Here is the challenge we have the 24 semifinalists:

1. For your first assignment, we want you to create a 3-D design on a single nail tip using a variety of nail products (acrylic, gel, gel-polish, paints) based on MUSIC. You can choose from your favorite band, song, musical instrument, etc. As long as the theme is MUSIC, you can interpret that however you like.

Crystals and studs are OK, but you are not allowed to use charms, decals, or any other pre-made nail art accessories. We’re looking to see your originality and sculpting and building skills using nail products.

2. Please include a brief description (350 words or less) about the inspiration and meaning behind your design.

3. In addition, please shoot a video showing us your inspiration. We’d like to see examples of your inspiration and hear you talk about how you created the nails. You can show us clips of you working on the nails, but it doesn’t have to be a complete step-by-step. We’re looking for creative and unique videos, in addition to quality nails. The video should be 3-5 minutes long.


This year, you’ll be judging each entry in five different categories:

1.  Final nail design (This is where you’re judging the actual nail art/design)

2.  Quality of demo (How is the video? Or how are the step by step photos?)

3. Technique (Is the contestant using advanced skills and techniques? Is she editing herself well? Is she showing a good variety of skills week over week? Is she challenging herself?)

4.  Challenge guidelines (How well did the contestant meet the requirements of the challenge?)

5.  Professionalism (If applicable, was the contestant’s station tidy and clean? Was she using professional nail products/systems as they should be used? Is she using correct terminology and using up-to-date knowledge of techniques? Does she represent the nail industry at its finest? Does she have a polished presentation?)

For each of these above five categories, you’ll give the contestants a 1-10 (10 being highest). There is a place for comments, but at this early stage, you don’t have to leave comments. But you can if you’d like.

We will be eliminating 6 of these contestants this week, so please judge thoughtfully and carefully. You don’t want to see talented artists kicked off yet!

Use the below two links for judging (I had to split the form in half). Please submit your scores to me no later than 2 PM on MONDAY, June 16.





 Alecia Mounixay (Wilmington, NC)

Music in itself is colorful. I envisioned bright colors dancing around the nail with a girl who has her eyes closed, listening to her headphones, completely submerged in the beats and words. Touching her soul, the way music touches mine. I wanted the music to surround the nail in the way it surround us. I used neon colors to pop out and make it eye-catching. I used white hard gel for the base of the nail and various neon gel-polishes that faded in the background, lightly dusted with glitter and capped twice with clear gel-polish top coat to give it more depth. I handpainted the word music with little notes. I used white acrylic powder to make the music notes and painted them with gel-polish before applying them to the music lines that surrounded the nail with wire base. This was also capped with black acrylic and gel. The face was made with white gel-polish to give it life and painted with acrylic paint for fine detailed lines. The speaker box was made with acrylic and capped with gel-polish to make the glitter pop after handpainting the screen with acrylic paint.




Amy Gustafson (Victoria, BC, Canada)

I wanted to do something different from what I’ve attempted to do in the past. I’m very proud of myself! After recently learning how to do ‘fantasy 3-D’ off the nail, I decided I would most definitely need to do an “outside of the nail” design. I was inspired by the headphones and colours I saw right away. I loved that the headphones became something else (the script Love). I decided that I would have the headphones become the piece of music. I loved the curves of the photos I saw and thought I would incorporate that somehow with it going outside the nail. I love flashy so I thought the more sparkles the better. I always use crystals on my most loved pieces so I wanted to try and stay away from that this time. I am very happy and proud with what I have created, and it’s very much my style.




Beru Lalli (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Originally I was going to do a 3D boom box on a graffiti background but as I sketched it out I felt as if it wasn't really me. So I took to the Internet and looked up a few of my favorite artists — females in the music industry with a distinct strong individualistic image. Missy Slliot. M.I.A. Kesha. Within these videos I saw a lot of color and A LOT of gold. Both Missy Elliot and M.I.A. had these dope gold chains so that's where I got that inspiration from. Then I wanted to incorporate the old school hip hop culture by doing the graffiti background. Then I sculpted music notes because in one of Kesha's videos there was a bit of an acid trip music note scene. So there you have it. My submission.

