How Mar y Soul Went From Fashion School to Celebrity Nail Artist
Like most fashion school graduates, Mar y Soul knew she wanted to work in the industry, but didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do.
But unlike most fashion school graduates, one fateful day at her styling job led her to a whirlwind life as a celebrity nail artist—cutting the cuticles of Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Gigi Hadid, and tons of other serious A-listers.
We know you probably have a lot of questions for a celebrity nail artist like Mar y Soul. For example, “how the hell did you get to where you are now?” or even “did Kim K tell you any juicy gossip when you did her nails for Bazaar Arabia?”
Don’t worry, we asked these questions and more. Keep reading to find out how Mar y Soul found her passion, fell into the world of celebrity nail artistry, and even how she came up with the idea for Gigi Hadid’s $2000 Met Gala nails.
How did you get started as a nail artist? Was it ever something you saw as a career path?
I began working in the industry 16 years ago straight out of high school and have been working full-time in beauty and fashion ever since. I was so dedicated and determined to learn as much as I could about the industry that I was able to get three college degrees (psychology, business management, and fashion merchandising) while working a full-time job at night or on off days from school. I had no idea exactly what I wanted to do in fashion, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Now that I’m older, I realize that I was simply manifesting my future and by working in different areas of beauty and fashion I was able to see that there was a need for nails and that this was the niche market that I was meant to be in. Although being a nail artist was not my main focus in any way for many years, I have been obsessed with doing my nails since the age of 5. I used to do nail art with cut up white out brushes from Office Depot and use sharpies to draw designs over the white out.
What was your first “big break?”
After I got my degree in fashion, I began my focus on styling for shoots and assisting big stylists in Miami. I began to notice that the models always came to shoots with no manicure or pedicure and that the makeup artists would throw on a color and the photographer would have to edit the mess in post-production. As a jewelry designer and someone who was obsessed with perfect nails, this rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to do something about it, but I didn’t want to offend the makeup artist or the model. Back then, having a manicurist on set was rare as there was only a handful of celebrity manicurists around the world. One day, I was assisting a stylist and as I was steaming a dress, I overheard the makeup artist insisting that he wouldn’t do the nails, as this was not his specialty. Her nails were bitten little nubs and he said if they wanted nails they should have hired a manicurist on set. So I offered to do them. I went to Walgreens, bought the entire nail aisle, gave her fake nails, and custom blended a color in 30 minutes, then went back to my wardrobe duties.
At the end of the shoot, multiple people from the impressive team said, “Gurrrrl, you have a future in fashion and you should solely focus on nails.” I was like, “really?!” I stopped everything and got my nail license and have been doing it ever since.
Now, you work with some of the most famous women in the world and some of the biggest beauty brands, what does a typical day of work look like for you?
Wow, this is hard to explain as a typical day could be one of many options. I could be rushing to shoot a magazine cover or beauty editorial, getting a celebrity or supermodel ready for a red carpet, be in a studio filming a nail art tutorial, on an airplane headed to do someone’s nails in another country, heading over to QVC or HSN to go on-air for a nail brand, working on my laptop doing interviews about nail trends, or testing products (I also work as a creative director and do consulting for large beauty brands). Then there’s also prep days—being a manicurist on the go means having your nail bags packed and ready to go.
Let’s talk about Gigi Hadid’s Met Gala nails that were worth $2000 —how did you come up with that idea?
The infamous CHROME NAIL originated one day when I was in a meeting with Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger. Tommy was showing us the original sketch and fabric details of her custom made gown for the Met Gala. That year the theme was Manus x Machina and I couldn’t help but admire the incredible amount of wo-man hours that went into creating this beautiful dress. Every little detail was hand sewn and the fabric was delicate and these gorgeous metal details were sewn on one by one. I said, “wow, well you have the man-made part down, may I be in charge of the machine made aspect?” [They asked what I had in mind and I explained that] nails made of chrome to look like the rims of a car would be amazing.
[They approved it], and I began working on it. Three months later with the help of the Kiss Products team, I had perfectly fitted custom press on nails for Gigi to wear on the red carpet. We even added a hidden detail underneath with a cluster of crystals from Swarovski under each nail.
Throughout the process, I always kept Gigi involved and sent her photos and did nail fittings. Something really special was when she showed Donatella Versace the nails I was making her and they inspired Donatella to create the amazing armor that Zayn wore on the red carpet that day. Fun fact: I also did Zayn’s nails that night for the Met Gala!
