We all agree: nails are an integral part of the culture of black beauty. From long acrylics Flo-Jo wore in the 1980s to Cynthia Ervin’s bejeweled nails at last year’s Met Gala, people of color have been sporting intricate nail designs for decades. Although our innovative nail art is often considered “unprofessional” or “ghetto” by society, it is clear that our creativity continues to dictate beauty trends.
When talking about the influence of black nail culture, it’s important to discuss the talented black nail artists who have been creating ready-made designs for years. Meet 14 black nail experts below to follow and appreciate them. Each of these manicures advances the industry with every stroke of the brush.
Gracie J considers herself a “nail artist”. She is TNT’s Claws nail visionary and former nail technician. If you scroll through her feed, you’ll find an endless range of dynamic designs, like Beyoncé’s Black Is King-inspired five-piece nail set. Gracie J also offers super stylish printed dresses through her platform, allowing you to easily create her own nail art sets at home.
The well-known nail technician Bernadette Thompson is a pioneer in everything. Notably, she created Lil Kim’s iconic money nails (which were on display at the Museum of Modern Art) in the 1990s and created Black’s first nail brand. She offers quality nail polishes and nail applications (including a kit to create your own nails).
Celebrity Nail Technique Gina Edwards initially turned to nail art to help pay bills as she completed her psychology degree. Eventually, though, she immersed herself full-time in the industry. Her career has seen her work with some of the biggest names of our time, including Taraji P. Henson, Priyanka Chopra and Mary J. Blige. Edwards has also been the global brand ambassador for Kiss products for many years and has helped create nail art for countless fashion shows (from Pyre Moss to Calvin Klein).
Lisa Logan has been a nail technician for nearly three decades. One of her most important clients is the one and only Queen Bey. She did several manicures for the singer, including one for the “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video. When she’s not working with her first-rate clients (including Queen Latifah and Pink), she works in her New York salon, The Nail Suite.
Mimi D is an award-winning nail technique that regularly collaborates with brands, stylists and celebrities. Her highlights include working with Angela Bassett, developing talent for Ivy Park’s latest campaign, and working behind the scenes at countless fashion weeks for designers like Diane Von Furstenberg. Mimi also gives back to her community by sharing nail tips and tricks through her Pinterest series “Hands on with Mimi D”.
If you’ve ever admired Sweetie’s or Mary J. Blige’s nails, you’ve seen Temeka Jackson’s work. Originally from Connecticut, Jackson now works in Los Angeles and constantly works on the Hollywood set. She’s definitely a pro when it comes to making awesome custom nail kits – Jackson can make it happen with just about anything.
Dawn Sterling has been a New York-based fashion manicure for 10 years. She is the beautician behind the nails from Telfer’s latest collection. Sterling also has an extensive roster of high profile clients including Alicia Keys, Zendaya, and Norman. Sterling wants to use her decades of experience to help nail technicians and currently offers one-on-one mentoring sessions through her website.
Aja Walton is a self-taught nail technique known for her manicures inspired by influential cultural moments. Her designs for her nails caught MTV’s attention last year and commissioned him to create designs that pay homage to this generation’s most memorable albums (such as Drake’s Nothing Was The Same). Walton also worked behind the scenes on campaigns for brands like MAC Cosmetics.
Shani Evans is an editorial manicurist who has worked on nails for fashion brands such as Sergio Hudson. In addition to working behind the scenes, Evans is an artist at Paintjob Nails and an instructor at the American Beauty Institute.
LaVette Cephas is a nail professional with 15 years of experience. Ohio-based Cephus is the founder of Beauté Asylum Salon Suites, and her Instagram is full of artistic nail designs she creates in her salon. Her impressive resume also includes being crowned the Next Top Nail Artist in 2015 by Nails Magazine.
Honey is one of the most respected nail technicians in the industry. She has created nail art for some of the most famous women, from Britney Spears to Ciara and Kate Hudson. He has also worked on numerous projects in the fashion industry, from advertising campaigns for brands such as Revlon to fashion shows for the likes of Tom Ford.
Tamsin Harley has been in the nail industry for almost a decade. She has worked in New York’s top salons such as Paint Box and Vanity Projects. Outside of the salon, Harley has worked on fashion shows for brands like Kate Spade and Bagley Misha. Today, she also spends time in her art studio offering nail services and hands-on nail art classes.
Melissa, known to her Instagram followers as FinesseYourClaws, is a Brooklyn-based nail technician who specializes in gel nail art and gel extensions. His intricate, ornate patterns are museum-worthy and have been featured in shoots with Moschino.
Tony’s feed is full of innovative nail art she creates for famous clients like JT and Monica from City Girls. The versatile nail technician can bring any design to life, from Spanish tile-inspired nails to Basquiat-inspired sets.