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The Nail Files

The Nail Files – Behind the Scenes at NYFW with CND

In this installment of the Nail Files, I’ll be taking you on a three part journey behind the scenes of the craziness that is New York Fashion Week. Each season CND dominates the backstage nail scene, collaborating with some of the biggest fashion designers in the business to bring their nail vision to the fashion world. Spearheaded by Co-Founder and Style Director Jan Arnold, CND has been a presence at Fashion Week for almost ten years now.

Every season the CND team creates nail concepts for Fashion Weeks across the globe. And with each passing year, their client roster continues to grow. In New York alone, they work on over sixty shows. Can you imagine what goes into planning that kind of operation? Well, last February I was at NWFW and had the chance to find out first hand.

In addition to going backstage and seeing the artists at work, I had the opportunity to meet with CND Education Ambassadors Kristina Baune and Shelena Robinson. Kristina and Shelena work in the CND production suite at a hotel near Bryant Park where they create all the custom tips and colors used at the shows.

Three days before Fashion Week begins, Shelena and Kristina arrive in New York to begin production, working non-stop throughout the week. Often sleep deprived from all-nighters or eighteen hour workdays, I met them mid-FW insanity and they were so charming and friendly. Though it’s not all work and no play, they do have some downtime to watch a movie and relax.

I learned that in the beginning CND did all their production in advance, out of state. But due to a shipping error a few years back, the tips for Baby Phat, Heatherette and L.A.M.B.’s first FW show didn’t arrive. So after scrambling to NYC nail supply stores and pulling an all-nighter to replace the tips, they wisely moved production onsite.

To cover all the shows, CND puts together three or four backstage teams armed with 6 bottles each of their current collection, the “popular” core collection colors, including nude favorites Serenity and Negliee, and their upcoming line in addition to any custom colors the designer may have requested. They have to be prepared for any last minute color changes. And even though there are designers that don’t want any polish on the nails, CND artists are still on the scene providing manicures/pedicures and nail treatments.

For Fall 2008, Jan Arnold and the CND team dubbed their color concept “Neutrals of the Night” with two sides of the story, Techno Chic and Savage Chic.

Techno Chic is futuristic and cool toned. Consisting of gray, black, gunmetal, silver, leather-like texture and stone looking adornments. Savage Chic is warmer and earthier with more natural tones. Gold, copper, feathers and pearls. Texture is a big trend they’re seeing for fall with a lot of designers wanting a matte finish. At the moment, CND doesn’t make a matte top coat but I hear it’s in the works. Tip: use the gray side of their girlfriend buffer on a dry top coat to give a matte look.

I had such a great time chatting with Kristina and Shelena. They are artists in the truest sense of the word. And meeting all the backstage team members was fantastic. The entire CND team was so accommodating, making my first FW experience a memorable one.

Now you all have heard me raving about the amazing dove gray in CND’s fall collection. Let’s get real, I’ve been raving about light gray in general. But what spawned that love was seeing the CND version on a member of their PR team. Unfortunately that collection is one we’ll never see but don’t despair because I will show you how to recreate it yourself so stay tuned.

In the next part of The Nail Files series we’ll be looking at the custom tip process and all the amazing concepts Kristina & Shelena come up with.

Be sure to check out Part 2 & Part 3 in this series.

The Nail Files – Kimmie Kyees Celebrity Manicurist

By on May 26, 2008
in Celebrity, The Nail Files with 16 Comments

In this installment of The Nail Files, I had the opportunity to interview Kimmie Kyees a celebrity manicurist with an insane roster of clients. To name just a few; Rhianna (including her Umbrella video), Kelis, Jenna Jameson, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Hudson on the night of her Golden Globe win!

So when I first saw pictures of Rhianna on the Grammy red carpet, I just had to know about that shocking neon orange shade on her tips and who did it. Thanks to my friends at China Glaze who hooked me up with the 411. The shade – China Glaze Japanese Koi. The artist – Kimmie. Naturally I had to track her down and get the scoop on her background, career and favorite products.

