You can ask Antoinette. I am a wannabe nailista. I can draw and paint fairly well so I just know that I can do nails! Welp, after countless times of convincing my girlfriends that I can do their nails to only end up with jacked up, smeared nails and disappointed, appalled “clients” I admit I am no nailista. BUT, I sure can appreciate the talent in others. I would like to introduce you ladies to Kelly Baber. She is a professional manicurist. I am not talking about the manicurist you find in your neighborhood nail salon (big ups to those ladies nonetheless!) but instead you can find Ms. Baber painting the nails of models for high fashion photo shoots for Elle and Vogue as well as celebrity clients such as the fashion forward Olsen twins. The woman has talent and drive. She was kind enough to share with us her professional journey as well as what is hot for this season. I hope she can be an inspiration to all the real nailistas out there. Push li’ mamas and make a name for yourself!
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you study? Where do you currently reside?
I’m from Canton, Ohio. I took cosmetology in high school and had my license by the time I graduated. I live in Brooklyn, NY.
I find your profession as a professional manicurist to be so interesting. Tell us about your journey to success in your profession. How did you know that was your calling as an artist?As an inner city girl, I always associate the mastery and business of nail care to be dominated by Asians. Does this dominance translate into high-end photo shoots and nail care as well? Do you find yourself to be a minority amongst your professional peers or is it fairly diverse?I’m going to say yes. Of course hair & mkup are priority, but the need for a manicurist on certain projects is very important as well. If there is a concern with a budget for a project the mkup artist very likely will be asked to do the nails. At the moment no (I don’t travel), but I will in the near future.My website is under construction at the moment. People can connect with me on
I really feel I was destined to be a manicurist, it found me literally. I would buy products, do my own natural nails & they would grow really long. I always kept lots of polish in my mom’s fridge. I also would glue really long tips on and polish them all types of colors; I did my friends as well. At that point I wasn’t formally trained, it just came natural. So my last two years of high school, of course I chose to study cosmetology. I was the go to nail girl even while studying, the school secretary would come every week to get a manicure. By the time I graduated I had a job offer from a salon my sister frequented.
Do you have any advice for any young, aspiring manicurist out there?
Education & practice is key. I took a lot of hands-on classes and would always frequent industry trade shows to stay in the know. Do what you love and are passionate about, the finances will come.
I would say no. There a well known Asian editorial manicurists; however it’s not like the many discount salons you may be familiar with seeing. I really think you see this kind of dominance in metro areas, if you leave larger cities you will see many more varying ethnicities working as manicurists. It’s pretty diverse; however a lot of my peers came from other areas like me.
Is the demand for consistent nail care for high profile clientele the same as hair styling and make-up? Do you ever travel with clients?
Can you give us an example of a busy day in your life as a professional manicurist?
My days vary depending on the project. I could have anywhere from a 10 hour plus day to an easy breezy do and go type of thing. Every job is different. I prep my kit according the specifics of the season and the job, at all times you have to be prepared to do just about anything that could be thought of , most times you won’t know until you get there.
What are the most exciting place, people and events that your career has attracted to you?
My first celeb client was Shawn Stockman (Boys2men). His wedding was produced by Diann Valentine and was well attended by various industry friends & family. Another exciting moment was to work with the first black female police chief of Detroit, Ella Bully-Cummings. We shot her on Belle Isle in Detroit, it was absolutely beautiful. NY Fashion Week is a fun but crazy time, there’s so much creative energy backstage. It’s nice to meet fellow creative’s and work as a team to execute the trends that will inspire the world for the season.
What color trends are hot for this fall and coming winter?
Let’s talk about spring since that’s what will be seeing very soon in mags on newsstands. Different hues of yellow, ombre manicures (one color blending into the other), nude flesh tones, stripes, & two tone manicures (diff variations of the reverse French).
What nail shapes and sizes trends are big currently?
For spring you will see nails extended longer, sleek, very feminine with a 50’s feel. For natural nails it’s always good to follow your cuticle shape for a great nail shape.
What else do you envision for yourself in the near future?
To continue to grow and evolve as a Freelance Manicurist and touch as many people as I can with the gift I’ve been given which is to make people look and feel better about themselves no matter who they are.
How can people stay connected to you and your great work? Facebook? Website? Twitter?
Reverse Retro French Mani
Long,Sleek,Tapered,Retro ShapingThe Work of Kelly Baber.