She’s got it nailed

She's got it nailed
Nickie Rhodes-Hill

To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself. When, and why, did you get into nails?

My mother was a huge influence as she was a manicurist for Revlon in the 1950s at the Cumberland Hotel in London. I started working in the industry in 2003 when, after having my nails done regularly, I found I was going home and changing what had been done in the nail salon! I thought, ‘I want to do this’ and decided to do a proper training course firstly with CND nails, then an NVQ3 at West Kent College.

In 2004 I opened a little salon in The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. Nailmania was open for about eight years but eventually I went mobile in 2012 as I started getting a lot of session work in London.

In early 2014, I was asked to assist on a few photoshoots with some well-established manicurists in the industry, and also did a few shows at London Fashion Week. After receiving good feedback, I started being recommended for photoshoots independently, one of which was for Vogue Germany. It was with a famous super-model which got me my first front cover and major piece of editorial. After that I was hooked!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety of whatever is needed for a photoshoot or a fashion show so I always ask as many questions as possible, as any good artist needs to make sure the brief is completely understood. You have to think on your feet a lot of the time and I love working with creative people.

It’s so satisfying seeing all the different directions that creativity can take. Sometimes you are given a moodboard for general direction but often it ends up being completely different to what was initially discussed!

Ultimately, it’s the challenge that I love. And the team work involved to create the overall images for an editorial or ad campaign.

Tell us about the Scratch Stars Awards – can you explain what the awards involve?

Scratch Magazine is a dedicated magazine to the nail industry and its Scratch Stars Awards has the only category in the country which recognises the work of session nail stylists. 2017 was the first year I entered, as a challenge to myself, and I was chosen as one of the finalists. That in itself was such a career highlight for me as it was recognition of my work as a session manicurist/nail technician.

The awards involve answering a series of questions based on your experiences in the session world and a mini portfolio of work done in the 12 months up to entering the awards. The winners are announced at the Scratch Summer Party, which happens in July each year.

You’ve now won the Session Stylist award twice in a row – how does that feel?

I was heavily encouraged to enter again in 2018 by various colleagues. So I thought ‘ok let’s do this’. I still felt the challenge of putting myself out there again. When it was announced at the evening of the awards that I had won, I could hardly believe it. I was completely speechless and humbled.

Then this year, the award itself became a nominated award as well. It appears that I was nominated by other nail techs in the industry. So when I got notification that I was a finalist again for 2019 through nomination I honestly didn’t think I would win again for a second time as there were so many other great manicurists/nail technicians who were finalists. It was an amazing feeling to win for a second time – I’m only the second nail tech to win the award back to back.

Rylan Clark-Neal presented you with your award on both occasions, what was he like?

He is just lovely and so charismatic! He was amazing at controlling over 350 excitable nail techs so well and is such a professional host. We were entertained by Damage, the R&B boy band, and then partied for the rest of the evening.

Is there anyone you work with regularly?

The photographer Rankin at his studio in London and I would say that it has been this connection that has been the major reason for why I am where I am in the industry. I have a good number of editorials that I have done with him in two of his books now. I also work regularly with Vicky Lawton, an up and coming film director.

We have done a number of global TV commercials together for John Frieda, Aussie Haircare and Batiste Dry Shampoo, which is actually on the TV at the moment and featured on billboards, on buses in London and in magazines and also music videos.

What do you personally achieve from being exposed to all the fashion shows and showbusiness events?

Being part of fashion shows and events with celebrities enhances your position within the industry. It’s such a tiny one with a big persona that it’s important to be seen as professional, organised and calm. And not to flap under pressure – despite the fact that can be immense at times!

The hours are very long so being able to get along with your team from 5am in the morning till 10pm at night, especially when everyone is tired, is a major aspect of getting the job done and being part of the creative world.

Working as a team is another major key point – you are a creative family for the day and you know your paths will cross again. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network and catch up with industry colleagues.

Is there anyone whose nails you would love to do that you haven’t done yet?

I was asked to do the nails for one of my bucket list icons last year. When I was at college way back when, I did a project on Zandra Rhodes, I have one of her dresses and last year was asked to do her nails for an article in Hunger Magazine. She is just amazing and we have become friends.

It’s show time

The fashion designers I have worked with are Zandra Rhodes, Pam Hogg, Vin & Omi, Julien Macdonald, Tom Ford, Ted Baker. I love leading a team of nail techs at a show.

It’s mayhem and madness most of the time but ultimately we have such fun but it’s always a relief when all the nails are done and the models walk the catwalk.

A show is done and dusted in less than 10-15 minutes max and then everyone is running off to their next show.

I have been leading a team of nail techs at Paris Haute Couture in January and July for the past three to four years now for Ralph & Russo where there are regular visits from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Rita Ora, Olivia Palermo, Lil Kim, Jourdan Dunn.

We are just planning our trip to Paris for January 2020 for Ralph & Russo. We take the first Eurostar to Paris and return on the last train back to the UK. In all it’s a 20-hour day from start to finish.

We always have dinner at a lovely French restaurant next to the Gare du Nord, the owner always says “you are back again” which we think is lovely that he remembers us.

Nickie’s celebrity clients

I have done and still do nails for Naomi Campbell, Emma Bunton, Rita Ora, Vanessa White when asked.

Other celebrities include Lily James (pictured), Maisie Williams, Kaya Scoderlario, Winnie Harlow, Billy Piper, Amanda Holden, Frankie Bridge, Victoria Beckham, Elle Fanning, Debbie Harry, Marc Almond, Jack Whitehall, Josh Whitehouse and of course many supermodels.

I don’t get starstruck as it’s just about getting on with what we are there to do so there’s really very little time to think about who you’re working with!

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