I don't know much about filming as I have never considered competing. If I get through to the top 12 I will use the 2 month break to enlist the help of a few film student friends to help me set up my Mac video editor and set up a light box to take proper images and film shots.




Danielle Constantino (Lincoln, RI)

The first image that popped into my head when I read the first challenge was my 4-year-old son’s connection to music. My son’s name is Carter, and he is my world. I always found it interesting that without any pushing from me he had such a strong relationship with music and musical instruments.  For Christmas he asked Santa for a violin. Not an action figure, not a baseball glove, but a violin.  I thought that was so special. So of course Santa brought him a violin! We have quite a collection of instruments now, and when he gets to choose a reward he asks to go to The Big Guitar Store (Guitar Center).  Most 4 –year -olds want to go to Chuck E. Cheese, but not my kid. I find it so beautiful that children are so innocent and genuine. Carter loves music and he doesn't care about being a band geek, or following the crowd. He still has his innocence, which is so difficult to keep in this society.

For my first challenge I chose to use his love for music as my inspiration. I wanted to capture something special with my piece. My dad passed away in 2005, and he was a musician for most of his life. By adding the sky and clouds in the background, I wanted to show the strong connection between my dad and my son, although they never met.  I think creativity is genetic. It can't be learned or taught, only polished and trained. And that's what I hope to do with my little guy, polish him into the jewel I know he is.  I hope you all enjoyed my presentation. This was my first fantasy style creation. Thank you!!




Erica Tam (Yellowknife, NW Territories, Canada)

The first image that came to mind after reading that the theme is music was a piano. It was the first instrument I learned to play and it also brings back fond memories of recitals! I love the piano; not only is it a timeless classical instrument, it is also very versatile. From pieces by Mozart to jazz, blues, and to John Legend's hand in R&B. Music is a large part of my life and I cannot imagine life without it! With music comes dancing and I have been dancing ever since I can remember. I decided to create a Saturday Night Fever disco dance floor. Pianos and disco floors are not really related, so I decided to call my 3D nail art piece classical versus modern. My modern piece became a DJ turntable which is also versatile as well. I started thinking 1990s hip hop, techno, house and dub step and wanted to feature an artist. Representing my hometown Yellowknife, I asked our local DJ and rap artist, Aaron 'Godson' Hernandez, if he can be my feature artist on my nail art piece. Godson has been a rap artist for over 18 years and is also actively working with youth in the northern communities, spreading positive vibes and messages. I couldn't think of anyone better to feature than Godson. Not only is he passionate about his work and art, he is also giving back through art and music!




Jarrel Baccus (Stockbridge, GA)

As one of the Top 24 for the NTNA competition our first challenge was to create 3D art on a single nail. The theme given to us for this challenge was music. The very first thing that came to my mind was MTV videos and the way the broadcast of music videos changed the music industry. For those who don't know the exact history, MTV's very first music video broadcast was on August 1, 1981 for the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star". The launch of MTV's music videos mimicked the first man on the moon, only instead of placing the United States flag on the moon it was an MTV flag instead. Unique idea! Right?

So to begin with the very first thing I created was a television set from the ’80s. After sculpting the television and its antenna, I went in with my art tools and drew on a tuning knob and a blank screen to broadcast my version of the very first MTV video.

My 1980 semi-retro-themed nail takes you inside the music study of your favorite musician from the 1980s.

Follow me as I take you on the grand tour: As you enter the room you are welcomed by the logo of one of the hottest rock bands from the 80s "Kiss". Kiss is handpainted into the checkerboard themed tile floors. Straight ahead as you step into the room you have a standing microphone in the center and farther up and to the right sits a beautiful Sauter piano. Moving forward and off to the left side of the room you have your classic Sony stereo and a blazing electric guitar.  As we go farther toward the back of the room, you have a lounge area for down time with a comfy sunset orange sofa dressed with multicolored throw pillows for your comfort as you relax and catch up on the videos to all the latest hits.

