There's always creativity brewing in the nail art industry whether we're seeing innovative trends, new ways to do our manicures at home, or admiring the sculptural works of art created on those tiny canvases. That inventiveness would be nowhere without the contribution of nail artists from all over the world who are constantly reimagining the way we look at nails.
It's remarkable how manicurists are able to translate their vision — or yours — onto 10 fingernails, providing their clients with another means of self-expression. It's also impressive to see the growing number of nail artists responsible for the manicures on celebrities you know and love. Stars like Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and Jennifer Lopez are constantly exalted for their nails, so we wanted to take some time to honor the hands behind those hands.
Here are six manicurists who groom, sculpt, and paint some of the creative nail art on your favorite celebrities.
Specialty: Long nails with varying textures, shapes, and plenty of glitter
Best Nail-Art Tip: Use real acetone to remove your acrylics and don't rip your nails off.
Though she enjoyed the many facets of beauty, Saccia went to cosmetology school largely to study hair. A few months before graduating, she realized she "didn't have to just do hair," and became more interested in nails. About two years later, around 2016, she began working in a nail salon.
Another two years passed and she left her job at the nail salon and looked to Glam, a mobile app that lets you book beauty services, for work. She had experience working with the beauty platform before as a hairstylist but switched her profile to nails to start accepting new clients.
She says she owes a lot to the Glam app and credits it for helping her get into the industry. "I started with nothing but a car," she says. The app made the process of marketing herself easier because all she really needed was the app to meet clients, and it's through the platform that she gained her first celebrity client, Adrienne Bailon. At the time, she didn't realize the appointment she accepted was with the former Cheetah Girl, but that meeting led to more opportunities with Bailon. Through the app, she was also able to work with Paris Hilton, which started as one simple pedicure but led to her getting booked for more appointments with the socialite.
Since then, she's worked with a few other celebrities like Megan Thee Stallion, Grimes, and of course, Doja Cat. Saccia's cousin Lydia is Doja's manager and, since Saccia does all of her family's nails, her cousin knew the two would be a match made in heaven. Once Doja saw Lydia's manicures, she agreed.
"It's literally like a dream come true," Saccia says of her work with Doja, which started off with a pink, sparkly jelly manicure she created for the star. Since then, she's been responsible for a lot of the unique and very long nails we see on the pop sensation. Working with a creative like Doja Cat has helped push Saccia's work to new limits. "[I learned to] give myself time and allow myself to feel energy so that I could reciprocate and put it into my work."
She loves to play around with texture, shape, and height. For the "Best Friend" music video, she added fluffy, pink pom-poms to Doja's nails for a cute, monochromatic manicure. For a partnership between the star and Candy Crush, she recreated all the different candies from the virtual universe.
Shimmery, iridescent nails full of glitter, all-over bedazzled manis, or even water droplet sets — you name it, she's probably done it. She says she hasn't exactly figured out her niche (though she's doing just fine, if you ask us) but that it will come with time. "Perfecting [my craft] is what I'm doing every day."
Clients Include: Rico Nasty, CL, Rita Ora, Karol G, Halsey
Specialty: Colorful, long nails with 3D decals
Best Nail-Art Tip: Get creative with the materials you use to do nail art, like a toothbrush or hairspray.
Britney Tokyo has been doing nails since before she even knew what nail art was. Around the age of six, she started to draw art (mainly flowers, letters, and anime characters) on her nails for fun. "I love fashion, art, and beauty, so before I even had time to realize, I was a nail artist," she shares.
While attending a nail school in her home country of Japan, she also worked at a nail salon where she further cultivated her skill. She started uploading her masterful nail creations onto Instagram, which led to DMs and emails from celebrities and brands. Her posts attracted the attention of her first celebrity client, Vanessa Hudgens, in 2013. At the time, several magazines and outlets started to cover Hudgen's manicure, which helped further Tokyo's popularity, leading more celebrities (including Lizzo, Rico Nasty, and Rita Ora) and brands to hit her up.
Tokyo is definitely known for pushing the creative limits of nails with the shapes, sizes, and materials she uses. She loves experimenting with color and tapping into the kawaii aesthetic, like the multi-colored pastel manicure with tiny 3D butterfly charms that looked like they were ready to fly off her nails. "I try to use new materials even if they aren't usually for nails," she says. "I create new designs freely."
She's used ginormous gold hoop earrings as nail art charms quite a few times, and you'll notice a couple of her sets include holes in the shape of hearts punched right through the middle of the manicure, which is a style she loves.
Her inspiration comes from a variety of places including men's sneakers, fashion, and even the art supply store. She likes to challenge herself to use new items and techniques, and she encourages others to do the same. "When you think differently than normal, you will get new ideas too."