Why did you decide to become a manicurist?
I wore long fake nails and back when I was 16, while on a Sally’s beauty shop run for my manicurist, I said to my friend Kayla, “I could probably just buy the stuff and do my nails myself.” She bet me that I couldn’t so, a small purchase of Alpha 9 nail products later and I was on my way to winning!

Kayla was my guinea pig; she endured torture and wore those hideous “just learning” nails for me. Then my best friend Sacha decided to go to cosmetology school and dragged me with her! We worked in 2 different day spas for over 7 years back in Ohio. So the license and career I owe to Sacha, my passion and drive come from Kayla for making that bet with me!

I see you’re a fellow Buckeye, what prompted you to make the move to California?
My youngest sister Tiffany lived in LA and she’d say how much fun it would be if I moved there but I always had a boyfriend and loved working with my best friend and clients. One day there was no more boyfriend and my best friend got married so it was now or never. I can do nails anywhere so I figured if I hate it I’ll just move back to Ohio!
Editor‘s note: Regardless of Kimmie‘s previous Ohio address, she is a UofM Wolverine fan at heart. This Buckeye fan agrees to peacefully co-exist.

Tackling the entertainment and editorial world is quite a challenge. What pushed you to make that leap and how did you break into the industry?
I was working full-time for Burke Williams Day Spa and part-time at the Mondrian Hotel Spa Agua when I was introduced to Mobile Spas by fellow nail tech Debbie Love. It was a slow start but the flexible schedule and better pay were worth it. One mobile job could pay nearly as much as a whole day at the spa. So I took the leap of faith, quit my jobs and prayed that I would stay busy freelancing.

Opportunities started presenting themselves and I met manicurist Melissa Bozant. She taught me about portfolios and the importance of keeping records about the celebrities I worked on and photographers I worked with. That helped get me on my way and by the end of last year I had my own agent.

You have quite a large celebrity clientele. What is the biggest challenge in working with celebrities? And who do you feel are the biggest risk-takers in terms of nail fashion?
Hands down Rihanna is the biggest risk taker. She looks for the brightest, most fun colors! She always finds one in what I call my “80′s Party Bag!” It’s a bag full of neons and “plugged in” shades; mostly China Glaze or Color Club.

Working with celebrities was not something I originally wanted to do. I thought they’d be fickle and too irregular with their constant traveling. It wasn’t until I met Kelis that I changed my mind. If celebs love you they could be in town for 4 hours and find a way to get an appointment! It’s so flattering.

Back in the early freelance days I got a message from Jenna Jameson, I couldn’t believe it. I had to listen twice and had no idea how she got my phone number. She thought we worked together on a FHM shoot even though I hadn’t worked for FHM at that time. I just went with it and set an appointment. I’ve worked with her for a couple years now and she has become a really great friend! Turns out I worked on a Playboy commercial with her makeup artist, Michelle, a few months earlier. She had my card so when Jenna asked her about a manicurist, she recommended me.

The only challenge with celebs is that their schedules change, things run late or they have to cancel last minute but once you have a good relationship it’s easy to deal with and you adjust your schedule. Also it is very important to know your boundaries with celebrities. They are in the public eye and you are working with them privately. They invite you into their home so you have to build and earn their trust.

Where nail fashionistas are concerned you can’t get much hotter than Rihanna. How did you connect with her and where does the inspiration for her nail looks come from?
I met Rihanna the morning of the 2007 Grammys at LaMontrose hotel in West Hollywood. She loves to be bold and different and make a statement with her nails. Rihanna is so gorgeous with a unique, fashion forward style that it only makes sense that she wouldn’t be wearing the traditional french manicure everyday. I recently got the new Essie bright yellow (Shorty Pants) and as soon as I saw it I knew she was gonna love it. It’s such a great color! Three days later when I did her nails, that was her choice.

As a freelance artist you have to be a traveling nail salon. How do you cart all your products from location to location and how much polish do you carry for most jobs?
I have a Fred Segal Samsonite rolling suitcase! It’s a beautiful perfect monster. I carry approx 125 bottles of nail polish bagged according to color; reds, pinks, lights, darks, gold & silvers, purples & blues and of course the 80′s bag. Aside from the obvious mani/pedi supplies, I bring magazines, an ipod and speakers, candy, a table, a stool for myself, a fuzzy bath mat and so much more!