I have to say, drawing up ideas and creating this nail was a blast! Last week I would have never imagined creating such 3D pieces. I look forward to our next challenge! Best Wishes!




Karrie Bowers (Morgantown, WVa)

I chose my favorite band, Oasis, and their iconic music video for “Champagne Supernova” to base my nail on. I've been a fan for nearly 20 years, and their music inspired me to learn guitar as a teen. This is what really sparked the creative part of my mind. I began to write poetry and short stories, then I graduated to writing music. I performed at any open mic I could find and this cathartic artistic outlet helped me get in touch with my creative side and exorcise my teen angst. In addition, Oasis has played a big part in my adult life; I have traveled cross-country to see them, and I walked down the aisle at my wedding to a live acoustic rendition of their hit, "Wonderwall."

I was so excited for this challenge, but a little nervous as well. I have been very hesitant to try to sculpt 3D elements with acrylic since I am predominantly a natural nail tech and don't generally deal with acrylic. However, the look always appeals to me. I was happy to find that, while it's obviously challenging, it's not impossible for me. I am a creative person in many ways, but I've never been good at drawing, let alone sculpting, so I'm so happy that the challenge helped me to step outside my own creative box. This is one of the main reasons I applied for this competition. I saw how last year's competitors' already amazing skills seemed to jump to a new level with every challenge, and I hope that I'm able to have the opportunity to continue to be challenged in this way. Have I said the word "challenge" enough? Probably. Sheesh! Regardless, though I hope to advance through the competition successfully, this particular assignment has already opened new doors for me; I now have proof that I can do a couple things that always made me a bit nervous. I feel more capable and more sure of my skills after having completed this assignment, and that's something I'm thankful to be able to take away from this competition, no matter how far I go.




Kenny Vo (Richmond, VA)

I am beyond thrilled that music is the theme for this first challenge, as music plays a tremendous role in my life. I listen to and appreciate all types of music, but it is rave music in particular, that inspires me the most. For me, rave transcends beats, notes, lyrics and instruments; it is an otherworldly force of immense energy that brings people together in unison and synergy.  Immersing myself in rave music is not only euphoric and uplifting, but it most importantly allows me to shed any restraints or self doubt I might have, which therefore liberates me.  It is this liberation that truly allows me to innovate and take risks with my designs. This intangible vibe of rave music, empowers and motivates me to follow and pursue my instincts, and to execute my extravagant designs without hesitation. I want to emphasize, that not only is rave music the inspiration for this specific challenge, but it is something I listen to every day to unfold my creativity; in other words, tapping into my creativity is kick started by listening to rave, and this case was certainly no exception.

I wanted to create a nail tip that epitomizes rave as a whole, from the physical and visual effects, to the more spiritual and indescribable emotions that are felt.  I have therefore created a bright, colorful and vibrant 3D flower, with each petal having a different color, and I have adorned the nail tip with crystals and colored studs.  These colors embody rave music and raves that are infamous for their neon glow sticks and ove- the-top laser shows. On a deeper level, I think this nail tip represents happiness, vitality and evanescence, which are emotions that are inevitably brought forth when I listen to rave. I figuratively blossom like a flower and come to life whenever I listen to rave, no matter how short-lived that emotion may be.  I have done my best to capture the essence of these emotions in order to create this nail tip, which I truthfully think goes beyond the conventional meaning of the word “music”.




