How to Find the Perfect Hand Model

To win a nail competition, a flawless canvas is essential. Here's what you need to know about finding and keeping a great hand model.

Competition Corner

When you think about entering a nail competition, finding a hand model is probably not at the top of your to-do list. But pros who’ve taken top honors agree that all of the talent in the world won’t result in a victory unless you’re working with a winning pair of hands. “To create a great set of nails, you need a great canvas,” explains Sukura McLawson, a nail artist and competitor who has also participated in competitions as a hand model. Beyond possessing the perfect set of natural nails, an ideal model will also be your partner in crime—someone who’s patient enough to endure all of that sitting and who exhibits a positive and supportive attitude that enables you to truly bring your A-game. “If I have a great relationship with my model, that helps me to feel more calm and comfortable during competitions,” notes 2016 NAILPRO Cup champion Shiori Durham. So, where do you find these amazing individuals, and how can you get them as invested in the outcome as you are? Competitors who’ve been there offer the following insight.

Look closely. When searching for models, it’s often best to look within your circle of friends and family, since they will probably be more reliable and willing to help, says McLawson. Iryna Gross, winner of the 2016 Glossies grand prize and a champion competitor, agrees that pals are a good place to start and adds that fellow nail techs are as well. “Friends are going to be willing to support you, and other nail techs know that being a competition model is a priceless experience—it’s very educational, especially for those who plan to compete in the future,” she explains. “Even if the nail techs you approach can’t model for you, they may be able to refer you to clients who are willing.” Beyond your closest confidants, keep your eyes open whenever you’re out and about. “If I see someone with great hands, I offer them my business card and a free manicure,” says McLawson. Durham also solicits hand models on her social media accounts, as well as asking clients and students if they would be interested.

You be the judge. There are a lot of qualities to look for in a great hand model (as noted previoulsy, patience is a virtue!), but a lot of it obviously has to do with appearances—so really scrutinize her hands, fingers and especially nails. First and foremost, champions and judges alike recommend seeking out long, narrow nail beds. “I prefer the nail beds to be between 1.5 centimeters and 2 centimeters from the cuticle to the distal edge of the nail plate,” says McLawson, who adds that natural C-curves can be helpful as well, since it’s difficult to pinch the C-curves if you’re sculpting on very flat nails. “Long fingers are also a plus, as the final set of nails will look nicer, and it’s important for the hands to have small, not deep, lateral folds, as it’s easier to work on such nails when time is limited,” says Gross.

Pamper their pointers. Even when you’ve found a model with beautiful nails and fingers, you must make sure that they keep them in pristine condition. “It’s important for models to use cuticle oil every day, several times a day,” says Gross. That’s why Durham always provides plenty of cuticle oil, as well as hand cream, to her models. McLawson says that when he worked as a model, he would also exfoliate his hands regularly for several weeks leading up to the competition. “I have my models do this as well, and I recommend giving them dust-free gloves to keep their hands clean and protected right before the competition,” he notes. During practice sessions, if working on the person who will be your competition model (which is always ideal, since you want to be as familiar with their nails as possible), you should also take steps to protect their tips. “I don’t use primer and I don’t do sanding on nails when I practice,” says Durham. Gross also uses protection film on the nails so the enhancements are easy to remove after practice.

Commit them. Although most competitors rely solely on a verbal agreement, it wouldn’t hurt to put something in writing. “I like to have a written agreement that goes over hand care and schedules for practices,” says McLawson. If you’re lucky enough to find more than one person with great hands, having a backup model isn’t a bad idea either. When competition day arrives, be sure that you’ve given them a sense of what to expect. “I coach my model and provide a timeline so she knows where I should be, at what time,” says McLawson. “Then, my model helps to set my pace. That teamwork helps to keep her invested. My model is also my eyes, so if I misplace something my model helps me find it.” Ask for your model’s feedback on your work, too, suggests Durham. “Even if your model is not a professional nail tech, she still knows what is beautiful on her hand,” Durham explains. “Asking for her opinion makes her part of the team and gets her as interested in winning as you are.”

Show them the money. Finally, you want to make the experience worth your model’s while, and that often means offering some sort of compensation above and beyond a gorgeous set of nails. “The compensation for models varies depending on the circumstances,” says Gross. “For example, if the model is a nail tech who wants to learn improved nail techniques and about competition, I may just cover her travel costs. But if she is simply there to model, I am more likely to cover additional costs and provide some form of compensation for her services.” In addition to covering travel and hotel expenses, Durham typically pays her models $100 per competition. “If I win and the model came to practice many times, I also give her half of the prize money,” she says. Now that is a surefire way to get your model invested in the process—and, hopefully, to ensure that you both walk away with a victory. —Alexa Joy Sherman

What do you look for in a hand model? Tell us in the comments, below.

[IMAGE: Courtesy of Allie Baker]

This article was first published in the June 2017 issue of NAILPRO.

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