Five Industry Icons Reflect on Their Lives and Remarkable Careers


The world of nails is ever changing. Continuous technological advancements and artistic innovations keep mani masters inspired—and clients craving more. But while celebrating the future, we also look at the past to honor five trailblazers who helped shape our industry and make it shine. How did these icons get their start, and what words of wisdom do they have for the next generation of nail artists? We found out.


Jan Arnold, CND Cofounder and Style Director

Pivotal Career Moment: “From the 1979 launch of SolarNail sculpting liquid to our 2013 contribution of $400,000 to the Beauty Changes Lives (BCL) Nail Scholarships, every CND innovation has been a defining moment, bringing us closer to our ultimate mission of advancing the professional nail industry.”

Greatest Professional Challenge: “Defending high standards and protocols that protect nail health while striving to further the science behind preventive care. I’m also a proud founding BCL board member who is dedicated to empowering the next generation of beauty pros.”

Top Technique: “Liquid-and-powder enhancements, which can morph the architecture of a ski-jump nail—like mine!— into a sleek, sexy, elegant canvas.”

Readers Will Be Surprised to Learn…: “I played violin for more than five years as a kid, was a member of Denver’s Youth Symphony Orchestra and even made an album.”

Proudest Accomplishment: “Celebrating CND’s 40th anniversary this year. What started in our family garage with my dad’s chemistry lab has become a legacy steeped in science, innovation and creativity, which I’m proud to share.”

Secret to Work-Life Balance: “To paraphrase Pitbull: Work hard, be wild, have fun and party.”

Best Advice for Newbie Techs: “Follow the four Ps: Be passionate, professional, polished and principled.”

All-Time Favorite Product: “CND Shellac changed the world, and my favorite color is Blackpool, the perfect patent leather. To have a career that includes the launch of such a radical breakthrough is quite profound.”

RELATED: How to Make Your Mark as an Editorial Nail Tech


Lezlie McConnell, Light Elegance Sales President

Pivotal Career Moment: “Deciding with my husband, Jim, a chemist, to risk it all and sell Light Elegance products professionally.
I remember our first retail call: A nail pro wanted to pay money to buy a product we’d formulated and packaged. It was exhilarating.”

Greatest Professional Challenge: “Letting go of control. When you build a company from the ground up, the impulse is to oversee the execution of every detail. Over time, I learned to let others help care for my baby.”

Top Technique: “Shaping. There are so many fabulous nail forms to choose from these days, but I especially love a clean almond nail.”

Readers Will Be Surprised to Learn…: “My grandkids call me Goosey.”

Proudest Accomplishment: “My kids, Jon and Lexy. The world is perfect when I’m with them.”

Secret to Work-Life Balance: “My husband, Jim. He taught me how to let go of work stress and not bring the job home.”

Best Advice for Newbie Techs: “Keep learning, and always dress and act like a professional.”

All-Time Favorite Product: “Light Elegance ButterCream color gels. They’re packed with color and so sexy.”

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Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI Cofounder and Author

Pivotal Career Moment: “When I first started in this industry, I wondered if anyone would ever remember my name. Fast-forward to the 1990s, and a magazine editor called me the ‘First Lady of Nails.’ That’s how I knew I’d left my mark.”

Greatest Professional Challenge: “Accepting that you can’t do it all. As a working mom with a thriving business and two wonderful kids, I had to leave almost everything else—self-care, a social life, sleep— on the back burner.”

Proudest Accomplishment: “My two children.”

Top Technique: “Negative space nail art. In 2019, we saw it used in unique ways, as glitter paired with delicate art or negative space featured on a single nail.”

Readers Will Be Surprised to Learn…: “I have a wicked sense of humor … but maybe OPI’s lacquer names are a giveaway.”

Secret to Work-Life Balance: “Be disciplined and organized, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are only 24 hours in a day. Focus on your strengths, and then collaborate with others whose abilities complement your own.”

Best Advice for Newbie Techs: “Use service time to focus on retail. Selling products to clients will help them maintain your work at home, keeping them happy and coming back for more.”

All-Time Favorite Products: “OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil, a must-have for flawless manicures, and I’m Not Really a Waitress, my favorite polish color— which, incidentally, was the inspiration for my memoir, I’m Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.”


Zoya Ryzis, Zoya Founder

Pivotal Career Moment: “From the start, I wanted to change nailcare standards. My husband, Michael, and I went through countless tests and product experimentations to craft a formula free from harmful chemicals, especially formaldehyde. The moment we landed our hero product was defining, as it helped pioneer the healthy nail movement.”

Greatest Professional Challenge: “Educating people about the harmful effects of toxins that used to be prevalent in our industry. I’ve never understood the concept of suffering for beauty.”

Top Technique: “Treatments that strengthen and heal weak, brittle or damaged nails.”

Readers Will Be Surprised to Learn…: “I’m a trained classical pianist. It’s taught me discipline and responsivity—lessons I applied when creating
my business. It also means I keep my own nails short, healthy and round.”

Proudest Accomplishment: “The formulas we crafted for our Zoya products.”

Secret to Work-Life Balance: “Having a supportive spouse and children. The ability to listen, understand and recognize other people’s strengths also creates harmony.”

Best Advice for Newbie Techs: “Read literature, read magazines—every new product requires education. Nothing is simple. But if you badly want something and work hard enough to get it, success will follow.

All-Time Favorite Product: “Carmen, our first polish, which is a beautiful, rich red. It was named for the character in literature, because I wanted to honor various incredible women from history and culture.”


Katharin Von Gavel, Footlogix Founder and CEO

Pivotal Career Moment: “Early in my company’s evolution, when we were working on a tradeshow in Las Vegas, a distributor came into the booth wanting to sell Footlogix in Europe. That’s when I realized we’d gained global appeal.”

Greatest Professional Challenge: “The business world is slowly changing, but when I started it was still predominantly a man’s game. Convincing male
bankers, suppliers and fellow business associates that I could be just as successful was my biggest test—and our exponential growth proved their decision to work with a woman entrepreneur was the best choice.”

Top Footcare Practice: “Using Footlogix Professional Callus Softener and our Professional Stainless-Steel File to debride rough skin via a simple pedicure procedure turns tough heels into baby-soft feet.”

Readers Will Be Surprised to Learn…: “I love to cook. I’ve been told I make a fabulous black forest cake.”

Proudest Accomplishment: “From a humble start in my basement, I took Footlogix to a concept that’s recognized and sold in more than 70 countries today.”

Secret to Work-Life Balance: “As a business leader, I get few 40-hour workweeks, which means it’s important to love what I do. Helping other women entrepreneurs grow their companies and careers brings me balance.”

Best Advice for Newbie Techs: “Never stop learning, no matter how long you’ve been working. Take as many continuing education courses as possible.”

–by Francesca Moisin


[Images: Courtesy of nail artists]

This story first appeared in the October issue of Nailpro magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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