Konstantina Tsihlas (Athens, Greece)

I got so excited when I read that our first pre-challenge competition was 3-D. So I decided  to create  a 3D fantasy nail. I really liked the subject of our first pre-challenge competition because I believe that you could create a lot of stuff about music. The first thing that came to my mind was Lady Gaga playing piano. I admire Lady Gaga because she is a good singer, she is unique and she is not afraid to be different and do all that crazy stuff. She usually plays piano at her concerts and it's my favorite instrument. I searched through the Internet and decided to make her with a bow on her hair because that was her characteristic appearance. I also wanted to create an MTV music award because it's the biggest prize-giving. Another thing that I decided to create on my nail for this subject was a CD case. Ι wanted  my CD case to open and take out the CD. It wasn't that easy but I figured out a way to do it! I'm glad that I successfully completed the nail I was imagining!




Lauren Boyd (Memphis, TN)

I was quite confused when I saw the theme was music. I love music, I listen to all types and it means a lot to me. But when asked to interpret it in a 3D nail design, it's too much and too complicated to explain. What's been near and dear to my heart lately is my city Memphis. My city is known for the blues scene, but the legacy that continues is unfortunately the lesser known. I wanted to pay tribute to my city's amazingly talented people by showcasing the venues in which they've performed, BB King's Blues Club and the Levitt Shell. I was roaming about on Beale St. and saw a George Hunt painting that spoke to the city's history and black heritage, so I thought it was fitting for the design. This nail represents history, culture and a continuing legacy in Memphis. I'm happy to be able to fuse together music and my love for both it and my city.




Lavette Cephus (Toledo, OH)

This challenge was so fun! Although I am a late ’80s baby, I feel like I was supposed to be born in the late ’60s. LOL. With that being said I thought of what was fun in the 60s and 70s, and I thought about fun times also in my life. This brings me to my early childhood memories when I lived in Philadelphia. My family and I were obsessed with “Soul Train”. I am the oldest of six siblings (a big family meant our own soul train fun) , and we would always pretend to have our own soul train line. I want this competition to be as fun as possible, and when I can add energy to the challenge I will and as soon as I think of the soul train I think of energy, dancing until your feet hurt, bending lower than you thought possible, laughing and fun time with others. To add a touch of calmness I thought of a magnificent singer during those times — Diana Ross, an idol — she wore a mean afro, which also reminds me of Soul Train. It seems everyone on the show wore an afro. Hope you guys enjoy my nails! Thanks again for the opportunity.




Lexi Martone (Dix Hills, NY)

I've done Backstreet Boys. I've done Spice Girls. The only things left were Eminem or Christmas music, and you've pretty much covered the extents of my musical enjoyments. As much as I love a Christmas nail in June, others might not share the same appreciation, so I decided to go with the later. When I first sat down to think about it, I drew a complete blank. After a couple hours I had concocted this crazy idea in my head to make the nail actually play music. I mean, what better way to convey a music theme with actual music. So I got my mad scientist brain working and came up with this!




Lini Sherburne (Sparks, MD)

I chose one of my favorite bands: No Doubt, and one of their classic hits, "Spiderwebs" to be the inspiration behind my art. While searching the Internet for images related to the band, I saw a sheet of music for "Spiderwebs " and immediately noticed how much the bars of music looked like the title of the song: spiderwebs. I quickly decided that my nail would focus on bars of music that would transition into webs, ensnaring music notes within. The "tree" holding up the webs would be a treble clef, and since the tree is the base of the web, the nail itself would become the base of my design. The final element of the "Spiderwebs" theme was the spider. I wanted the entire design to flow together, so I placed the spider' s head as the center dot of the treble clef. I wanted to add an extra musical touch to my design, and so I used actual string from a guitar to create both the music bars and spider webs. The finished nail is bright, colorful and a little bit outrageous, all characteristics that truly describe the band' s style as well.




Marianthi Tsitsopoulou (Oreoi, Greece)

As soon I was informed about the topic of the first challenge, I knew right away what I was going to do. I had no image however, so I drew a quick sketch of my idea to start with. I wanted to express music as a lifestyle, more than a product. For that reason, I made an afro girl, who represents the origin of my favorite kinds of music — soul, hip hop, funk and so on. I wanted her to have motion in her posture, and sound as she would be moved (the sound of her jewelry). I used a nail tip to sculpt her face and continued with a form to sculpt her body. I used water colors for her skin, make up and clothing and acrylic for the headphones, hair and the vinyl record adjusted on her head. Jewelry is made from chains and jump rings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!




