Nailing it with Gina Edwards

January 9, 2015

Sought-after celebrity and editorial manicurist Gina Edwards remembers studying to be a psychologist before realizing her true passion. While attending college, she also studied at a nail school and worked part-time at a salon to help pay her expenses.

Now, the New York native works with some of fashion’s most respected houses, such as Valentino, Balenciaga and Alexander Wang. She has manicured top celebrities and models, including Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss, Tavi Gevinson and Alexa Chung. Edwards creates nail art for runway shows and fashion campaigns, and she recently partnered with KISS to create the Salon Secrets Nail Art Starter Kit.

FAJO met with Edwards to talk about her experiences, inspirations and future plans.

VIOLET MACLEOD: What was the turning point in your career?

GINA EDWARDS: I started working for an on-location spa company in New York. We would go to corporate events and provide manis and pedis for the employees, and a woman I happened to do a manicure for worked in PR. She loved her manicure and recommended me to someone. It all took off from there. After that, I started in the world of publications, doing shoots.

[I think] it’s all about your timing in life, meeting people and trying to be really good at what you do.

As a working mother of two, you must be incredibly busy. What’s the secret to managing your career and home life?

Well, I have a great support system at home — I have my mother, who helps me out, and my husband. We’ve created a structure in the family where they realize I’m away from home, but that when I am home I pretty much shut everything off and focus on my family. That’s the secret to trying to have a little bit of sanity. [laughs] 

What is the best part of your job?

It’s the locations where I work because it’s never the same place. Sometimes I’m in a motor home or at a luxurious penthouse in the city — or I’ll be in a studio. So my location varies from week to week, and I love that. Also, meeting new people in the industry, or sometimes just catching up with people that I haven’t seen in a while.

Are there any drawbacks?

The drawbacks are very late hours. It looks glamorous from one side, but there are 12- to 16-hour days that you put into creating one image that’s seen by millions of people and, that can be taxing because you work 16 hours, and then the next day you’re back for a 5 a.m. call time, perfecting your best work. It’s not a drawback, but it can be taxing. You need to have a well-balanced diet and try to get power naps during the day. [laughs]

During your career, was there ever a surreal moment, a time where you had to pinch yourself?

One time that I think will always stand out is [when I did Lady Gaga’s nails] for a performance at Radio City Music Hall. I went to her dressing room, and she was playing the piano — pretty raw, just her and the piano. She was practicing her performance, and it was just so chilling. I was maybe three or four feet away form her, and it was such an experience. I said, “I can’t believe this — I’m here in Lady Gaga’s dressing room, and she’s singing raw.”

It was a pretty incredible moment, and after that I did her manicure. She had acrylics at the time and had a broken nail. You can’t forget [an experience like that].

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Is there someone you haven’t worked with yet who you’d love to work with in the future?

In terms of a commercial client, I would like to do a Gucci or Tom Ford campaign.

And an individual?

Rihanna — I haven’t worked with her yet. Definitely Rihanna. I always like to surround myself with people with good energy, and I’ve only heard wonderful things about her from behind the scenes. I love how she wears nails, and she appreciates nail art.

I’ve read that as a child you were fascinated with your aunt’s nails. Can you tell us more about that?

[laughing] Sure, sure. So, when I was very young, [she painted her nails only red], and for the longest time I thought they were her own nails.

Then one day, I saw her put [fake] nails on — I think they were Lee Press-Ons — and [they] instantly looked beautiful. Then she shaped them, and she took her time. I think she polished them. They were great falsies. That was the only brand on the market at the time, but now there’s Kiss, which is on a whole different level. From that point on, every time I went to the store I would get polish. I remember doing my nails on my own, and I would get polish all over my cuticles. [laughs]

I think at that point, I was fascinated with not only colour — I love experimenting with it — but also with the elegance of her hands. From that point on, I had a fascination with nails.

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What inspires you?

Inspiration comes from prints and fabrics that I see, either at an editorial shoot or [just on the street]. There are so many museums here [in New York] — actually, I passed one this morning. There could be a painting that I see with different colours, and then I take a different twist on it by taking the colour and thinking, “Wow, that would be interesting mixed with another colour.” And then I just go with it. I think everyday-life brings me inspiration.

What nail look is trending this season?

I see a lot of girls, even on Instagram, loving press-on nails. A lot people are recognizing the Kiss brand even more, especially now with the imPRESS being so easy to put on.

In terms of colour, you’re still going to see your auburns, greys and dark greens, which are wonderful for this time of year. For spring, I’m seeing a lot of moody colours, not so much pastels but soft, subdued slate blues and rose shades. White is always my favourite; I always say white is a year-round colour. I love it.

What is next for you?

Fashion week; I always look forward to [it]. I have a love–hate relationship with fashion week. You can’t wait for it, but then, by the end of the week, you’re, like, “Why did I do this?” It’s intense, it’s pretty stressful, but at the same time it’s incredible. I’m looking forward to it.

Otherwise, I haven’t really thought about it, but there are good things to come! I’m very excited about taking this journey with Kiss and letting good things happen.

*Gallery images from Kiss and Broadway Nails for Bibhu Mohapatra spring 2015 (photo by Luzena Adams) and Erin Fetherston spring 2014 (photo by Rocky Luten).

By Violet MacLeod
Photography by / courtesy of Gina Edwards

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