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The Ultimate Mariah Manicure: The Top 3

Posted November 21, 2013


Challenge 10, sponsored by OPI, asked our Top 3 to create the ultimate Mariah Carey-inspired manicure. Using only nail polish (and of course some bling), our contestants drew off the superstar’s love of butterflies, sparkle, and her music to create these Mariah Manis.

This week’s guest judge was OPI’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. Permanent judges included Gelish’s Danny Haile and the staff at NAILS Magazine.

Since there are only three competitors left, we aren’t announcing the top and bottom results until tomorrow. But you can read below for the judges’ comments on all three finalists.





OPI’s Suzi: Buddy is very creative with his submission and you can see he put a lot of thought and time into his entry. There is an incredible amount of symbolism in his art, but I felt that it didn’t align very well with Mariah’s style as it is presently.

Gelish’s Danny: Love the collage and playful colors.

NAILS’ editor Hannah: I absolutely adore those little polish butterflies and what a smart way to create that extra element out of polish. What I’m missing from your design is MORE BLING. Mariah is all about the sparkle and I feel like your design is lacking in that sense. I’d also have preferred to have seen a design that was more wearable, not a mural. If this were a mural challenge, I would have loved this more.

NAILS’ graphic designer Yuiko: I love the attention to detail Buddy incorporated into his designs. It shows how much thought and research he put into them, especially with the initials that are carved into the tree and that Grammy in her hand! He used the nail canvas to its fullest, having two different sets to fully encompass Mariah. The butterflies are beautifully constructed, and the colors definitely represent the diva’s bold and vivid character.

NAILS’ production manager Carla: One of my favorite things about your approach to nail art is your ability to be inventive with materials and this Mariah Carey-inspired design is no exception. The 3-D butterflies made from polish were completely unexpected and really make the spring mural come to life. This design is very reminiscent of Mariah’s early style choices: earnest and sweet, not yet glam.

NAILS’ senior editor Beth: I appreciate all of the thought and work you put into this mural, which I think is an ambitious choice. I love that you paid homage to the appropriate seasons and recreated the Mariah cartoon (I totally remember that video!). I’m glad that you incorporated the rainbow too. No one else seemed to remember that album. The butterflies as an add-on give the mural some dimension and an added punch and the initials are quite clever too. However, I think there might be too much going on here. I would have loved this more if you had focused on one of your many brilliant ideas, like the rainbow. And while I get why Mariah is cartoonish looking, the whole thing looks a bit cartoony to me and I don’t think that works for this challenge.

NAILS’ group publisher Cyndy: I like the design and Buddy’s integration of all Mariah’s personal signatures. I thought it was too much color, though, and it needed embellishments.

NAILS’ managing editor Sree: The incorporation of Mariah Carey’s initials into the butterfly is seamless. Overall though I feel the design is too literal, with the incorporation of her album covers and the like. I would have preferred to see nails that I could see Mariah Carey wearing at an industry event, similar to the nails designed by the other two competitors this week. Even though these nails were done on a model, they don’t feel wearable to me.

NAILS’ assistant editor Brittni: Although I thought Buddy had the best step-by-step this week, his design didn’t scream Mariah Carey to me because of its color scheme and cartoon-like elements. Mariah seems to be drawn to a certain color palette, which, aside from red, very rarely includes bold primary colors. A Google image search pointed me toward champagne, black, pink, and silver.





OPI’s Suzi: Lauren’s submission is a great representation of Mariah’s style. I loved the butterfly and usage of Swarovski, but felt that the designs were a little too subtle and delicate.

Gelish’s Danny: Glitz and glamour at its best — just like Mariah!

NAILS’ assistant editor Brittni: Lauren has proved throughout this competition just how good of an eye she has for color and composition. Her softer palette works really well in this challenge, giving her Mariah Carey manicure understated bling. I love how the middle design is reversed on each hand too — nice touch! For the future, a more detailed step-by-step would be better.