What are your 5 favorite products? Treatments, tools, etc.
I am not branded to one line in particular and I like the things that I like so I mix it up

  • A curette – To push/scrape away excess cuticles. I also use it to clean up polish mistakes.
  • Callous Eliminator – It’s amazing at breaking down rough calluses
  • Orly Bonder and Seche Vite – AMAZING together, a winning combo!
  • EzFlow Pro Shine Buffer – The magic purple buffer. There is no better 2 way buffer than this one. Love, love, love!
  • Creative Solar Speed Spray – Speeds up polish drying and smells so tasty!
  • Your 5 favorite polish shades?
    I like so many colors I would feel bad choosing just five

  • OPI for reds and dark colors
  • Essie for softer shades
  • China Glaze for bright, daring and edgy looks
  • Color Club for neons
  • I am not against buying fun colors at the drug store – they just don’t normally wear as well.
  • What do you think are the big mistakes us amateur at-home manicurists make?
    SANITATION and remembering to bring a lamp. Sometimes clients like the dark so my $10 Ikea desk lamp is my best friend.

    What is the best nail tip or trick that most people don’t know about?
    Using EZBOND by EZFlow before applying base coat – it preps the nail so the polish lasts forever!

    Do you see any big nail trends emerging? What nail looks need to just pack up and move on?
    For a while the reverse French but with Summer coming, brighter colors are big again. Neons are in full force and smokin hot! Though I like all the trends – they all seem to come back eventually. Even chipped nails make a statement. I always say dark, black nails are high fashion runway when they are fresh and new. Once they chip you’re an edgy, grunge rock star!

    How do you unwind at the end of a crazy day?
    At the end of my crazy days, which from time to time actually don’t end til the sun has come up, I like to see what my TIVO has waiting for me.

    What was the last polish shade you had on your tips? your toes? Or do you never have time to do your own nails?
    My toes are Bizerk Turq from Color Club. I gave it to Rihanna to take on tour. I try not to have “naked toes” but my hands are a different story. My left hand has a pink pinky, two different shades of yellow on the ring and middle fingers and a green pointer! I never polish my nails, they are display pallets for my clients. People always get a good laugh at my “crazy nails” look.

    Share with us a great nail moment from your career.
    Most recently it was being with Rihanna at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards watching her first Grammy win! It was also my one year anniversary of working with her so that was super exciting. I was so happy for her. When she came back to the dressing room we all exploded into applause and began calling her “Grammy Award Winning Artist Rihanna!” Her whole group is like a family and they truly care about her. We all get along and work very well together so it was quite a celebration!

    Thank you Kimmie for such an incredible interview. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and learn more about your life as a celebrity manicurist. For more information on Kimmie check out her website,

    The Nail Files – Jenna Hipp, Green Celebrity Manicurist

    Welcome to The Nail Files, a new series here on All Lacquered Up. The Nail Files will feature interviews with nail industry professionals, sharing their favorite products, manicure tricks, views on nail trends, back story, etc. I really hope you all enjoy it.

    To kick off the series, I’m continuing the eco-conscious theme I featured in honor of Earth Day with green celebrity manicurist Jenna Hipp. Jenna spends her days styling the tips and toes of celebs like Jessica Alba, Sophia Bush, Fergie and Paris Hilton all the while keeping a focus on using healthy, earth-friendly products. She’s young (only 26) and gorgeous (a former model), yet she’s already racked up an impressive list of clients and editorial work. So getting the chance to pick her brain about all things nails was truly a treat.

    What made you focus on celebrity and editorial work and how did you break into the industry?
    This career most definitely chose me. Prior to the nail industry, I owned a photo rep agency in Los Angeles called “Hipp Artist Management”. I was an agent for a select group of fashion, beauty and celebrity photographers. Before that, I was modeling and doing makeup. Celebrity Manicurist Lisa Postma is the sole reason for my career change. She’s the one who made my new life possible because she believed in me and connected me with the right people.

