NAILS Magazine is looking for the Next Top Nail Artist. We searched high and low to find the best up-and-coming nail artists. Contestants were put through a rigorous screening process where every brush stroke was scrutinized. After carefully evaluating hundreds of intricate hand-painted looks, sculpted acrylics, brushed on gels, and an array of mixed-media, 12 contestants remain standing.


Who will be NAILS Next Top Nail Artist?

Each week starting in September 2014, we’ll give the remaining finalists a new challenge to showcase their skills in a variety of ways. They’ll be creating awe-inspiring nail art looks based on a series of themed challenges created by the editors at NAILS and each of our weekly sponsors (Bio Seaweed Gel, CND, Dashing Diva, Entity Beauty, Gel II, Gelish, INM, It’s So Easy, Orly International, SuperNail, and Young Nails). In addition to creating their nail art masterpieces, they’ll be shooting step-by-step tutorials, video demos, and sharing their entries via social media.


Every Friday one contestant will be eliminated. Every Tuesday, we’ll post the next challenge on our site.The judges — AND YOU — will have three days to vote for your favorite contestants. Make sure your Next Top Nail Artist doesn’t get eliminated. Vote and spread the word to your friends.


The final three contestants will be flown to ISSE Long Beach 2015 for the official crowning of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist. In addition, they’ll also receive cash and product prizes, the opportunity to work for a major nail manufacturer, and a spot on the NAILS blog roll for one year.


Head Judge: Jan Nordstrom Arnold, CND


Combining business savvy with vibrant charisma, Jan Arnold, the co-founder of internationally successful CND has been leading the nail industry with innovation and style for over 30 years. Since the company’s incorporation in 1979, Jan has become one of the professional beauty industry’s most respected authorities in the fields of nail technology, runway trends, and education, as well as a recognized spokesperson for the industry. Jan’s vision of nails as fashion accessories has translated to the runways. Seasonally since 1996, CND’s top nail pros have manicured runway models and started trends during Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Paris, and Sydney. As a result, Jan is an editorial favorite and is regularly quoted in top consumer publications such as GlamourElle, and Allure, explaining nail trend forecasts or benefits of proper nail care.


Head Judge: Hannah Lee, NAILS Magazine


Associate publisher and editor Hannah Lee has been leading NAILS Magazine’s creative team for the last 15 years. In addition to writing and editing for both the print and web versions of NAILS, Hannah also collaborates on each nail look for our cover shoots with art director Danielle Parisi, our photographer, and our many talented nail artists. She’s in constant contact with nail techs and industry heavy-hitters in order to keep her eye on what’s happening in the world of nails. And she is often quoted by consumer press for all things nail-related. Under her direction, NAILS has won an impressive 27 Maggie awards for magazine excellence. In addition to judging our many in-house nail art contests (Mini-Masterpiece, Self-Portrait, Mural), she’s also been a judge on the international nail competition stage. Tired of the same old nail competitions, Hannah came up with NAILS Next Top Nail Artist to combine her love of reality competition television shows with her desire to find the best of the up-and-coming nail artists our industry has to offer.


Weekly Judge: Beth Livesay, NAILS Magazine


Senior editor Beth Livesay has worked in art-related publishing for six years, with experience in both newsstand and B2B magazines. Her work as an editor has been acknowledged by The Los Angeles TimesThe Globe and MailThe Storque (the official blog of Etsy), and The Huffington Post. Her daily life is consumed by nail art, as she oversees the digital publication of Nail Art Gallery Magazine, the blog Salon Fanatic, and social media for NAILS Magazine. Beth so enjoyed getting to know the artists in the inaugural NAILS Next Top Nail Artist competition that she can’t wait to see the fresh ideas the newest competitors bring to the industry.


Weekly Judge: Ryoko Garcia, NAILS Next Top Nail Artist 2014 Winner


Born and raised in Tokyo, Ryoko Garcia has more than 10 years’ worth of experience as a nail tech. In 2014, she was named the first winner of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist. She also holds many trophies and awards from nail competitions throughout her career. During last year’s NTNA competition, Ryoko brought flawless hand-painting techniques, as well as sculpting talent to every set of nails she created. She believes that competitions are the best way to learn something new and discover your weaknesses. This year she’s excited to judge the competition and to help the new crop of competitors grow. Since winning NTNA, her work was featured in Gelish’s Fall 2014 collection. She has also designed press-on tips for Kiss Products.


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Week 1 Guest Judge: Greg Salo, Young Nails


Greg was about to become a firefighter when his mom asked him to help out with a little cosmetology supply business she’d acquired. That was the seed that eventually became Young Nails. Greg is now President, chief innovator, and an international educator. Unconventional, eccentric, energetic, and enlightening — you know when you’ve taken a class from Greg Salo. He’s out there teaching the world the Young Nails way, one hand at a time.


Week 2 Guest Judge: Hellen Luu, Bio Seaweed Gel


Hellen Luu is the daughter of Bio Seaweed Gel (BSG) founders Michael and Amy Luu. From salon management to BSG educator, she has been involved in the nail industry since she was 16 years old.  Among her many responsibilities, Hellen has personally chosen and named every single BSG color. Her creative, modern, and green perspective have aided the evolution of Bio Seaweed Gel. Hellen’s emphasis on healthy gel products has spurred BSG’s new big-five free formula. Hellen believes that nail art and design is one of the best ways to express your individuality and you should never be afraid to show your true (nail) colors!