NAILS’ graphic designer Yuiko: Lauren’s color choice and designs are very feminine, with a splash of pop, much like the attitude of Mariah. Her song “Fantasy” comes to mind when I see her tips. Though it may be difficult to tell that these are Mariah-themed nails at first glance, your description thoroughly explained the design. The Swarovski crystals are a beautiful touch to the nails representing her infamous bling microphone, and everything is beautifully and cleanly executed.

NAILS’ editor Hannah: I saw Lauren’s first set of Mariah nails before she decided on this design as her final look. I actually preferred the first set because it had more bling and brighter/darker colors, but I totally understand why she wanted to tone down her palette and make this nude and pastel look inspired by the superstar. It’s wearable and lovely.

NAILS’ managing editor Sree: One thing I love about Lauren is week after week she creates nails that the everywoman would be proud to wear. True, this week the nails are for “superwoman” Mariah Carey, but this look works just as well for a superstar as it does for the girl down the street. Lauren’s research into Mariah’s preferred color palette is spot on.

NAILS’ senior editor Beth: These nails are glamorous and soft. I love the candy-colored palette. I’m a huge fan of bling myself, so I like the sparkle that you included in many forms (foil, rhinestones, metallic polish). I’m kind of over the whole butterfly thing (they read very ’90s to me) so I like that your butterflies are minimal and not the entire focus of the nail. I wish you had shown how you drew them in your step-by-step. Overall, very pretty nails with a lovely mix of polish techniques.

NAILS’ group publisher Cyndy: Lauren’s color choices and mix of bling and polish were just right — enough to fully capture the Mariah energy, but still elegant enough for OPI and a holiday theme. I liked how Lauren established a consistent palette of colors so that the design was cohesive. The butterfly was elegantly understated.

NAILS’ production manager Carla: This is soft yet glam design that hints at some of Mariah’s trademark style. The ombre in a variety of pastels is a great choice and I think you achieved a perfect balance of polish and bling. I only wish the butterflies had more definition and/or detail. They make up the design element most directly associated with Mariah that unfortunately gets lost in the creamy color palette.





OPI’s Suzi: Ryoko’s submission is my favorite of the bunch. It is the best representation of Mariah’s glamour and sophistication. The “M” monogram, butterfly, and microphone are strong symbols of Mariah yet done in a refined manner. The use of gold and “bling” is perfect for the holidays as well.

Gelish’s Danny: Great emphasis on the butterflies and soft colors. Great work!

NAILS’ assistant editor Brittni: Ryoko’s design really pops from both up close and far away. I love the varying sizes of crystal embellishments, and the nail art/logo on every other finger really ties the whole design concept together. Great job integrating interesting techniques as well. I can see Mariah Carey sporting this manicure!

NAILS’ graphic designer Yuiko: The crystals and symbols (initials, microphone, and butterfly) are definitely iconic to Mariah Carey, and the shimmer and pink hues are very fitting for the glamorous diva. The design is pretty and the symbols are drawn with clean lines and control. But it seems to be missing that “wow” factor, where one part could stand out more than another.

NAILS’ managing editor Sree: I love the dimension Ryoko was able to create with the simple tools of polish, water, and rhinestones. The color palette is perfect and these nails scream Mariah.

NAILS’ senior editor Beth: Thank you for showing us your water marble technique! I really enjoyed that part of the tutorial. I also really liked that you threw in other hand drawn elements such as the microphone and the initials to tell us that this is definitely a Mariah-inspired manicure.

NAILS’ group publisher Cyndy: Ryoko’s design is pretty in pink, with Mariah’s butterfly, microphone, and monogram. Nice mix of bling, polish, and an excellent color palette. I think the nails should have been shaped differently though. They seem to need some drama.

NAILS’ editor Hannah: These nails definitely scream Mariah Carey to me. The monogram, butterfly, microphone, and bling bring it all together. I also really like your water marbling technique. Great alternative use of nail polish.

NAILS’ production manager Carla: This swirling pink and gold palette is very Mariah-esque and the stone-to-polish ratio is nicely balanced. I really like the MC monogram as a detail, though the heavy outlines on the butterfly and mic make the design look a little less polished.


Check back tomorrow to find out who won this week’s challenge and who’ll be packing up their paintbrushes.