During a runway show or on an editorial shoot, nails are the final bit of magic that make a moment special. Fashion industry manicurists add that last touch of polish (pun intended) to the images we come to love. One of the most high profile talents in this arena is Sally Hansen’s new Nail Ambassador, Tracylee, the woman behind the stunning manicures at some of fashion’s biggest shows. From blood-tipped nails at Prabal Gurung, to chic minimalism at Alexander Wang and out of this world talons for Tracey Reese, the looks created by Tracylee and her team are among the most inventive and beautiful styles you’ll see anywhere. MDC accompanied Tracylee during her busy NYFW schedule to find out more about her and the incredible works of art she creates for each show.
MDC: When did you first get interested in nails?
Tracylee: I started doing my own nails when was about 18 years old. I was an 80’s Rocker Chic, and back then, long square nails were the rage. I taught myself how to apply nail tips (kept full length without trimming of course,ha!), and I used linen wraps with glue and powder to secure them. I soon started experimenting with nail art on my nails and I immediately became obsessed!
MDC: How did you take that interest and turn it into a very high profile career?
Tracylee: A neighbor had enrolled in nail school, when I heard about it I knew that is what I wanted to do. After I completed schooling, I worked in a salon, to gain some experience. It wasn’t long before I knew I was meant for more and 8 months later, I opened a full service salon in New Jersey. I was in the salon business for almost 15 years, then after the birth of my second child I decided to take a break, and gave up my career to be a stay-at-home Mom. That lasted approximately 2 yrs, before I was getting the itch to get back in the workforce.
I started working at a couple different part time jobs, before I was asked to be on a TV makeover show. It was there, that I met and connected with the celebrity hairstylist on the show. When she found out that I was a manicurist, she asked if I would come work at her salon in NYC. Her career seemed so exciting to me, so how could I resist? There I learned about being a celebrity artist. I knew this is where I was meant to be, and the universe took over from there. I started working with her Agent doing test shoots, magazine shoots, and within no time, I was shooting covers, working with top models, celebrities, keying NYFW shows. I had a complete portfolio, all in about a years time.
Being a self motivated, business woman for many years, I was eager to learn everything about the business, from reading, talking with other artists, and networking. It’s been only 3 years since I started freelancing in NYC. I’ve accomplished alot in that short time frame, but I truly believe that hard work, having a strong sense of integrity, and kindness, have all helped to bring me to where I am today.
MDC: What would you say is the signature of your work?
Tracylee: My signature work? I think it would be that I do more than polish or create art on the nails. I really try educate and care for the health of the hands, feet and nails to not only my clientele but also on shoots. Cuticle and nail care, alongside with clean lines in a beautiful polish application, really shows in the finished product. This helps to minimize any post editing – not a fan of my work being “touched” too much.
“The collection was inspired by contemporary artists Amy Dicke and Anish Kapoor, but the nails were more indicative of Anish Kapoor. He did a collection called ‘Blood’ and that was where my inspiration came from for this.”
Prabal collaborated with Sally Hansen for a limited edition nail collection to be released this summer.
Each drip of “blood” is painted on individually, which makes for one of a kind nails.
A closer look at the Prabal Gurung for Sally Hansen collection – Resurrection (a grey with a blue cast), Apparition (gunmetal) and Angel Bite (bloodstained red)
“When you see the clothes you’ll understand why we chose this. We wanted a nude opaque because nude opaque does a few things: it elongates the nails because it blends in with the skin, it compliments all skintones, it goes with everything, doesn’t stand out too much. Alexander wanted something very simple and subtle, a mannequin nail.”
Kasia Struss in the sleek Wang look featuring the shade, Parchment.
Nude, neutral polishes to compliment a strong collection that featured glow in the dark pieces.
Models getting their nails prepped backstage at Wang.
“Pointy talons in a moon mani- some of the colors are from the Sally Hansen collaboration with Tracy, and some are colors that we’ve previously had. They wanted something strong and unique, they decided on the triangle manicure to make it very exaggerated. This is my first show with Tracy and I’m just excited to be here – its been a real pleasure.”
The colorful nails at Tracy Reese were nothing but fun, Butterscotch (bright yellow) Soy Latte (mocha beige), and Hot Lava (fiery orange), were all key shades.
Bold, bright color and a pointed shape complete with a striking crescent design in the center.
Cici Ali shows off the quieter version of the half-moon nails.
MDC: Tell us a bit about your new role as nail ambassador for Sally Hansen.
Tracylee: As the Sally Hansen Nail Ambassador, I will be the voice for the brand, bringing Sally Hansen’s legendary nail authority to life in many new ways, while educating the media and consumers on the importance of nail health, as well as the latest nail trends and colors.
For me, Sally Hansen is the perfect fit. Nail Health is extremely important to both of us, and we both are innovators within our respected fields, with Sally Hansen creating the newest, hottest innovations and myself, for always bringing the newest and hottest innovations to my clients, before they become mainstream.
MDC: What are some nail essentials everyone should own?
Tracylee: Everyone should own a 3 or 4 nail buffer/shiner for the nails. Using a shiner, creates a great, smooth surface, so polish applies smoother. It smooths and seals ridges on the free edge of the nail, preventing breakage and chips. The buffing action on the nail plate, stimulates the blood vessels underneath the nail plate, creating healthy, faster nail growth. And it makes the nails looks shiny, pretty :) I use Sally Hansen’s ‘No More Ridges’ shiner.
One of my can’t-live-without products is cuticle oil/balm. Cuticle nourishment helps in a couple ways. 1- it hydrates, preventing hangnails and cracked cuticles. 2-The oil is absorbed thru the cuticle, to nourish the matrix of the nail, which is where the nail growth begins, to give hydration to dry, brittle nails. Sally Hansen has some really great, nourishing cuticle products. I use & recommend to my clients, Sally Hansen’s ‘Vitamin-e Nail & Cuticle Oil”
MDC: You’ve really worked with everyone – what are some of the most memorable shoots you’ve done?
I recently worked with Mariah Carey on the just released video, for her single ‘Triumphant'(Get’em). Being a part of and working with so many talented, nice people in one setting, was truly an amazing experience.
But I have to say, almost every shoot I’ve worked on, has been memorable to me, in its own way. Whether it be working with an amazing hair or makeup artists, renowned photographers, a beautiful setting or working with fun models or talent, I treasure it all.
MDC: What’s next for Tracylee?
Tracylee: God only knows! My plan is to keep working with amazing artists, creating fashion & beauty history (love being a part of history). Continue to educate consumers great products, services, and trends, in front of the camera, instead of only behind-the-scenes and to help grow with the Sally Hansen brand, bringing the newest innovations to the masses and above all else to have fun and keep creating – it’s really what I do best!