Clients Include: Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld
Speciality: Classic manicures with colorful twists
Nail-Art Tip: If you're a newbie to nail art, play around with different nail polish shades for multicolor manicures.
Tom Bachik's journey to doing the nails of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Pink, and Britney Spears started out a bit unconventionally for a nail artist. He studied graphic design in college and wanted to airbrush designs onto race car helmets and jet skis. He even planned on traveling around the country with his brother to race jet skis. But when he found out his wife was pregnant, he realized he needed a stable income.
His cousin, a hairstylist, gave him the idea to go to nail school and put his art skills to use. At first, it didn't seem like something he could do, but after hearing about the potential earnings, he decided to try it. "It all made sense. I don't know what to say other than it was kind of like someone turned on the lights in the room," he explains. "I was like, that's it, that's what I'm going to do."
At school, he learned about nail trade shows, and as a fan of competition, he decided to try it out. "OK, if I'm not going to race jet skis, then I'm going to race nails," he says. Within the first year of obtaining his license and competing, he won the world competition for sculptured acrylic nails. After that win, brands reached out to work with him. He started working with CND to create products and educate other nail techs about techniques. During that job, he started working on photoshoots and landed an opportunity to work with celebrities. One job led to another and another and the celebrity clientele kept rolling in.
Since his early beginnings in the nineties, Bachik has done an impressive amount of work. "I try to create art on the nail versus nail art," he shares. His work is defined by simple, clean manicures with an unexpected twist here and there. He can sculpt gorgeous stiletto nails in nude hues, and he's also capable of creating 3D looks like this red coffin-shaped manicure with one nail in a stiletto shape that's dripping blood on the tip.
As with all his work, he ensures that he's not only creating excellence but that it complements his client's entire vibe, including the wardrobe, hair, and makeup. It's not just about him freestyling on his own but fitting the manicure into the whole look. "The art or the nail that I create is kind of that exclamation point at the end of the sentence that finishes it off," he explains.
Specialty: Reimagining simple manicures with 3D charms, colorful pigments, and creative designs
Best Nail-Art Tip: Always use a base coat.
Eri Ishizu once had the simple dream of wanting to do Alicia Keys's nails. As the daughter of a hairstylist, she knew she wanted to work in the beauty industry, even if she wasn't sure how she would do it. Around the age of 22, she became close friends with the owner of a nail salon in Japan and began to work there. That dream of wanting to do Keys's manicure pushed her to move to the United States when she was 25.
When she first arrived in the States, she started working as a bartender while also working in a nail salon. She soon landed a gig at New York City's Marie Nails, which was one of the few salons she could find that focused on Japanese nail art. It was there that her skills and creativity were allowed to thrive as she worked with regular clients each day. But in 2016, she decided it was time for a change and left the salon to do freelance work on her own.
Though going freelance can be nerve-wracking in any career, somehow she was never worried about the process. "I think it's called being young. When you're young, you're so fearless. So I wasn't really thinking about 'What if this doesn't work?'," she explains. She just kept working and working, bringing in more clients, and eventually got a chance to work with Angie Martinez in 2016. That same year she got her big break and worked with Jennifer Lopez and Lizzo.
The opportunity with Lizzo came through the help of a friend who was working at Atlantic Records at the time. The musician wanted a leopard-print manicure, so Ishizu's friend called her to get them done. From there, it has been a whirlwind of other celebrity clientele, including Kehlani and Issa Rae.
She somehow finds a balance with her nail artwork, creating simple metallic manicures and more dramatic ones full of multicolored, sparkly jewels. Her creativity seems to know no ends. She's created long stiletto nails with a crocodile print for Atlanta-based rapper Latto. For Lizzo, she has done a few different looks, but one of our faves is the bedazzled set she wore in her Rumors cover shoot. She manages to deliver a fire manicure no matter the length, size, or amount of charms (or lack thereof).
She admits it feels almost surreal at times to think about how drastically her career changed. She was once a nail tech working out of a salon, now she has worked with a slew of celebrity clients including Yara Shadidi, Kehlani, and Ciara. She still hasn't gotten the chance to work with Keys but we're sure it's only a matter of time. "I feel like after four, five years, I'm finally processing," she says. "Okay, this is my life now."
Specialty: Manicures that are inches long, full of gems, and sculpted to perfection
Best Nail-Art Tip: Always have cuticle oil and gel polishes.
Marie Nailz's first foray into nail artistry started simply by looking at a friend who was working in the industry. At the time, she was in high school in a dual-degree program, working on getting her associate's degree in business. But after being fascinated by the manicures she saw on Instagram, she decided to give the craft a try in 2016.