With clients like Gigi, or Kim Kardashian, or Lady Gaga, what is your process like? Do they tell you what they’re looking for and you propose your idea? Or what?
The process depends on the occasion. Is this for everyday life? A photo shoot? Red carpet? Are they hosting or performing at a show? Then we go from there. First, I look at the styling, and overall feel for hair and makeup, and then I make my suggestions on what I think would go best to complete the look. On the other hand, sometimes I am told what is needed or wanted ahead of time and I go and do it. I love when we create characters. For example, we made Kim into Cher for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and for one of Gigi’s Tommy campaigns it was all about rock and roll with lightning bolts on her nails, or when Lady Gaga was performing Joanne at the AMA’s she was barefoot in a field so we went with a more raw and natural look (I get goosebumps remembering that performance). I also love creating looks for Kelly Clarkson, who always loves a fun nail.
Lots of us end up treating our nail appointments as a therapy session—venting TMI to our nail artist and becoming close with her. Does this sometimes happen with your celebrity clients?
I plead the fifth on this one, what is said during glam stays at glam!
What inspired you to open your NYC nail studio with over 4,000 nail colors?
This has been a goal eight years in the making and I am so proud of myself for achieving it. My clients and co-workers know how hard I’ve worked to make this dream come true. When I’m on set, I bring a huge set up that fills up a six foot table. Every color is organized in custom sewn bags and color coordinated. I have always envisioned having a set up where I can do this on a much larger scale, but also be able to do nails and have this massive variety to choose from. I also wanted to create a space almost like a secret society, where my clients can come, feel comfortable, and get their nails done at any time. This space is also a content hub where I film and create tutorials, nail art looks, YouTube videos, and so much more. If a nail artist is in town, I want them to feel comfortable coming over and filming here. Im inspired by the ever growing nail industry and social media has created this space to make it a nail hub in Manhattan.
What tips would you have for aspiring nail artists?
If this is your passion, then go for it! Never stop learning. Also practice, practice, practice—practicing your technique and form always makes for a better service. Learn from your mistakes. Every nail artist has had their own challenges—some are really good at nail art, but can’t shape nails and leave messy areas around the cuticles. Some do perfect manicures, but can’t do nail art so great. My advice is to practice on a daily basis to improve your weaknesses and with time you will see how much better you will be. Stay positive and believe in yourself, you got this!
What advice do you give your clients for how to take care of their nails in between appointments?
I have had the pleasure of working with and traveling the world alongside super models and A-list celebrities. Like many of us, they also suffer from nail issues. These issues can be caused by any number of factors, whether it be hereditary, poor diet, vitamin deficiency, or most commonly; improper removal or application of gel, acrylics, and SNS powders. I also find that many salons still use illegal products that can cause serious damage. My number one recommendation is to take daily supplements. The best one I’ve found that seems to be working for everyone I know, including myself, is Perfectil.
Perfectil has been a leading supplement brand in the UK for 25 years and recently became available in the United States. They truly work on improving your skin, giving you healthy nails, and helping your hair grow. I suggest taking it for a minimum of 90 days to see the maximum results. There are four varieties available: nails, hair, skin, and a combination of the three. I am taking their skin supplement and can see a difference not only in my skin, but also in my hair and nails—which is an extra bonus.
Another tip I give my clients is to always keep La Sirene Beauty Collagen packets on hand. They help give you a nice boost of energy and taste delicous while supporting your body’s own collagen and elasticity levels. Also keep in mind that once you’ve taken your supplements it’s important to use exfoliants regularly. I prefer Oribe’s Cote d’Azur hand scrub. Last but definitely not least, remember to keep your cuticles hydrated with cuticle oil.
What are some common mistakes that women (and nail artists) make with their nails?
I see a lot of over-filing when removing gel or peeling off gel that will damage the nails and weaken them. Also, over-nipping of the cuticles. You should only be removing what is dead, as the rest is living tissue and that can lead to an infection.
What are some of the biggest nail trends you foresee in 2019?
2019 is the year of adding cool things onto your nails—glow in the dark nails, airbrush gel nail art, bold glitter, and what we are seeing the most is small designs over a clear nail.
Looking to get a touch of Mar y Sol on your own nails? She’s launching a limited edition color with The Gel Bottle this summer, so stay tuned!