By Alexa Joy Sherman
When entering a nail competition, the trophies may seem like the ultimate prize. But those who’ve been in the winners’ circle will tell you that the lessons learned from not winning have been every bit as valuable as their victories. “Competing builds confidence, whether you win or lose,” explains champion nail artist Alisha Rimando. “You take so much away from just being there and pushing yourself, and facing the fear can lead to confronting other challenges, like raising your prices or standing up to your boss.” So, in the spirit of learning from our mistakes, we asked some of the industry’s top competitors to share their most memorable and illuminating losses.
One time I had this great set of sculptured nails, but when I was high shining at the end, I ripped the pinky nail right off. The nails are just so paper thin, and not paying attention cost me the competition because I broke that nail. I realized that when you bend the shining buffer, that’s when it catches. I never made that mistake again! —Carla Collier, NAILPRO Competitions Judge
I competed from 1996 through 2006, and I recall many moments crying in the bathroom after the awards ceremony. In the beginning, I thought my nails were great. I could see everyone else’s work, and believed mine was just as good. What happened? Well, it’s what you can’t see that hurts you. If you think your work is good or even great, there is a good chance that you’re not seeing everything. When I didn’t win, I felt awful, but I ultimately realized that doing good work wasn’t enough. There are so many aspects to winning, and 50 percent of it is having a great model who you’ve practiced on. Start with the best canvas, and you will do your best work. —Alisha Rimando, world champion nail artist
In 2015, my son Jarrett was competing for the first time in the Soak-off Gel competition in Las Vegas. He was sitting next to me and I’m not sure who was more nervous, him or me. I was so preoccupied with how he was doing that I wasn’t paying attention to my own work, so I missed a step and ran out of time before I could fix my mistake. I was mad at myself for not staying focused, as I had done this event so many times, and I didn’t make the top 10 cut for the first time in a long time. I was proud of Jarrett, as he beat me and made the top 10, but I learned that even when I try to help my teammates, I can’t lose focus on what I’m doing. —Allie Baker, 2015 NAILPRO Cup champion
My very first competition was in Melbourne, Australia, around 1991. I thought I would do great as all my clients loved my work. I was certain I would be taking home a trophy! When I didn’t win, I was confused—I thought my set was the best I had ever done. I approached a judge and asked why I didn’t place, and she told me that my set was good, but then showed me the winning set. I had no clue that white acrylic existed, and that French was the prerequisite for competition nails—I was still using a natural-colored powder over the entire nail! After that, I realized how important it was to read the rules (and that I needed some white and pink powder)! I competed again a few years later and placed second, and I continued to attend trainings to advance my skills until I was ready to compete on the international circuit. Regardless of the outcome, I have met so many inspiring nail techs on the floor, looked at their work and used it as motivation to improve for the next time. —Viv Simmonds, international competitor
I’ve had more losses than wins in my competition career, but it was one of my more recent losses that taught me a lot. I didn’t win a Flat Nail Art Competition in Sacramento in 2015 because I had not taken the right training to execute the necessary skills. I was so frustrated with myself for not preparing, and not getting the advanced education I needed to succeed. I kept thinking I could figure it out all by myself—which is one of my downfalls. One week later, I took a Flat Nail Art class with Pisut Masanong. I then competed at the next NAILPRO Competition at the ISSE show in Long Beach, California, and won first place! —Amy Becker, two-time NAILPRO Cup champion
Do you have any tips for when you’re competing? Let us know in the comments below!
This story was originally published in the March 2017 issue of NAILPRO.
[Images: Courtesy of Alisha Rimando; Courtesy of Carla Collier; Courtesy of Allie Baker; Courtesy of Viv Simmonds; Courtesy of Amy Becker]