so that it can proudly reflect the definition of competition. Here are some suggestions:

  • Strive to be the best, not to eliminate the best. Prevailing over a competitor of lesser stature carries no fulfillment.
  • Write letters to tradeshow promoters and trade journals urging changes in their rides to allow all licensed or legally operating nail professionals to compete and to allow product sponsorships. Sponsorships may enable you as a competitor to compete all over the country with all expenses paid.
  • Urge show promoters to allow competitors to wear T-shirts and use uncovered products, and to let competitors speak when they win their awards. Why shouldn’t the victors be able to say thank you to those people who trained them or helped them along the way in their career?

These kinds of rules will entice manufacturer involvement and give competitors goals to shoot for. After all, where would racecar drivers, tennis players, or professional athletes he if they didn’t have endorsements?

We are professionals, so let’s not limit our career opportunities! Alone we may be drops of rain, but together we are an ocean. So let’s make some waves!

VIEWPOINT: Vicki Peters, general manager of NAILS Magazine Shows (Redondo Beach, Calif.), former nail competitor who is currently managing five competitions:

Many high-profile nail competitions have been shrouded in controversy over their judging processes. What I see is that competitions are simply evoking and going through a period of growth.

In the earlier competitions, some manufacturers used their own wins for promotional purposes. Some competition sponsors reacted to this movement by changing their rules to disallow manufacturers from competing.

We then began to see manufacturers train their educators to perfection, and those educators began to dominate the competitions. Some shows even invite manufacturers to judge. It’s not hard to empathize with the competitor who starts to feel that she doesn’t have a chance if she’s up against an educator who works for one of the judges. These judging systems are discouraging to competitors and have led to unnecessary controversy.

I believe that shows could improve their reputations and eliminate the controversy with a few steps:

  • Establish a qualified judging staff that’s not affiliated with any product or manufacturer.
  • Conduct all judging in a closed forum so the judges never see the models and competitors.
  • The competition director must establish a foolproof system that clearly defines all rules and regulations so there are no misunderstandings in scoring.

Competing is a great 1earning tool for nail technicians. The competition ring is a great place for them to perfect then-skills. Competitions that let manufacturer politics play a part can kill the nail artists competitive spirit.

Competitors are evolving, and so must competitions be. Scoresheets, judging criteria, and rules and regulations need to be updated year to year to meet the demands of skilled nail technicians.

Competitors: Don’t support bad competitions by competing in them. Compete only in competitions that are fair and run professional.

VIEWPOINT: Traci Suggs, nail artist and nail competition champion (Columbus, Ohio):

I see that some nail shows have started a new rule. Educators and distributors will no longer be able to compete. While some of you are truly happy about this, there are also some of you who might be bothered. But stop and think about it: If the truly successful people are no longer competing, then who are the less experienced people going to learn from? Sure, those educators can still teach, but competing helps them keep their edge. If they aren’t allowed to show the industry their talents by their competition wins, who will we learn from and trust?

I am an educator because I enjoy sharing what I have learned with others and I truly enjoy competing against the best.

I hope our industry can come up with a way to solve this problem. Maybe these shows could hold a competition for nail techs who have already won a certain number of times. They could then retire from regular competitions and compete against other champions. It could be called something like “The Polished-to-Perfection Competition.” Just a thought.

VIEWPOINT: Sissy McQuinn, Nail and Skin Care Array, sponsor of the NASA show (Atlanta, Ga.):

Every competitor cannot be a first, second, or third place winner. But we at NASA feel that everyone who competes is a winner. Every competitor has taken the time, effort, and energy to prepare to compete, which is why at our show we reward each person with onstage recognition, a beautiful participation certificate, a medallion, and a NASA lapel pin.

The controversy surrounding competition judging is unfortunate. However, contrary to popular belief, a single judge cannot throw a competition unless there are only two judges — just as you can’t fail your exam if you are failed by only one examiner. In selecting judges, we invite previous winners back to judge. In an emergency, we will ask another professional to judge. The only reason we would ask a manufacturer to judge is if that person won the right the year before; but we don’t ask manufacturers or their employees to judge our competitions.

All competitions do not use the same rides and procedures. This is why it is very important to check first with the competition host so that you understand the particular rules and regulations. You can also ask what judging method will be used. When a competitor preregisters for the NASA show, we send a competition packet that explains these details.

We feel that closed judging is a must for some competition categories; but we also believe that the nail art category should be open so the art can be viewed. We provide each competitor’s model with a pair of gloves so that the judges see the nails only. We also use computerized scoring so that competitors can have a printed copy of their scores.

We feel that not allowing manufacturers or educators to compete is discrimination. Competition should be open to everyone who is a licensed professional.

We believe that if every competitor would use competition for educational purposes to learn more about herself and to improve the quality of her work she would find the true reward of competing. Unfortunately, it is usually the sore losers who do not take the time to utilize this method of bettering themselves.


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