How to Get Where Deborah Lippmann is Today

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In a world where nail art (as fun as it is!) has seemingly overshadowed the basic skills of a good manicurist, climbing your way to the top isn’t as easy as applying more glitter. Deborah Lippmann, who ardently believes that quality work goes a long way, shares the 6 tips that got her where she is today.

1.) “The number one thing you have to do is become a perfectionist. You have to be perfect at a perfect, groomed nail. It’s not about being the best nail artist, or doing funky [designs], gels, art, and stuff like that. You have to be able to give a perfect manicure with perfect cuticle cleaning and perfect filing of the nails.

2.) “[To be a celebrity manicurist,] you have to live in a city where celebrities live, and if you don’t live in a city where celebrities live…introduce yourself to the concierge at the best hotels in your town. When celebrities, especially music artists…are in town doing concerts, the concierge will go through their list and have a manicurist come, and they very often won’t use the salons that are in the hotel.

3.) “You have to be fast to answer your phone, and you have to always say yes. The one thing that I always did for the first fifteen years of my career was I never said no to a job. I didn’t care how tired I was, I didn’t care how many days I’d worked in a row, I didn’t care if I’d worked all day at a salon or a photo shoot. If somebody called and wanted me to do their nails at midnight or 2am, I said yes.

4.) “If you want to work in the world of photo shoots and editorial…it’s important to be a team player. I never have a client by myself; I’m always working with hair and makeup, so I have to really be aware. If [the makeup artist] has an eye pencil in the [client’s] eye, I can’t be picking up [the client’s] leg and moving it in the middle of their pedicure, which I see happen sometimes when I have people on my team. Or if you come into a quiet room, you can’t walk in and [loudly introduce yourself.] It seems obvious, but it’s really not obvious to a lot of people.

5.) “[Be] professional. [When I did celebrity’s nails,] I got in, I got out, and I didn’t try to be their friend. It’s tough; when you meet celebrities that you’re a fan of, you want them to remember you and to ask them questions, but what you have to realize is that every single person that meets them wants to ask them one question.


6.) If you really want to get involved in editorial, you have to test with photographers – and that requires you and your time. One photo can take five hours to get right. People don’t know that. They think they can just go in, do a manicure, and leave. You have to be willing to put in the time. You have to understand how lighting works, how the length of nails work, how the skin tone plays in, and learn about color. You then have to get a portfolio together of images from different photographers and go and introduce yourself to the agencies, which you can find online.”

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Quotes edited for length, clarity, and grammar.

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