Full Name: Tracey Lee
Hometown: Eindhoven, Netherlands
Preferred Nail Art Medium: Different mediums
Favorite Nail Trend: Chrome nails

I have been brought up believing “everything happens for a reason.” When I left South Africa to follow a man to the Netherlands, I gave up everything to be with him. When we arrived in the Netherlands he met a gorgeous blonde, with blue eyes and big…..brains and we parted ways. I then married his boss. I was in recruitment in South Africa and upon moving to the Netherlands was unable to get a job in the same industry. I ended up doing a nail course to be able to always to my own nails. After doing the nail course I was asked to educate for the company. I was able to travel and meet and work with many amazing people. Through hard work, continued education, sharing knowledge, and loving what I am doing, I was able to make the Top 24. I can’t wait to see what happens next. It may be a journey of a week or a couple of months, but I am not going to focus that far ahead as I don’t want to miss out anything along the way. I am a positive person, I believe in inspiring, motivating, and watching others grow through education and sharing of knowledge. I don’t believe that it is luck that gets you where you need to be, I believe that hard work and an amazing support system are the key factors to the road to success. I feel that being a nail artist has allowed me to color outside the lines without it having any negative impact on how my art is viewed. I feel free when I am being a nail artist.

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Final Challenge: CND

Manus x Machina

Click on the image above to enlarge and see all six sets.

For this challenge we were asked to recreate one of our last five challenges, tweaking it and giving it a twist. I decided to recreate challenge 3: Flowers. I loved doing this challenge initially as I could incorporate a Steampunk element into the set. As I continued working on the set, I realized that so many of the elements for Steampunk were recycled items too. With this in mind I have recreated “Salvaged Beauty.”

My idea for this set is not to change it completely. I was happy with the initial set, however I know that there is always room for improvement and maybe even another dimension. On the acrylic flowers I used in the initial set, I added more dimension and created more 3-D flowers rather than flat art. I included more recycled elements by creating flowers from plastic containers and bugs from old light bulbs. The real twist to the set can be found underneath the nails. I decided to decorate under the nails, add a secret compartment, and decorate under that too, so no matter from which angle one views the nail, it will always offer something intriguing to the eye. The secret compartment is an additional tip attached to the bottom of the base nail and has been decorated with 3-D lilies, golden roses, metal cogs, gold foil, and bullions. This compartment has a hinge to allow it to open and close, but is prevented from opening too far by the metal chain attached. I guess one could say there is a hidden message behind this twist: beauty is not only on the outside, but on the inside too.

The Manus x Machina challenges have really given me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try different things. To me the “Salvaged Beauty” set means: don’t look at anything just for what it is. Look at items as possibilities and allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. You will be surprised at what you come up with and at the same time will be making a personal contribution to recycling.

Click here to see a video diary of Tracey’s nails.

Click here to see a Pinterest board of Tracey’s nails.

Week 10: EzFlow

Avant-Garde Acrylic

The combination of nails, fashion, and hair is something that is becoming more and more essential in a fashion conscious market. For inspiration I have looked at the catwalk, past, present, and future and based my design on that. The concept of negative space has been a hot topic and continues to adorn the catwalks this season. It has found its place in nail fashion too and has become very popular in the last couple of months and for that reason I have decided to incorporate that in my design with my own spin on it. French, meets negative space, with a sweet floral finish. I believe that nail art can only be enhanced by great structure and in order to show that, I decided to sculpt the basic nails on myself in order to achieve that structure. I was working with nail wraps so that I could easily remove the nails to further decorate them.

Only working with three colors felt like a limitation to start off with, however when one starts layering and double dipping, the sky’s the limit! I used the EzFlow polymers to sculpt out my nails and was also able to create the 3-D flowers with the polymers and monomer mixed with a bit of acetone to create additional flexibility and movement.

Being avant-garde, I decided to combine the traditional French with an extreme edge and finish it off with a softer twist of florals, beads, and lace. Each nail was given its own shape from the side view to create a sense of excitement. From the top view one gets the feeling of uniformity as the nails are stiletto-shaped, from the side view, I wanted to offer eye candy in the form of negative space.

