If you’re a part of the nail industry, you’ve heard of nail artist Victoria Zegarelli. Based on the East end of Long Island, Victoria is a perennial staple in the NAILS Magazine Next Top Nail Artist competition, and a vocal supporter of nail artists in every form. A living testament to the Instagram meme, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone, I hope we all make it,” Victoria is one of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders, and shining stars.
The Nailscape: Everyone is familiar with your stellar work (or they should be!) Tell us a little bit about your background; how did you get into the nail industry, and have you always been salon/studio based?
Victoria: “When I was in high school, I was so far ahead of my BOCES vocational advertising art program that the instructor told me not to come to class for a few days because he had nothing for me to do. I had eight years perfect attendance so not going to school was not an option. I went down to a friend’s cosmetology class and sat in during the nail services week. I was intrigued right at that moment and began doing manis and pedis on family and friends from that day on. Originally, I was going to college to be an art teacher. After 3 years, it was time to student teach. I had to be in a classroom for 5 hours a day and take two corresponding classes at night. Then my parents split up. Well we all know it’s almost financially impossible for a student to attend college without living at home with Mom and Dad. So I left school and began to work as a receptionist at a salon. One day the manager, my best friend to this day, asked if I could do a manicure on a client and that was the moment my life changed.”
What led you to originally enter NAILS Next Top Nail Artist?
’Although I have been in the industry for 28 years, the connection to other nail artists wasn’t quite possible until the internet got involved. NAILS Next Top Nail Artist is the first and only online nail competition that made that a reality. While we are technically competing for the same prize, the friendships that have been created along the way, is just one of the many reasons I continue to be a part of this competition every year. I was blessed to be in the Top 12 along with you back in 2013. When I was eliminated, I was so addicted to the competition that I asked the other contestants to continue to send me the challenges so that I could keep playing along. The editors at NAILS mag were so impressed that I didn’t pack up my brushes. They then created the Gelish ‘Play At Home’ division of the competition the following season.”
Speaking of the Gelish ‘Play at Home,’ you won several competitions last season. Where do you find your tenacity? What doors has this opened for you in the industry?
By season 2, I was doing so many other things within the nail industry that I wanted to step back and give another nail artist the opportunity to see what NAILS magazine and NTNA can do for them. So I did not enter last year, but I did follow along every week doing the Gelish ‘Play At Home’ challenges. I did give myself some rules such as I was not to take longer than two hours to complete a challenge and I would not allow myself to see what the weekly prizes were because it would just hurt too much to see what I was missing out on. NAILS magazine originally had me when they said “you could win enough nail art supplies to keep me busy for a while!”
You’re in the Top 10 of NTNA again! How do you balance your time between seeing clients and completing challenges?
“This season I could not pass up the chance to reawaken my creative passion and entered as soon as the entry application was online. I found out I made the Top 24 the day before I went to the Premiere Orlando show. What makes this season so special is that I met many of this year’s competitors there before even we started the competition.”
How does your work benefit from competing?
“So far, I continue to impress myself each week. I strategically balance a full time salon client schedule, make sure my husband and dog are fed, touch base with family now and then and every other moment I am finishing a challenge while creating the next one in my head. This season they gave us ten days to complete a challenge but the proceeding challenge is given every Friday so there’s a lot of creative madness swirling around my apartment right now.”
What are you known for in your community? How do you differentiate yourself from other nail techs where you live?
“My salon schedule is completely booked now so I am no longer taking on new clients. I am one of the very few nail artists that do awesome nail art on the east end of Long Island. Let’s just say I do not have any French manicure clients! I feel bad when someone comes in and I cannot give them beautiful nails, but until this NTNA season is over that takes precedence. I enjoy the challenges that allow me to work on them a little each day. The [challenges] that require a model make me cringe a bit because I feel bad for the person sitting in my chair for seven hours. I have trained myself to be great at time efficiency in the salon and I am able to do a full enhancement set or rebalance with full nail art within an hour so that I can see more of my clients.”
What is your advice for nail techs who want to enter NTNA? What do you wish you’d known before entering?
“I entered NTNA so that I could become a better artist. You need to push boundaries and challenge yourself to do things you’ve never tried before. That’s how new techniques are born. I know there are many artists out there that think they are not good enough to try out for NTNA so I continually encourage fellow nail artists to follow along in the competition because it will improve their skills without the pressure. You still have a deadline and not everyone can win each week but you wind up with a beautiful piece that can build your portfolio. If you are unhappy with parts of your entry you can strive to make them better so in a year from now you can look back and see how far you come.”
Where do you want to be in 5 years/10 years? What do you hope to do with the platform you’ve built with all of your success?
“I will continue to give it my best shot at NTNA this year. I am looking forward to celebrating another season of the competition at this year’s new crowning location, the America’s Beauty Show in Chicago. I don’t know where life will lead me to in the future but as long as I’m still creating awesome nail art and sharing this time with my supportive nail artist family, I am going to be just fine. I am very honored to say that I am one of the Top Nail Artists in the World!”