Marisol Alvarado (Stockton, CA)

When I received this challenge and saw the theme was music, I was ecstatic. Tons of thoughts and ideas started flooding through my mind. Too many! So I set some time aside that day to focus on the challenge. I cleared my thoughts.

The first thing that entered my mind was the word music. Then visual musical notes… My thoughts instantly went to my boyfriend, Carlos. He has a passion and love for music like I have never seen. He is a musical artist who is determined to follow his dreams. He is constantly reaching for the next level, always motivated by music. Carlos has a positive message in his music and he is chasing his dream.

Then my thoughts moved on to my daughter and her beautiful voice. She too is chasing her musical dream, constantly reaching to achieve her goals with music. I started to see a vision of a hand reaching for a microphone. The cord was wrapped around the microphone in the shape of a musical note.

Next I started to think how that ties into my goals and my dreams. Music has inspired me throughout my life and my career. One of my passions is nails and I am continuously motivated by music. My family and I are all working together to reach for our goals and encouraging each other along the way. We are all on the same path in one way — chasing our dreams.

From there the nail idea was formed. I did a rough sketch of what I saw and went to work on it the next day. My desire to be a nail artist is represented by the nail art on the base nail. The 3D hand is grasping for your dream, representing music with the 3D microphone. The cord wrapped around the microphone is in the shape of the treble clef. This represents the connection in this family, working together to achieve our goals.

Carlos wrote a song for me which you will hear in the video portion of this entry. This song provides the name for this piece, Vivid Dreams. Enjoy!




NailGurl (Bronx, NY)

Truth be told, I was going to do a nail based around my favorite band Rage Against The Machine. Then my brain kicked in (on overdrive as usual) and I realized I love so many genres of music, along with a bucket list of songs I couldn't decide on what my actual concept would be. That was up until I thought about how music has changed (as a whole), and the devices used to play music have evolved over time. I remember the days when records were played at house parties and clubs. I also often daydreamed about my teenage years; making good use of spending hard-earned cash on cassette tapes, while breaking a few portable cassette players along the way. And please don’t get me started on those lovely holographic rings neatly pressed in plastic…better known as CD’s. Weren't those divine? And everything changed when MP3 players invaded the eardrums of the youth and adults…..from coast to coast. WHAT NEXT? And that is the inspiration behind this piece.




Nikkoal Bounds (Los Angeles, CA)

I choose to go with a concert theme with a Live DJj. Without a DJ or Music Engineer for a show, event, advertisement, ect. would be a plan and boring attention grabbing. When I got this Challenge I had a vision of a female DJ and I felt that the DJ represents me since I love all genres of music. That's one of the reasons why I painted a diverse crowd. Thanks for watching.




Nuni Torres (Kissimmee, FL)

For this challenge I was inspired by the 70s, a real laid back era. Make NAIL ART not WAR. LOL. I brought a lot of color into this look trying to keep the bright tie-dye from the 70s in mind. I hope you like it. It was definitely a time crunch but I think I made it work.




Quisa Robinson (Ft. Worth, TX)

My nail art was inspired by my love of running and how listening to music USED to be the one thing that made running bearable. I wondered how I could make running into a nail without the obvious way of creating a shoe, which wasn’t very music related anyway. My "Aha" moment came when I decided I wanted to portray the actual act of listening to music. I ran with an ear idea and would equip it with my Apple earbuds just like the ones I wear in real life. I thought for while about the ZONE I get in when I am running. It's almost like the music hypnotizes me. I thought of many ways to expressed my hypnosis until a twilight zone type swirl popped in my head. I twisted that with a few music notes and had them all spiraling out of the ear. The ear was completely from acrylic, it was a challenge getting that particular shape and adding all the details of the ear...I kept wanting to incorporate Rihanna in there since she is my favorite artist but I didn't want to do lyrics or an actual face, that's when I remembered her tattoo and BOOM I had it! A little glitter here and some details there and my submission was done. :)




Robyn Schwartz (Grand Forks, BC, Canada)

Lots of things inspired me for this nail — rock and roll was the first thing that popped into my head. Then, a glittery electric guitar, music notes and stars. I wanted to make this a fun, glittery, rock-inspired nail. I think it turned out really well.