Click here to see a video diary of Tracey’s nails.


Week 9: Bio Seaweed Gel

Paint the Town

Who would have ever thought that an entire shopping center could be created out of containers? “27 Boxes” is a shopping center found in the heart of Melville, a trendy bohemian suburb of Johannesburg where I bought my first apartment. I am inspired by Melville as an artist, as one cannot but be inspired by what other artists create from the most basic items: gorgeous wooden animal sculptures from a simple piece of wood, or intricate pottery from a basic clay mix. We often take for granted just how fortunate we are to have all our modern tools and equipment, but when one gets right down to it, it doesn’t make our art any more beautiful than what is made from the basics.

The colorful culture of Melville can be found at the foreground of Johannesburg. Johannesburg may sometimes come across as a concrete and metal jungle with all its skyscrapers. It is for this reason that I chose to place my piece on metal tips. I specifically chose the skyline of Johannesburg for my background as Johannesburg is known as “Egoli” or “Place of Gold” or “City of Gold” as it was here many years ago that gold was discovered. Another reason for this name is the beautiful sunsets over the skyline of Johannesburg with hints of gold. Many thought this was caused by the golden dust of the mines.

I have done my best to do justice to these artists in my Paint The Town entry. I have used a combination of hard gel, gel-polish, wire, and other embellishments to achieve the look.

Each store has its own story, its own African feel as that is what Melville and 27 Boxes is all about. Take a journey with me and feel the culture and the artistry of Melville.

Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial for how Tracey created these nails.

Week 8: ibd

Scream Queens

I really wondered who my ideal scream queen would be and imagined it to be a young diva going out on the town. She would be prepped and preened at the nail salon with gorgeous stiletto nails, however, in this day and age, our young ladies need to be protected, so we have given her razor sharp extensions should they be necessary. The nails were created with this in mind. The top view, diva-licious, but also suitable for Halloween. Gold spiderwebs, gorgeous rhinestones protected by spiders, skeletons, and slime. As long as you behave yourself around this diva, that is the only view of the nails you will get to see. For those suitors who push their luck, they will get to see and maybe even feel the side view and that our Diva has just turned into a Scream Queen. The entire scene is set in a graveyard with gravestones, grave silhouettes, and not forgetting Dracula in his coffin.

Using gel and gel-polish worked perfectly for this challenge as I was able to use the gel paste for some 3-D additions. The color gels that I chose to use have a great neon effect, so when our diva enters a club, she will most definitely be the talk of the town as her stilettos burn brightly, while her razor sharp weapons will be quietly hidden until needed (these are not neon).

Click here to see a video diary for Tracey’s nails.

Week 7: INM

Northern Lights

When viewing images of the Northern Lights online, the scenes are breathtaking, the colors are magical, and each and every view is so different from the other. It was for this reason that I chose to do two different backgrounds for my design – every single day is different, every single scene is different. The Northern Lights are mainly pale green and pink however a multitude of colors have been reported. I wanted to share both with you.

I have created a hotel based close to the Northern Lights where visitors have the possibility to soak up these majestic scenes from the dome of their hotel room. They literally sleep under the stars and under the Northern Lights. It is from this room that they are able to view the changing of the night sky. We were asked to include a light element in the design. I used two actual lights as explained below, however took the request even more literally and used an old lightbulb to shape and create the dome of my hotel room. There is a little LED night light on in the hotel room, it is a small stained glass table light as not to detract from the bigger show outside. As you look outside of the hotel, you see the silhouette of a tree against the background of the changing night sky. I have created two different night skies with two different Aurora Borealis backgrounds using Aquarelle paint techniques to allow for a transparent effect. Just behind this you see some mountain ranges with the sun peeping through. The sun has been created with a second LED light and this also functions to enhance the colors on my backgrounds as they pass along via a mechanical arm. After doing this challenge, I want to go there! I want to sleep under these magical skies. I hope this inspires you to book too!

Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial for how Tracey created these nails.