She did her best to juggle classes, work, and doing nails on the side, until one day, she decided to pursue nails full time. She started developing a long list of clientele in Fort Worth, Texas, and marketing herself on social media to gain even more exposure. Soon, she got a gig working on reality TV shows Little Women of Atlanta and Little Women of Dallas.
She loved everything about the experience, especially working on set, so after a year, she moved to San Diego. While in California, she was able to get her license and even worked in a salon for a little while. However, she says she didn't enjoy the experience because she felt like she was forced to sacrifice on quality. This lead her to rethink the ways she wanted to treat her own clients. "When you talk about growing your clientele, a lot of people don't know, you have to leave a memorable experience with your clients," she shares. "So at the salons, I didn't feel like they cared about the clients."
She started freelancing, networking, and ultimately developing her own clientele. she was able to meet a client who knew Blac Chyna. At that moment, Marie just knew she had to work with the star — and she did. The more she worked and connected, the more she was able to work with new folks.
It was a conversation with a friend who was a makeup artist that landed her the opportunity to work with Cardi B in 2020. She told her friend that the Bronx rapper was one of her dream clients, and he just happened to know her hairstylist, Tokyo Stylez. He connected the two, and Marie figured working with Stylez would help her eventually get to Cardi B. Stylez reached out to Marie about a potential job, and the gig ended up being with Cardi B.
Though Marie was extremely exhausted and ended up driving to stay with the star from 9 a.m. all the way to 4 a.m., the opportunity completely changed things for her. It's why several of the extreme manicures the "Press" rapper wears are the handiwork of Marie. If you want dramatically long nails full of bling, then Marie is your girl. For the "Rumors" cover art, Marie was responsible for pointy gold metallic stiletto nails Cardi B wore. She also created a ruby red set for the rapper complete with several gems and a sculptural nail that looked like a corkscrew.
While the nail tech is immensely talented, it's not just about the art for her. She also loves teaching and mentoring other nail techs to help them learn the tricks of the trade. "My nail stuff isn't just nails. It's about teaching. It's about mentoring," she shares. "It's about helping other people grow. I truly love doing this."
Clients Include: Megan Thee Stallion, Christina Aguilera
Specialty: Lengthy nails that push the boundaries of nail art with innovative designs and materials
Best Nail-Art Tip: Don't focus too much on creating a perfect design. Enjoy the artistry and have fun.
It seems like every other day, Megan Thee Stallion is switching out her manicure for a new one. The mastermind behind all these changes is manicurist Coca Michelle. Michelle's work in the nail industry goes all the way back to her childhood: In her home country of England, her parents worked at a nail salon before going on to open their own salon.
It was almost a no-brainer that Michelle ended up in the industry herself, working for folks like Jhene Aiko, Christina Aguilera, and of course Thee Stallion, but it wasn't the first career she thought she would pursue. After moving to the United States, she attended college and worked as a fashion intern. When she needed to make money on the side, she decided to work in a salon since doing nails was practically in her blood.
It was once she was back working in the salon that she realized it was the thing she needed to do. "I remember looking forward to seeing my clients on a day-to-day basis. That would be the highlight of my day," she shares. "I never considered it work because it just seemed so natural to me." But it wasn't until 2016 that she transitioned to a new salon located in North Hollywood and was able to perfect her craft.
In addition to her work at the salon, she would also work freelance and upload some of her manicures on Instagram, attracting the attention of new clientele. She booked her first official celebrity client, Teyana Taylor, around 2017. Taylor loved Michelle's work so much that the nail artist ended up traveling with her on tour. After that, the celebrities kept rolling in.
Through the manicures she creates, she's able to combine her love for photography, fashion, and art. What's beautiful about her work is that one of her sets will rarely look like another, but length and creativity is key. She has created miniature galaxies on lipstick-shaped nails. She's sculpted pointy stiletto sets with multi-colored chunks of glitter for an iridescent mani. We were amazed by the computer-inspired transparent manicure that looked like they have microchips on each nail. The talent is endless.
She admits that she doesn't have a defined nail-art aesthetic since she likes to look at a variety of things, whether it's something as simple as what her client is wearing or even the city they are located in, as inspiration. "I like to say it's an intuitive thing. If I get to know my client and after some time I see this side of them that I want to bring out, whether it's a little edgier or more fun," she shares. "It's almost like a freestyle [set]."
Younger Michelle may not have expected her to end up in the nail art business like her family, but it's clear she has a gift for this work. "I feel like I'm giving parts of myself every time I do nails. I always have to make it way deeper," she says. "It's almost like telling a story." And we are always ready to tune in.
Gabi Thorne is the associate news editor at Allure. Since graduating from Harvard University, where she received a student writing fellowship from The Nation to research political news and social media as they pertain to students and communities of color, Gabi has covered beauty, pop culture, news, and more... Read more