If ever there were an art form that was literally hands-on, it's nail art – tiny brushes making tiny strokes on teeny, tiny canvases. For some, getting a manicure these days is less maintenance, and more masterpiece.
For celebrities, nails can be what nails the look. Just ask pop star Fergie: "Nails are like the icing on the cake," she said. "Nails have always been a way of expression for me. I've always loved nail art."
Even television has taken a cue. "Claws," the hit TNT series about five money-laundering manicurists, has a sixth character: the nails. Salon owner Desna Simms (played by Niecy Nash) expressed her philosophy: "You know how they say, eyes are the windows to the soul? Well, for me, it's nails."
"Funny thing is, when we all come to set and we know it's a new day in the series, the first thing we do [is], 'Let me see your nails!'"
Correspondent Alina Cho asked Karrueche Tran, who plays Virginia, "How do the nails help you when you're in your character?"
"It's everything for me, especially Virginia," Tran replied. "She's just so, like, all about her hands and, like, my hair. Once I had my nails on and my wig I'm, like, in full effect!"
The nails are such a big part of "Claws" that the show, now wrapping up its third season tonight, created its own nail department.
Because of the sheer amount of work, lead nail stylist Morgan Dixon and her team prepare all of the nails in advance, ready to pop on or switch out at any time.
"We always try to have some backups ready just so we can throw them on in-between takes if need be," Dixon said.
Actress Carrie Preston laughed, "Good luck texting. That's true! You gotta do everything with, like, the side of your hands."
And it's not just for the bold and the beautiful. According to Nails Magazine, the nail industry is an $8.5 billion business. There are more than 50,000 nail salons in the U.S., and three-quarters of them offer nail art.
Dixon said, "We look at our hands more than we look at anything else in this world, more than our own faces. I can't look at my face right now, but I can look at my nails."
"And do you consider yourself an artist?" Cho asked.
"I do. I do."
And we've only scratched the surface…
Jan Arnold, head of Creative Nail Design, or CND (now owned by Revlon), is responsible for bringing nail art to the fashion runways: "It was about 25 years ago. I remember looking through Vogue, and realizing that the hair, the makeup, the styling [were] all pulled together. But the digits were bare. And I was really missing what nails bring to a total look.
"Nails are the ultimate form of expression," she said.
Fashion designer Johnson Hartig, of the clothing line Libertine, has been collaborating with Arnold for seven years.
Arnold said, "What I love about our relationship with Libertine is, we have this artistic shared vision, [that] we'll see what he's doing; he'll see what we're doing. And together, we sort of, like, take it to another level."
Cho asked, "Would you ever do a show without fabulous nails?"
"No!" Hartig replied.
Getting the nails ready for this show is no small feat; it takes 600 hours. And by the time the models hit the catwalk, it's clear that these tiny additions make a huge difference.
Cho asked, "What would you say to the detractors who say, 'What's the big deal? Nails, who cares?'"
"Well, I say, 'You have 10 – including your toes, 20 – opportunities to thrill yourself, every day. Nails are fun!"
For more info:
- Creative Nail Design, Inc. (CND)
- M.A.D. Nails, New Orleans
- "Claws" (TNT), Season 3 finale to be broadcast Sunday, August 11 at 9 p.m. ET
- Vanity Projects NYC
- Nail Artist Marina Iwakoshi (Instagram)
- The Blonds, New York City
Story produced by Young Kim.