Week 6: Artistic

The Artist Within

I started this off really quite literally, with myself as “the artist within the box.” This is how my journey started within the nail industry and from my experience as a teacher, I see it happen to many students, too. We all have a little artist captured somewhere inside; we are reluctant to allow the little artist out for fear of our art not being what others expect it to be. During my journey as a nail artist, I have slowly made the move to being more creative and started thinking outside the box. As my piece portrays, “nothing is what it seems, and everything can become anything.” This is the message I would like to share with all nail professionals out there. When it comes to art, there are no rules. Look at each item as an opportunity rather than purely what it was originally created for. The items that I have created in the box on this piece are just that – items. When one looks outside of the box, each one of these items has been used to create something completely different. I have used Artistic Rock Hard LED Gel and Liquid and Powder to create this piece. I hope to have inspired the nail techs out there to do the same through my piece this week. Dare yourself to think “outside of the box!”


Click here to see a video diary of Tracey’s nails.

Week 5: Akzéntz

Decade Decadence

In this week’s assignment we were asked to represent a decade and the colors relevant to that decade and the pop culture references.

Being South African and living and growing up in South Africa during the ’90s, it was all about color. This is a decade that started off pretty much as black and white and ended up being a rainbow nation.
My piece represents a decade during which apartheid finally ended, where color barriers were broken. To represent the barrier I created a wall that had been broken down and people making their way to cross over it.

Coca Cola was one of the companies that boycotted South Africa during the apartheid so I used the Coca Cola tin to create my paint tins. In these tins there are only two colors represented, black and white, because unfortunately this is how things were at the beginning of the decade. It was through the release of Nelson Mandela in the beginning of 1990 and the end of apartheid that true change began to happen. I created Nelson Mandela with a paint roller in his hand, as he was instrumental in this change. He is the artist who started the process to create this rainbow nation, a nation where there was no black and white, just amazing colors.

As you can see, paint is still dropping from the rainbow. This is to symbolize that the process began during this decade, however it is fresh and it is still not finished yet.

This was all happening in South Africa; however, the progress was being followed worldwide. With that being said, I decided to use the old South African flag and the new South African flag as my background. It was during this period that South Africa changed flags, so it was especially relevant.
I had a great deal of fun with this assignment, using various gels to create various effects. The paste gels worked well for definition as in the face of Mandela and his hair, the more viscous gels were super in creating smooth, even structures like the rainbow and the base of the wall. The color gels worked tremendously for ombre on the rainbow and the people.

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane. A decade that changed a country, but also changed my life.

Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Tracey created these nails.

My inspiration this week comes from Melli Mello. Melli Mello is a bold and exciting mix of different styles such as: graphic, romantic, ethnic, and floral. It is a brand based on cross-cultural blend. This was perfect for Minx as Minx had recently launched its layering kits which encourages mixing of styles.

I have used Minx in several different ways in this design. I used the Minxlusion on the backside of the nail to give it the chrome/rainbow effect and overplayed it with flower water decals. This can be considered hyponychium art! I then hand painted zebra print with acrylic paint and Baroque golden curls in gel. For the top of the nail I created a Melli Mello striped design in white gel, silver striping tape, and black acrylic paint. I could imagine this being a great Minx base. I sealed it in gel and used water decal flowers as an overlay. This creates some dimension in the nail.

Then I put Minx inside. For the butterfly wings and elephant ears I used Minxlusion as the base. I cut out the necessary shape, removed the plastic backing, and applied a thin layer of acrylic over the tacky side in order to be able to bend it into shape as it cures. The great thing about Minxlusion is its multicolored metallic effect. I used Aquarelle paint on top of the wings and ears which, with its transparency, still allowed the metallic effect to shine through. For the bows I used Minx Gold Lightning in a similar way and pressed it into shape. Finally, after all this work it would have been a pity to have to file the nails off, so I had applied Minx Coat prior to the acrylic enhancement application and I could easily remove the nails to have as a keepsake.


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial for how Tracey created these nails.