    It seems that a lot of celebrities are playing it safe with their nails. Who really dares to be different and fashion forward with their color choices?
    Fergie is awesome! I love how she’s not afraid to make a statement and go all-out with her nail choices. My favorite is her domino design. Sophia Bush is also quite brave with her color choices. She loves the color Alive by SpaRitual. Kate Nauta from Transporter 2 is always using the brightest neons! I just used Orly’s Green with Envy on her. It’s Wild! And, of course, we can’t forget Rihanna. She rockin’ a different color every week. These girls definitely know how to use their nail color as an accessory, which I think is super fun!

    Fergie has been the focus of an All Lacquered Up Celebrity Nail Watch due to her outrageously bold color and nail art choices. Where does the inspiration for her different looks come from?
    Fergie likes what she likes. She’s not afraid to try something new and she’s definitely not afraid to make bold statements with her nails! Most magazines want a really natural nail, like the shoot I did for her for the cover of Glamour Magazine. She’s totally cool with that, too.

    Do you see any celebrity nail trends emerging for summer? And who is wearing them?
    The hottest colors this summer are bright and bold but still feminine and sophisticated. Reds and darker oranges, even the flirty pinks and lavenders are mixed with beige, grey, or orange undertones to give the nails a uniquely personal, chic finish that looks new and fresh on toes and fingers. Popping, happier, energetic reds mixed with oranges, tangerines. Avoid matching the hands with the toes. You don’t want to be too matchy-matchy!

    My favorite nail color for summer is a bold, yet elegant, tangerine from SpaRitual called Plugged In. The color is flattering on just about anyone!

    As far as neutral colors; matte baby pinks with a hint of melon or lilac mixed with a creamier white base. Not the usual shimmery pinks of the past several years. My favorite softer pinks are Orly’s First Kiss and Cupcake. For brighter, Butterflies is great summer pink! Dolly Parton has been wearing the best pink ever like SpaRitual’s Strike A Pose. I love it…and her! Seriously, if I could meet anyone in the world, it would be her!

    I’m also seeing traditional summer fabrics used as nail texture. Heatherette and Tracey Ullman are rocking nails painted like the American Flag and we may also being seeing plaid and snake skin patterns too!

    OK let’s talk green and healthy nail care. How does being a “green” manicurist affect your ability to work with artificial nails?
    I do not do acrylic or gel artificial nails at all. When I work with a celebrity who has artificial nails I usually just do an organic deep conditioning treatment as well as hand exfoliation. And, of course, a polish change!

    What are your favorite green nail products? Polish, treatments, tools, etc.
    These are my favs that just came out:
    SpaRitual Awakened Collection, Orly Love Collection and SpaRitual Open-Minded Organic Sugar Scrub (70% certified organic ingredients ).

    These are my classic favorites:
    Nail Polish

    • Orly – 3 Free and no parabens, FD&C coloring or animal testing. They have a ton of fantastic, fun colors and the Manicure Miniatures are perfect for me as I have to bring so many polishes to photo shoots.
    • SpaRitual – They use Vegan ingredients from around the world, including many specially sourced and selected plant essences that are wildcrafted or organic. The formulations are naturally colored and free of synthetic dyes.
    • Priti Polish – An incredible boutique spa in Soho, Priti is 100 percent organic. All their nail varnishes are completely formaldehyde, toluene and DBP free.

