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Nails 101: A Student Blog

My Trip to ISSE Long Beach: Competitions, Classes, Exhibitors

by Gregory Fletcher | February 3, 2020 | Bookmark +
 - Photo courtesy of Professional Beauty Association

Photo courtesy of Professional Beauty Association

I was fortunate enough to attend the three-day International Salon & Spa Expo (ISSE) held in Long Beach, Calif., January 26-28. The beauty tradeshow has been sponsored by the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) and its predecessor organizations in Southern California for over 30 years, and for over 20 years in its current location at the Long Beach Convention Center. The present day event is attended by thousands of licensed professionals, salon owners, students, educators, exhibitors and influencers.



During the event a number of competitions take place in such categories as hairstyling, makeup and nails. The preponderance of competitions are hair related; however there are two broad categories of nail competitions:  The North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) and the Nailpro World Cup.

NAHA inning entry: Nails by Casandra Clark; photography by Cody Kinsfather; makeup by Jonathan Krugman; hair by  Allen Ruiz. 
 - Photo courtesy of Professional Beauty Association.

NAHA inning entry: Nails by Casandra Clark; photography by Cody Kinsfather; makeup by Jonathan Krugman; hair by  Allen Ruiz. 

Photo courtesy of Professional Beauty Association.

The NAHA Nail Professional of the Year competition involves the advance submission of photographs of a model’s nails, which is generally completed with the collaboration of a nail artist, a photographer, makeup artist and hairstylist. The 2020 winner was Cassandra Clark of Aubrey, Texas.

The first Nailpro World Cup 2020 competition featured 10 categories of nails including Salon Success and French Twist. All of the competitors’ nails looked stunning! I had the opportunity to visit with one of the competitors, Genesis Ward (@designsbygenesis365), who told me that despite the intensity of the competitions there was a very powerful sense of camaraderie among the competitors: “If I say I need a brush, 20 brushes will immediately come flying through the air.” She added that common mistakes inexperienced competitors make include failing to read all the competition rules and poor time management.



Another feature of the ISSE show is education. The event offers over 200 classes distributed over twelve tracks, including nails. During the three days of the show I attended four classes. The first two classes, Waterless Spa Pedicures and Your Nail Salon, Your Rules were taught by Dr. Jaime Shrabeck. In addition to owning and operating her Carmel, Calif.-based salon, she also does consulting and advocates for the beauty industry. Both classes provided excellent technical information and best business practices, including tips on managing difficult clients.

Cassandra Clark

Cassandra Clark

Cassandra Clark (@myfreehandnails), a five-time NAHA finalist and winner of the NAHA Nail Professional of the Year in 2016 and 2020, presented two classes: Sculpt Acrylic Like a Pro and Nail Art Made Easy. I attended the latter class, which provided a number of techniques for nail art, including how to introduce nail art to conservative clients.

Kristin Rankin

Kristin Rankin

Although not specifically nail related, I attended a timely and critical class titled Creating Gender Affirming Shops and Salons: A How-To on Creating Safer-Spaces for LGBTQ2S+ Clients. The class was presented by Kristin Rankin, founder of the Dresscode Project. Kristin is the head stylist and owner of a boutique salon in Toronto. Kristin’s salon was one of the first to offer haircuts priced by length and not gender. During the discussion it was stressed that non-gender-specific pricing is not only the right thing to do, it is also the law in many jurisdictions; and that salons may be subject to severe penalties for non-compliance.



Although most of the exhibitors at the show represented hair-related vendors, with patience and a show floor map I managed to find most of the nail-related booths scattered about the exhibit hall. Among the exhibitor booths I visited I met a number of talented nail technicians who patiently explained and demonstrated their products. These charming ladies included:


Michelle Won of Après Nail. Michelle demonstrated the company’s Gel-X soft gel nail extension system and her nail art talents. You can see more of Michelle’s work on Instagram at @califreenails.


Nicolette Nemdali of Bio Sculpture Nails USA. Nicolette demonstrated her gel sculpting and nail art talents using the company’s products. Nicolette’s work can be seen on Instagram at @jacquiesplacesalon.


Sophia Alvarado and Veronica Vargas of Christrio both demonstrated Christrio’s sculpture gel and their nail art talents. You can see Sophia’s and Veronica’s work, respectively, at @soph_dawg_claw and @veronicas_nail_art.


Ashton Harlan appeared as a celebrity nail artist for Nail Labo. Ashton is NAILS Magazine’s Next Top Nail Artist Season Six winner. Ashton’s nail art skills were very evident as she wowed the assembled crowd with her award-winning talents. And she autographed my October 2019 issue of NAILS featuring her famous hand-painting and kaleidoscope designs! You can see Ashton’s nail art work on Instagram at @misashton.


Maiko Samizo of TAT showed off her impressive freehand drawing skills using the Nail Parfait collection of color gels. You can see examples of Maiko’s skills on Instagram at @saminmi.


Last But Not Least

Beth Livesay and Gregory Fletcher

Beth Livesay and Gregory Fletcher

It was a very eventful three days, but I am so glad I attended the ISSE trade show. Although three days seems a long time for one event, I found myself racing from one activity to another and I actually could have used more time to take in all there was to see and do. I have to mention one of the greatest highlights of the weekend was meeting Beth Livesay, NAILS’ Executive Editor. Beth is one of the most charming and gracious ladies you will ever meet and I am so glad I finally got to meet her in person.

Overall, I had a thoroughly wonderful time attending the 2020 ISSE tradeshow. If you were there you will understand my enthusiasm. If you have not previously attended a tradeshow I strongly recommend you do so. You won’t regret it!



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