How to compete in nail competitions and win

Denise Wright, the award-winning nail tech and director of Professional Beauty’s Nail Championships, explains how competing can catapult your career to dizzy heights. 

“Competitions are a great part of a nail tech’s life. They are fun and exciting while encouraging you to stretch and improve your skills along the way. On the competition circuit, you meet like-minded techs with a passion for the industry. You can make essential contacts, so when the time is right for you, your career journey can lead you into areas you perhaps haven’t even thought of yet. Take my journey as an example. 

How to start out

“I started as a nail tech in a shop, where I worked until I was ready to open my own salon. I wanted to test my skills, and started competing in nail competitions at the trade shows. My first one was a disaster! The judges weren’t looking for salon-standard nails – they were looking for perfection. 

“I learned from their feedback and in my second competition I won. My business boomed and my clients loved hearing about the competitions and seeing the trophies. After my 10th title, I was invited to judge and help out with running the competitions. Soon, I was asked to be the competition director for five shows. 

The teaching opportunities

“As I made a name for myself, many doors opened – I was invited to teach in colleges. City and Guilds then asked me to write exam papers and mark them. Habia invited me to write standards for new nail qualifications and to become part of their skills team for roadshows. I then opened my own training academy, offering City and Guilds and then VTCT qualifications. 

How competing raises your profile 

“Since then, I’ve written magazine articles, made educational DVDs, had TV experiences and worked on celebrities’ nails. As an NSI ambassador, I now travel all over the world educating with an international team. Three times a year, I travel to the NSI Philadelphia head office and help develop new products. All of this started from competing. 

“Along the journey, your name gets noticed and other opportunities arise. You have to take the rough with the smooth and it is a lot of effort. Sometimes you’ll need to give your time for free in order to promote yourself and leapfrog to the next level. But by entering competitions I began an amazing journey. 

“No matter what you want from your nails career, why not enter that nail competition and see where it takes you.” 

Read Wright's advice on the skills you need to make it as a nails competition director.

The categories and entry requirements for the Nail Championships 2019 are up, taking place at Professional Beauty London on February 25–25.