Week 3: Gel II

Timeless Treasure

In keeping with the theme of timeless treasures from Gel II, I have attempted to capture the essence of timeless beauty with this piece. I often get the feeling like the kids are growing up so quickly I would just love to capture them in the here and now and not let them get any older or let anything ever happen to them. In saying that, that wouldn’t be fair and also wouldn’t be possible. They need the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. My piece represents what I treasure the most and also the letting-go process. I have kept them safe for so long – represented by the icicles all around them, protecting them from any external factors. The children have been created in a 2-D and partly 3-D version, using acrylic liquid and powder. The 2-D part is covered in a layer of gel, representing ice that has been protecting them. I love the clarity of gel, which doesn’t flatten out the detail I have chosen to encapsulate. The 3-D part is sticking out of the ice (gel) and represents them taking steps into the wide world. Sometimes I feel like a real old witch laying down the law for them; however, deep down inside I know that as the “letting go” process continues, they will have a good foundation thanks to those guidelines. From everything I could choose from, my children remained top of the list. They are not only the connection to the rest of the family, they are the connection to my youth, and they are the connection to our future. It’s funny: When hubby is sick we tell him to take a pill. When the kids are sick, nothing else seems to matter, nothing else is important, except getting them better. That says it all!
Click here to see a video diary of Tracey’s nails.

Week 2: Orly

Sunset Strip

Sunset Strip has such a rich history that I didn’t want to leave anything out. My color selection was done to not only fit in with the club scene that the person wearing it will appreciate, but was also inspired by the colors in the Orly Sunset Strip Collection. Colors like “Celebrity Spotting,” “Last Call,” “Up All Night,” and “The Whos Who” inspired my color selection. The silhouettes and backgrounds speak to the happenings in and around Sunset Strip, some of the things we will only get to read about and never experience ourselves. The Strip was one of the less restricted areas for gambling in the 1920s, so I incorporated some elements of gambling into the design. I was lucky on this roll and my metal stud (representing the roulette ball) landed on my dad’s lucky number: 17! In the 1930s and 1940s the Strip was defined by glitz and glamour with fancy restaurants and clubs, some thought to be owned by famous gangsters. I have represented this period with pole dancers, or as some like to be called, “pole artists,” as they could be found in many clubs along the Strip. (Wonder if that’s where the name really came from.) I included an old pistol to represent some shadier dealings from the gangsters in this period. Whether Punk Rock or Glam Rock blows your hair back or not, Sunset Strip was the place to be in the ’60s and ’70s, where bands like Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, The Stooges, and Motley Crue often appeared. As an ode to them I included part of one of the Guns N’ Roses logos on my design. The other nail sports one of the guitars that survived being broken during one of the punk rock concerts. Throughout its history, Sunset Strip offered many opportunities for up-and-coming singers and bands, so I decided to create two images of singers singing their hearts out. And in true Sunset Strip style, the design would not be complete without representing the billboards one sees wherever you go! My design is a combination of gel-polish, acrylic paint, and embellishments. I have chosen to use the embellishments as a form of enhancement too. The Swarovski crystals are not just crystals, they have been used as centers in the stars, the lights on the billboard, the handle of the pistol, and the skull. The metal threads represent the wires on the guitar. The metal stud represents the ball in the roulette wheel. When my client enters the club, she is wearing a design that creates a shimmer effect with its quartz background and when the lights in the club hit the nails, the AB Crystals reflect light. This draws attention to the nails and will encourage a potential admirer to get up close and personal to hear more about what they represent!


Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of how Tracey created these nails.

Week 1: Gelish

Squadron Goals

When talking about what inspires me when it comes to travel, I really have so much to share. For me travel is not only about your means of transport, it’s about the journey, about the cultures you experience, the memories you make along the way, the friendships you create, and the connections that last a lifetime. With this in mind, I created clear LED gel extensions in order to show the true meaning behind travel through my eyes. I used Aquarelle paint in order to maintain the transparency as I painted the map on the nails. I created the means of travel on top of the nail, as this is what we often see first, and then, beneath the transparent surface, I created items encompassing cultures, memories, friendships, and connections. We get so caught up in the hassle of packing bags, driving long distances, and waiting in security queues at the airport that we forget to enjoy the journey. I hope you enjoy my journey with this challenge as much as I did!

Click here to see a video diary of Tracey’s nails.