If a competitor has a stack of trophies on display, chances are, she’s had at least one or two mentors during her competition career. From insightful critiques to uplifting pep talks, mentors are invaluable in and out of the competition arena. While mentors play a large role in helping their mentees improve, they can’t do all the work—mentees, too, must have certain qualities in order for a membership to work. Here, leading competitors-turned-mentors reveal what it takes to be the Best. Mentee. Ever.
Make practice a priority.
“The only thing that I require from my mentee is that he or she dedicates a substantial amount of time to practicing. The most frustrating part of being a mentor is when your mentee doesn’t practice enough and asks you to critique the same level of work over and over again. Not practicing regularly for a competition is like going to the Olympics but only training for the two weeks before—it just doesn’t work. When training for a pink-and-white competition, I recommend completing at least one competition nail a day. For those entering a nail art competition, I advise competitors to do something nail art-related a few times a week, whether that’s practicing a technique or working on a turn-in entry. It’s simple: If you don’t practice, you can’t win.” – Carla Collier, NAILPRO Competitions head judge
Embrace tough love.
“A good mentee should be able to take constructive criticism. Mentees need to be willing to accept their flaws and understand that their mentor isn’t trying to put them down, but is instead trying to build them up. As a mentor, it’s difficult to tell a competitor when he or she has done something wrong. Sometimes, the mentee gets defensive, even though the mentor is only trying to help. Early in my competition career, I took a trip to Korea to train with Kyongee Choi, one of Korea’s best nail competitors. She was an amazing mentor, but she was hard on me. I have a thick skin, and even I was in tears at times! Still, she taught me so much and I am forever grateful.” -Alecia Mounixay, veteran competitor
Don’t be intimidated.
“I think that many mentees are afraid to approach a seasoned competitor. When I first started competing, I noticed one competitor Lori Ribar who won all the time. I would often approach her at trade shows and ask her questions about competing. She was great! She not only gave me competition pointers, but also offered me helpful business advice. The key is to find someone with a lot of success in the area in which you are trying to excel, whether it’s nail art or pink-and-whites. Message them on social media or introduce yourself at a nail competition.” – Amy Becker, two-time NAILPRO Cup champion.
Go the extra mile.
“Good mentees are driven and have a passion for doing whatever it takes to further their skills and techniques. [When I as searching for a mentor], I looked for competition champions and pursued them, so that I could train with them. Since I’m from Australia, many times that would require me to jump on a plane and fly to the U.S. In doing so, I developed friendships with some of the most amazing people. Even though my mentorships were costly, I still would not hesitate to do them now.” – Viv Simmonds, international competitor.
— Taylor Foley
[Images: Courtesy of Carla Collier; Courtesy of Alecia Mounixay; Courtesy of Amy Becker; Courtesy of Viv Simmonds]