    Top coat - Nubar Diamond Shine & Seal and Zoya Armor
    Bottom coat - SpaRitual Resurface Smoothing Primer Basecoat and SpaRitual Multi-Tasker Base & Top Coat In One
    Cuticle oil – Nubar Cucumber Cuticle Oil and Carolyn New York Lavender Cuticle Oil
    Nail polish remover – Nubar Cucumber Polish Remover (acetone free and smells nice) and Priti Soy Polish Remover (no petroleum by-products, non-toxic and biodegradable)
    Hand cream – SpaRitual Instinctual Moisturizing Lotion (MY FAVORITE!!!!) and Burt’s Bees Healthy Healing Carrot Nutritive Body Lotion
    Others – Farm Fresh Fine Foot Scrubs, Dermalogica Stree Relief Treatment Oil and Dermalogica Hydro-Active Mineral Salts

    I’ve noticed brands that say they are “formaldehyde free” still contain the resin. What is the difference?
    3 Free formula SHOULD be completely free of any traces of DBP, Formaldehyde and Toluene. However many lacquers say they are 3 Free but contain formaldehyde and toluene resin. Sometimes the toxic heavy metal lead acetate is included. A number of the common synthetic coloring agents have also been linked to cancer in some studies, especially the coal-tar dyes found in FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Green 3.

    What about the packaging? Does 3 Free and environmentally friendly packaging go hand in hand?
    Green packaging is important as well! Green formula with environmentally hazardous bottles and packaging/manufacturing practices is so not cool! SpaRitual makes it their brand philosophy from start to finish to be eco-conscious and green. They recycle all by-products, run on the least amount of energy possible, avoid harmful chemicals and toxins during the manufacturing process and use recycled glass and FSC certified paper for all sales and marketing collateral, shipping and packaging.

    Just a few things to know about how GREEN SpaRitual is…they are in eco-friendly bottles with soy based ink, recycled glass and shipped/produced to create the least stress on the environment. They’re also the first nail care company to get the “stamp of approval” from AVEDA, which means they can now be placed in all their concept stores.

    Do you feel that the chemical free or more natural products are just as effective and long lasting as the conventional lines?
    It’s known in the nail world that a lot of really natural lacquer collections usually lack color options and don’t have the best staying power. This is true for a lot of brands, but not for the ones I use which include SpaRitual, Orly, and Priti. They each have over 80 shades in their collections and a staying power that matches the toughest of lacquers out there!

    What steps can we as consumers take to make sure our nail services are more earth conscious both at the salon and at home?
    Education is the first step. Read labels to avoid toxic ingredients. Next step, find a green brand of polishes you love and take them to the salon. Make sure you bring your base coat and top coat as well. Jessica Alba keeps green products I gave her in the glove box of her car. That way she always has them with her. She’s very aware of the harm nail chemicals can cause, especially while being pregnant. She’s going to be the best mom!

    What are your 5 “must have” eco-friendly nail polish shades for summer?
    I LOVE Orly Bon-Bon this summer! It’s a creamy lilac that I used on Amanda Bynes for the cover of Seventeen and the cover of Harpers Bazaar International.
    Spa Ritual Alive. This is Sophia Bush’s favorite color.
    Orly Passion Fruit is so fun! A very bright pink, perfect for the girls who are bringing back the 80′s!
    Priti Cornflower. It’s that perfect Navy everyone’s raving about!
    Zoya Elodie. Such an incredible blend of pink and orange tones. You will get compliments everywhere you go!

    And just for fun…
    If you weren’t a manicurist you would be…

    A photo agent once again. I loved everything about it…. I just make more money doing nails!

    What was the last nail polish shade you wore on your tips? on your toes?
    The last time I had my nails painted was for my wedding. Funny enough, I chose “One Night Stand” from Orly’s Divorcee collection. Ha! Isn’t that ironic?

    Share with us a great nail moment from your career.
    Oh, goodness. I’m so thankful for all my experiences. Working with Jessica Alba has got to be my favorite though! She’s just been so amazing over the past year. I can’t even begin to tell the world how much I love and appreciate her. She often has me over to her house for mani/pedi’s along with her hairstylist, Robert Ramos, his assistant Christopher, and her makeup artist, Lauren Anderson. We have such a great time getting Jessica ready for whatever event she has that day. It was really weird though when paparazzi started taking pictures of me leaving her house! I just ran to my car as fast as I could because I wasn’t expecting that at all!

    I want to thank Jenna Hipp for taking the time to share her passion and stories with all of us. It was a pleasure. You can check out Jenna’s work on her website, And for more info on the nail brands Jenna discussed click on the links in the “Nail Polish Links” section.

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