Some competitors don’t socialize. They’re caught up in the competition. Not everyone is willing to help out other competitors. That’s only natural. Why would you want to give out your secrets—the ones that helped you win? But top nail competitor Kim Morgan is only too glad to offer advice to those new to competition. “People run up to me and ask me how I do things. I’m happy to help,” she says.

A licensed cosmetologist, Morgan started attending shows with her mother, who owned a hair salon, before she began doing nails. She loved watching the competitions and told herself that one day she would compete and win. “A woman named Diana Alredge was a competitor in those days. I looked at her and wanted to beat her.”

Morgan belongs to the current wave of top nail competitors. In fact, she is the top nail competitor, according to NAILS Magazine’s 1993 Competitors Ranking. Morgan went into competition for two reasons. One was to be the best and to have people look up to her.

The other was to have a chance to teach others.

Morgan began competing soon after getting her license. “I got bored with just doing nails as a job. I need a challenge, and I love the glory of winning.” And she should know: She’s taken 10 first-place wins, three seconds, and three thirds for sculptured nails in the past year (by our count). She says she’s taken three more firsts in other shows since our report.

Shows became Morgan’s sole “teacher” and the fountainhead of her success in her business. “Shows are an excellent way to learn the profession and to get professional critiques of your work,” she says.

Morgan specializes in sculptured acrylics with forms. “I used to do tips with acrylic; then about two and a half years ago I tried sculpting with forms again. When you get good at sculpting, it’s a lot faster and easier than tips: If you apply the acrylic right, there’s almost no filing. With tips, you always have to do a certain amount of filing to blend the tip.”

Many competitors gave Morgan advice during her rise to the top — some good, some not so good.

“One buddy told me, ‘Stick with one thing and master it.’ But that only made me want to do it all, if only just to disprove him. In the beginning, my nails were flat and shapeless. I looked at other competitors’ nails and theirs had a high C-curve, a great arch, and a super-high shine. They looked so natural. I had a lot to learn from them.”

Morgan says she finds regional differences in nail styles. “On the East Coast, fiberglass wraps are more popular, perhaps because there are lifting problems when the nail bed shrinks due to the cold. On the West Coast, tapered nails with less of an arch are more popular. I like a strong C- curve so I don’t do as well in competitions there.”

Morgan’s now achieving her ambition to teach. Recently she taught part-time at a local beauty college. “Students get out of school and they all do those ‘butter bean’ nails. It makes me happy to help the students do better nails.” What’s ahead for this talented, industrious nail technician? By the time you read this, she’ll be working as an educator for her favourite product manufacturer.

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