Ama Quashie on Her Love for Natural Nail Art

Behind the Image is an ongoing series taking a more personal look at both established and emerging creative talent.

Ama Quashie| Image courtesy of Streeters

Ama Quashie, Manicurist

Hometown: London, UK
Based: South London
Representation: Streeters

How would you describe your work? What’s your trademark?
My work takes classic elements and creates a contemporary twist using colours and nail art while withstanding the inner Ghanaian auntie in me that wants to paint every nail a fab metallic red. I think I’ve become known as the natural nail manicurist, partly because I have a non-toxic salon in Brixton and also because I really enjoy the beauty of the natural nail. In doing so, I’ve developed a signature style, whether that be in my choice of color, texture, or art that celebrates the innate elegance of nails.

How did you get into your chosen career?
I began by doing nails for musicians’ music videos, performances, and shoots. From there, I reached out to session manicurists whose work I respected for advice and started assisting at fashion week. Once you’re in the mix, you naturally start to meet like-minded people who are at a similar stage in their careers, whom you collaborate with, and you eventually find your tribes.

What other jobs have you had?
I have a degree in media arts & cultural studies and interned while studying, which meant I had made quite a few contacts by the time I graduated, so I was lucky enough to go straight into a production job in TV. From there, I went to a media agency, still working in production for the advertising-funded programming department, before finally finding my way to fashion.

What have you watched/heard/read lately that has inspired you?
I recently watched an interview with Dr. Mindy Pelz. She’s unique in her groundbreaking work on fasting, which is tailored specifically for women. She emphasizes the importance of understanding women’s unique hormonal fluctuations and metabolic needs when implementing fasting protocols. Benefits range from improved hormone balance to increased energy and enhanced mental clarity! However, it was her study of how fasting can help the body heal itself that really intrigued and inspired me.

What do you love about what you do?
I love the versatility of what I do daily, job to job. It’s constantly adapting, and therefore you do too. It’s funny because in my previous career (in media), I always sought out stability and, in doing so, veered away from freelance roles. However, as a session manicurist, that’s exactly who I am! I’ve been very lucky in that I am still working with teams I have been with for nearly a decade and at the very top of their game. Also, having the opportunity to work with new generations of photographers and stylists who have completely different perspectives on beauty and fashion has been amazing. A career highlight was definitely being asked to create the looks and work on Chanel’s first ever nail campaign shot by Carlijn Jaobs! We shot it a whole year before it came out in May 2023, and I still don’t think I’ve still processed it.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?
I think one of the biggest challenges to anyone in my role is the lack of importance, time, or respect that our work is given. In fashion, manicurists are the newest and least established part of the beauty trilogy. Hair and makeup artists have long been an essential part of the image-making process for photographers, stylists, magazines, and brands, meaning nails can often be an afterthought. The more established you become, the less frequently this happens; however, I still occasionally get left off credits, which can be disheartening. Regardless of this, you must learn to see your value in the work.

What’s one thing outside of your work that you would like people to know about you?
I am the Ama behind AMA nail salon, a non-toxic salon experience, the first of its kind in the UK when it opened five years ago.

Who do you think is one to watch?
Sylvie Macmillan, she’s no newbie; however, I feel like her reach goes beyond nails, and is a true artist. Her creativity goes across mediums, and her viewpoint is unlike that of any other session manicurist in the game right now.

Selected Work

By David Sims | Image courtesy of Streeters

Loewe S/S 24 Bag campaign, 2022
With hands often in pockets, or nails out of shot, bag campaigns are where I get to shine. When discussing the nail look, Jonathan Anderson mentioned he wanted it to be reminiscent of the Avon beauty ads from the 80’s. So we created an almond French adapting each nude to the models skin tone.

By Valentin Herfray | Image courtesy of MA + Group

Lanvin The Pencil Bag Campaign, 2022
We did this campaign as soon as the COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted from the UK into France. Like the handle of their best-selling Hobo handbag, Lanvin wanted the nails also to feature a stretched-out cat. Amazing 3D-printed replicas were made, which then had to be filed into functional nails. These images, unfortunately, didn’t make the final campaign; however, the custom nail colours we created matched the leather of each bag exactly.

Kristen McMenamy by David Sims | Image courtesy of Streeters

i-D Magazine Spring 2023 Covers: The Timeless Issue
These nails were designed to be, in Alastair McKimm’s words, “an extension of Kristen’s skin,” as he then chose this image to be the cover – hopefully, that means I achieved the goal.

Victoria Fawole | Image courtesy of Streeters

Alaïa S/S 23 Show
I was contacted by the Alaïa team as they wanted to have a nail moment for their S/S 23 show, and I was very excited to oblige. In my meeting with Pieter Mulier and his team, he explained the importance of hearts to the iconography of Alaïa, so I sketched out some ideas and made mock-ups with different heart placements. In order for the hearts to be a perfect replica of the Alaïa design, we had them cut using UV and laser cutters. The chosen look was a heart (made out of leather from the collection) suspended at the very tip of a transparent nail.

Arthur del Beato | Image courtesy of Streeters

Simone Rocha S/S 24 Show
I’ve been a part of Simone Rocha’s show team for ten seasons now. Roses have been a recurring theme in several collections, especially for Spring/Summer 2024. When Simone and Robbie Spencer said they’d like them to be included in the nail look, I instantly pictured old botanical illustrations of roses from the 1800-1900’s tattooed onto the nails. They loved the idea, and I think they’re one of my favourite show looks ever