This year’s winner of the esteemed NAILPRO Cup, Guin Deadman-Littlefield, is a veteran nail technician who’s been testing her skills in the competition arena for almost a decade. She’s found top placement in individual categories year after year, most notably taking home the NAILPRO Team Cup in 2014 as part of Team Nubar. Now, as a master educator for LeChat, she’s won the ultimate prize. Here, we sit down with Deadman- Littlefield to learn more about her experiences taking part in professional nail competitions.
How did you first get into nails?
“When I was in high school one of my friends started doing her own nails with acrylic. I wanted to try it, so she got me a kit. I did my own nails for two years before I went to beauty school during my senior year of high school.”
How did you react after learning that you’d won the 2019 NAILPRO Cup?
“I was very excited when they called my name as the winner. It’s been a very long year of work, and it was wonderful for it to have paid off.”
You’ve been working toward this moment for a long time; what did you do to stay motivated?
“As I worked on different art entries, I continued to challenge myself—and the excitement I felt when the nails turned out just the way I pictured them kept me going! I also had a couple of friends who I would brainstorm with and share the progress of my work. They helped keep me motivated and accountable for working on the projects and practices.”
What has this experience taught you?
“I never believed that I could create the level of art that I was able to this year. It has pushed me to hone my skills far beyond what I ever thought I could do.”
What category did you find the most challenging?
“Traditional pink-and-white categories are a challenge for me, but I knew if I devoted the time to practice for them, they wouldn’t get in my way.”
Has this win changed you?
“Yes, because working for it has improved my skill level so much. I hope it gives me the opportunity to share my skills with many more nail techs and aspiring competitors.”
Any words of advice for a newbie competitor?
“Read and understand the rules, ask questions, find a mentor and take classes, but most of all, just do it: Enter the competitions! Don’t be intimidated; all of the competitors are, first and foremost, nail techs just like you. They each took a step outside of their comfort zones and did it. After you compete, talk to the judges. They’re all former competitors who can give you valuable insight into not only what you need to do to improve, but also how to improve your skills. I honestly believe that you grow and learn more from the competitions that you don’t win than from the ones that you do.”Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
After years of successful competing, building a brand and developing talent, Trang Nguyen, founder of Odyssey Nail Systems (ONS), decided to return to the United States competition circuit with a team of top-performing educators. As a dedicated teacher, Nguyen started his team off in January with four days of intensive competition training to prepare for the upcoming year. Relying on his years of skill and perfection in the industry, Nguyen began by teaching his team the technique for creating the most difficult nail style: the competition sculptured nail. Long days of training also included Fantasy work, 3-D designs, Salon Success pink-and-whites, design theory, product chemistry and how to foster a relationship as a team. The results paid off: Team ONS—Genesis Ward, Sammi Nguyen, Andy Ho, Sissy Bramini, Alejandro Castaňeda and Christian Becerra—took home top honors, winning the NAILPRO Team Cup. Here, the successful team talks about the highs and lows of competing together.
What’s the most challenging part about competing on a professional level?
“It’s totally different than salon work; it requires more skill and product control. After taking classes from Trang Nguyen, I decided to challenge myself to compete in NAILPRO Competitions—it challenged me for the better! I always wanted to compete, but I was so scared [that my skill level wasn’t high enough]. When you learn from the best people, you’ll always come out on top.” —Sammi Nguyen, Colorado Springs, CO
Why compete on a team?
“Being part of a team allows you to share ideas and gain support from the others. Give 100 percent of yourself and enjoy the experience!” —Sissy Bramini, Orange County, CA
Which events were the most fun?
“I enjoyed Fantasy and 3-D Nail Art the best because you can really push your skills to the max. Those categories force you to think outside the box and be creative—as opposed to Sculptured Nails, which is the hardest category for me. The standard is so high and it’s not the same as salon work at all!” —Andy Ho, Colorado Springs, CO
Which event was the most challenging?
“Nail-a-palooza was the most difficult because you need to take good video and photos, and sometimes the camera doesn’t capture all of the details.” —Alejandro Castaneda, Mexico City, Mexico
What’s the best part about competing as a team?
“One of my favorite parts of being on a team was sharing ideas and learning from each other. I found it hard to deal with the different opinions of the judges internationally and how they qualified us independently, but I could rely on my team members for support.” —Christian Becerra, Dallas, TX
What advice would you offer a new tech looking to compete as part of a team?
“Find people who are just as passionate as you are and are willing to learn from each other. Stay in hotel rooms close to each other, and two days before the competition start practicing together and get each other ready. I think this really helps with bonding as a team, and it forces you to fight through the long days. The more prepared you are overall the better, and arriving at the venue ahead of time allows the nerves to settle a bit before you compete.” —Genesis Ward, Colorado Springs, CO
[Images: Armando Sanchez]