Week 3 Guest Judge: Jeff Pink, Orly International


As the founder, president, and CEO of Orly International, Jeff has been revolutionizing the nail care industry since 1975. Over the years, he has been dedicated to inspiring beauty care professionals around the world with specialty products including nail care treatments and lacquers. One of Jeff’s true passions has been designing timeless and innovative nail looks. As the creator of The Original French Manicure, Jeff brought the first classic nail look not only to the nail care industry, but to the world of fashion. Thirty-seven years and countless innovations later, Jeff introduced the patented, ergonomic Gripper Cap in 2002. The American Beauty Association has honored Jeff’s achievements with numerous ABBIE awards, recognizing his overall excellence in the beauty industry. In 2005, Jeff celebrated Orly’s 30th Anniversary and the launch of SpaRitual, the first eco-luxury nail, foot and body care line designed exclusively for professional salons and spas.


Week 4 Guest Judge: Lorena Marquez, INM


INM’s Director of Education Lorena Marquez has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, and is an accomplished nail artist with more than 200 competition wins, including the prestigious 2004 and 2005 Nailpro Cup Championships. She was ranked #1 competitor by NAILS Magazine in 2005, and has multiple first place wins in every competitive category. Her artwork has been featured numerous times on the cover of NAILS and Nailpro magazines, as well as several international consumer magazines.


Lorena has educated nail professionals worldwide, is a member of INJA (International Nail Jury Association), and has worked with leading beauty manufacturers, bringing with her experience in product development, education and domestic/international distributor support. An international competitor, educator and judge, Lorena prides herself on being a mentor to nail techs around the globe.


Week 5 Guest Judge: Yuliya Normand, Entity Beauty


Florida-based Yuliya Normand has over 10 years of experience in the nail industry, specializing in sculpted gel nails and custom bridal designs. She has a teaching background in Eastern Europe and holds Master Degrees in English and French. Being an Entity Global Artist gives her an excellent opportunity to combine her passion for both teaching and nails. Yuliya believes that any investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. She never misses an opportunity to learn and stay on top of the newest technologies. She truly enjoys sharing her knowledge and skills with the other artists, helping them to become better nail professionals. Yuliya’s goal is to inspire nail artists around the world to improve in their careers.


Week 6 Guest Judge: Margaret Pak, Dashing Diva


VP of Marketing for Dashing Diva, Margaret Pak is a hands-on, seasoned business manager with extensive experience developing new business formats from the ground up — from initial product concept ideation/development through test market phase and final point-of-sale implementation. Originally trained as a graphic designer, Margaret is responsible for marketing and sales of Dashing Diva professional products from concept to launch. Some of her most recent product developments include: Bling Appliqués, Nail Tattoos, and Dry Transfers.


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Week 7 Guest Judge: Jill McMurray , It’s So Easy


Marketing veteran and It’s So Easy Brand Manager Jill McMurray stands by the statement that “nothing is impossible with nail art.” Looking to take the recently acquired A.I.I. brand to the next level, Jill’s focus is to modernize but keep the fun and playful elements that are It’s So Easy Nail Art. She brings more than 16 years of marketing experience to the team. Her first foray into beauty was over seven years ago in the skin care sector, where she focused on product development and planning. Offering a fresh perspective on the nail side of the beauty world, her knowledge of trends, attention to detail and innovative approach to nail art makes her an ideal addition to the team. Her favorite part about working on the It’s So Easy brand is the extensive amount of creative freedom and the talented, innovative team. “The possibilities are truly endless with It’s So Easy,” she proudly states.


Week 8 Guest Judge: Danny Haile, Hand and Nail Harmony


A veteran nail technician with more than 30 years in the nail business, Danny Haile is also a fierce award-garnering nail competitor who holds many international titles in competition, including WIMBA World Champion, International Nail Champion, Midwest Champion, and others. He retired from active competition in the middle of the last decade and since has been a judge of nail competitions all around the world. He also trains world champion nail competitors. Danny has published articles in Scratch Magazine in the U.K., NAILS and NailPro magazines in the U.S., Unghie in Italy, and many, many other professional, beauty trade, and consumer publications. His passion is in product development. A few years ago, wanting to fulfill his passion, Danny came back to the industry and started Hand and Nail Harmony in 2009. There, Danny has utilized the newest technology to re-develop acrylic product systems and redesigned gel systems to create the award-winning Gelish. Danny has learned so much from the nail professionals he’s educated over the last 25 years. Nail Harmony’s business is a culmination of all the lessons learned from thousands and thousands of nail artists around the planet.


Week 9 Guest Judge: Marcy Shade, SuperNail


Marcy Shade is a beauty industry veteran with more than 20 years of consumer packaged goods experience. Her strong passion for the industry has driven her career through the years, including an emphasis in marketing brand management in categories including hair care, color cosmetics, and — for the last 12 years — nails. As Category Manager for A.I.I.’s extensive portfolio of gel and acrylic brands, Marcy counts herself fortunate to be at the forefront of the fast-growing gel-polish category. Her extensive product development background has helped drive the SuperNail, EzFlow and ibd brands to the next level as gel/acrylic innovators and true trend-drivers. With her highly collaborative approach and supportive nature, Marcy guides her team to continually identify the “next big thing” in the nail care industry.


Week 10 Guest Judge: Alena Clark, Gel II


A Philadelphia native, Alena Clark now lives in Wichita, Kansas, where Gel II Headquarters is located. Alena has been in the beauty industry for more than 10 years and has spent the last year traveling and educating for Gel II as Lead National Educator.


Play Along at Home Weekly Judge: Sandy Borges Combs, Hand and Nail Harmony


Sandy Borges Combs is an award-winning Fantasy Nail Art competitor and a nail stylist with a passion for education. As an educator for the last 10 years, she strives to share that passion and her knowledge with technicians from around the world. Her motto is to inspire others to find and unlock their creativity and run with it. Sandy’s credits include multiple published step-by-step video and photo tutorials. She is a current Dean of Education for Hand and Nail Harmony, and Be Creative USA Artisan. She is also a former NAILS Magazine blogger for the Coaching Chronicles.