Vanessa found her love for beauty at a young age. She remembers spending hours playing with her mother’s makeup collection and reading her Vogue magazines. By the age of 18 Vanessa was taking her own makeup clients and quickly broke into the industry. From there she found Blanche Macdonald and attended the Nail Studio program where she unexpectedly fell in love with the art of manicuring. Now Vanessa is best known as a Celebrity Nail Artist, for her work on Riverdale and for her online collaborations with beauty brands.
You made the Narcity list of 11 Talented Vancouver Nail Artists Who Will Step Up Your Nail Game. How did that feel?
I was SO happy. It came right after I’d had a bit of a difficult time, professionally speaking, and it made me feel so much better. It made be believe in nails, even more than I did. It’s so cheesy but it was basically validation for me following what I loved because I was and still am, so obsessed with nails. I didn’t quit even though other artists probably would have. I just kept going and this was such a reward for that.
After working at salons all around Vancouver, including some of the best ones, Blanche Macdonald must be the only place teaching proper sanitization techniques!
It sounds like you are super busy with TV & Film! Do you still have time to see clients?
I’ve been fortunate to make the transition from salon to mainly Film & TV, photoshoots and other campaigns. I still have a small loyal clientele list I take on when I have the time! My workflow constantly changes, but about 90% of my time is spent working on productions, and then I take on clients with my last 10%. It’s busy!
Your Instagram bio says you’re the Nail Artist on Riverdale! What’s that been like?
I’ve been networking very hard in Film for a long time. I got the call to come work with the cast for this job, and here we are! I love working with this production because everybody becomes so close. We’re all a big family, and work feels fun for me. A cool fact is each character has their own style and colour theory, so every manicure is curated and well thought out in accordance with each episode and outfit.
What has been some of your career highlights as a Celebrity Nail Artist? Who have some of your favourite TV & Film celeb clients been? Can you talk about the process of doing nails in such high-pressure environments?
This year I loved working with Camila Mendes and Tiffany Haddish. I’ve done Anna Kendrick’s nails. She is super, super nice. Everything is ‘perfect’ for her. The whole time I was doing her nails, she was texting Robert Pattinson and my 13-year old heart was freaking out! I did Shirley MacLaine’s nails in her room at the Sutton Hotel—she’s super cool. I was on the set of X-Files and Bates Motel. I was actually supposed to do Rihanna’s nails on Bates Motel and I was SHOOK. But she ended up flying to Barbados so I did her stunt double.
The freedom that comes with being a Freelance Nail Tech allows me to explore and build relationships I have with larger companies and agencies in other cities.
No matter what though, whether you’re excited or not, you have to be so professional. It may seem like a high-pressure situation, but I come prepared and well-versed in what I have to do, so everything runs smoothly and stress-free.
What brought you to Blanche Macdonald?
I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. I went to UBC for, like, a day and I never went back. I sat in the one class I went to, did the homework that we were supposed to have done, handed it in, and peaced! I used to be obsessed with Vancouver FX Studio and because of that, I wanted to go into TV and Film Makeup but the program wasn’t accepting people for a few months and so I wanted to do something in the meantime and I thought of nails. I’ve always gotten my nails done and loved it and I’m totally obsessed with Kylie Jenner and her nails. I wanted to be able to do nails like that. So what was supposed to be an in-the-meantime or ‘side hustle’ thing actually completely changed my life!
That’s an amazing story! So were your parents supportive?
I loved it so much and I knew I was doing the right thing for myself. It only took a week for my parents to see how dedicated and happy I was for their attitude to completely change to “Do whatever you want!” They saw how much more there is to the world of nails than just ‘painting nails.’ My dad bought a nail-related domain, they share my work on their Facebooks, and they’ve started showing random people pictures of my nails—followed by pictures of my dog!
Was there any hesitation or nervousness on your part about pursuing a career in nails?
Not at all. I never had an end goal or dream for after the program, I just knew it would be OK. I remember [Blanche Macdonald Esthetics and Nail Program Director] Simona on our maybe second day of class going around and asking people what they wanted to do after and most people said work in a salon or own one and I said nothing! I just wanted to see where it would take me.
What memories do you have of our Nail Studio program?
I was the class clown and teacher’s pet! I was such good friends with our teacher Christy Denton—we actually still text. But I was always taking up her time talking and asking questions—my classmates always joked about how I left no time for them! I do have a lot of appreciation for the detail we learned about sanitization and proper tool use in class. They covered so much about different nail conditions and cleaning. I remember it was so scary during exams because if you touched anything that wasn’t a tool or your client’s hand, you got major marks off! Even after working at salons all around Vancouver, including some of the best ones, Blanche Macdonald must be the only place teaching proper sanitization techniques! It’s something to be wary of, for both the client and the tech.
I was lucky enough to be scouted by Emilie, the owner of Gelcare, and offered a place on their artist team.
In the past few years, you’ve been repped by an agency, and now you’re back in self-management. Does self-management work better for you?
I currently am managing myself, and it’s been working better for me. I’ve learned that I am my own biggest advocate. The freedom that comes with being a Freelance Nail Tech allows me to explore and build relationships I have with larger companies and agencies in other cities.
You are also a Gelcare artist! Can you tell us what being an artist with them entails?
Yes! I am happy to announce I am a Gelcare Artist! I was lucky enough to be scouted by Emilie, the owner of Gelcare, and offered a place on their artist team. We are a small group of manicurists focused on showing the season’s new gel colour collections and the beautiful art we create with them. It’s a new concept to the company, and we are very excited about what is yet to come!
What’s your favourite thing about nails?
I love how you can do nails every day. People get their nails done just because. It’s not like other creative things where there is more times than not, a specific event surrounding these services. I also like how everyone has different nails. When I first started, it was tips, acrylic gel, and go! But now I really look at the nail shape and what I can do. Sometimes someone who bites their nails will come in and I will extend and shape then and completely change their life. I especially love doing nails for people who are self-conscious of their nails. People talk about it, people rap about it—“Get my nails did”—it’s a whole thing!
What brought you to Blanche, and what was your journey like?
I came to Blanche Macdonald because of their long standing reputation and experience in the industry.
Do you have an Instagram strategy?
I’m at the stage where I’m still trying to build my following but I think the thing is, like my career in Nails so far, never give up! Even if you change your aesthetic or what you do, keep posting, keep being you, and keep going! And, one day, your Instagram will just GO. OFF.
Where do you get your inspo, and are there any nail artist you love?
I’m very influenced by art and design. I draw inspiration from different artists, magazines, Pinterest, architecture. There is beauty in all details of life. The nail artists that inspire me the most are my fellow Gelcare Artists. We are always inspiring each other and sharing new ideas and colour trends we love.