Sherri Traweek (Redlands, CA)

This challenge really made me think about the bands and instruments that inspire me in my everyday life. I've found that it really takes the right kind of music to make me happy, and fill my soul with its daily dose of inspiration. Commercial music doesn't offer that to me.

So these nails represent the band and genre that touch me the most, and play a big part in who I am. The Pawnshop Kings are a pair of brothers who, through heavy doses of Southern Soul and Southern California surf culture, spread the Gospel through music that moves you to the core.

I've taken a few of their trademarks, and recreated them in acrylic, gel and acrylic paint. From Joel's acoustic guitar, to the Fender amp, the humble wood stage, and even the crown, these nails sum up the Pawnshop Kings experience.

The crown hanging upside down on the guitar isn't just a literal interpretation of their telltale logo, but tells a much deeper, more profound story. Traditionally, an upside down crown signifies a king who has fallen in battle. In this case, the crown represents Jesus Christ, and how Scott and Joel hang their musical influence ultimately on Him. The fact that it's also on a nail represents who I hang my creativity on!




Simon Gilbert (Victoria, Australia)

Upon reading the theme for this week’s music challenge, I immediately thought back to my childhood. My Grandparents owned an old player piano, which is a piano that plays braille type musical scrolls. My siblings, cousins and I would play for hours at a time, taking turns until our feet were tired from pressing the pedals that made the piano play. The scrolls were old and well-loved and that is where I found my starting point.

I created an antique-looking nail with musical notes swirling its way around the tip, where it takes off and becomes three dimensional. I decided to incorporate a gloss factor to symbolise the black piano keys that we would to press to mimic the music as it played. These childhood memories are amongst some of my fondest and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reminiscing to create my nail for this challenge.




Tammie Alvarado (Tulare, CA)

My inspiration was the Yellow Submarine from the Beatles. I choose it because when I think of music I think of Iconic figures. So naturally I had to choose them. Their choice of color variation and use of shapes really captured my eye.  I am sooooo happy, excited, and honored.




Yesenia Oliva (San Luis Obispo, CA)

“Music is love in search of a word.”  I found this beautiful quote and decided to use it as inspiration for our first challenge.  I really like all kinds of music so it was hard to choose just one band or song.  I decided to go way back and sculpt a gramophone out of acrylic. I wanted to show and remind everyone where music came from and where it all started. Every single song you listen to, one way or another is about love, music connects people in so many ways and can make you feel so many different emotions.  My fiancé lives in Cuba 3,000 miles away and our communication is limited due to no Internet. Sad right? But if there’s one thing that makes me feel special and loved is all the songs he dedicates to me. It’s like through one song it makes me feel so many emotions and it’s a great way to show your significant other what you feel for them. Music is a reminder of memories whether it’s sad or happy ... Sometimes if a certain song comes on the radio it reminds of a certain moment right?  This is what I wanted to show. I wanted to show all the beautiful things that come out thru that speaker that makes us feel so much. Music is something that is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a wedding, a funeral, a celebration; it’s something that’s in our daily life. I chose gold glitter for the speaker because I wanted to make it stand out more than anything else, with the colored notes out of it.  I decided to make the album coming out of the speaker just to make it fun with a little twist. I decided to go with red and gold.  Red to symbolize love, and the gold, to add a little glamour. I decided to make the music notes a little more colorful because I wanted to throw a dash of color because life isn’t just black and white. I  am so pleased with this beautiful design and can’t wait for you to see it! Thank you again for this amazing opportunity.