Officially, Steph is a well-known and respected celebrity nail artist to the stars. Her work graces the covers of a smattering of stylish mags, and she’s worked with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Demi Lovato and more. Unofficially, Steph has the spirit of a true artist who doesn’t seem bogged down with the concept of celebrity or status.
I spent an afternoon in LA with Steph talking shop, sharing stories and, of course, trying on fancy hats.
Her soft-spoken, gentle vibe is immediately inviting, and it’s clear that she’s got a sharp eye for color, pattern and art. As we strolled around her neighborhood, she casually pointed out a few magazine covers that she worked on, carrying the most absurd iPhone case we’ve EVER seen (yes, it’s the full-size pink mirror you see in the photo below) and telling us about how much her son loves giant slices of pizza in the same breath. And pardon the pun, but this gal is most definitely nailing it.
Steph is based in Los Angeles and represented by Nailing Hollywood, and every single day of work is completely different. Founded by Celebrity Green Nail Stylist Jenna Hipp along with entrepreneur Vanessa Guala, Nailing Hollywood exclusively represents celebrity nail experts that specialize in on-set, red carpet, commercial and editorial shoots, events and more. This group of artists’ work can be found regularly in the pages Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen.
Read on to learn more about Steph’s story straight from the artist herself. And be sure to check out her DIY Nail Art Class! In under an hour, she’ll walk you through a basic mani, then take you through layering, detailed geometric designs and more. Now, let’s meet this maker.
What is the story of how you got to where you are today?
I was always drawn to artistic and creative activities growing up. I was always painting or crafting something! I would often show my creations to one of my best friends growing up, Jenna Hipp, who happened to one of Hollywoods best Editorial and Celebrity Nail Stylists. She would see what I would create and tell me “You need to come work with me — you’d be so amazing at this!!” Once I started assisting her, I fell in love with the career and knew I could do this. I continued to train under Jenna as well as going to nail school to become a certified “Nail Tech.” Once I was licensed, everything else just kind of fell into place!
What inspires you? Why do you love to design, create and make?
I get a lot of inspiration from colors in nature and being outside. I love having a creative outlet that I can also call my profession!
What’s your best tip for a novice nail artist?
Put the ego away. Find other artists who are willing to share their knowledge and tricks with you, and learn as much as you possibly can from them. Share your knowledge with others as well. The more you build each other up, the further everyone can go.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Never compare yourself or your work to others.
Tell us how technology has changed and supported what you do.
Achieving nail art is really all about the tools and techniques you use. A detailed nail look looks difficult, but with all the striping and dotting tools out there, you can accomplish something that looks tedious quite easily!
Also, the technology of nail wraps has made nail art a breeze.
What’s on your studio playlist?
I love all kinds of music, everything from indie to hip hop. It just depends on my mood.
How do you get into the creative flow? How does it feel?
It really has to come naturally and can not be forced. If I’m not in a mood to create but force it, I find that I overcompensate and don’t end up liking what I come up with. I like getting specific requests from clients as well because then it feels like a collaboration! They might have an idea and share it with me but I get to execute it in my own way and ends up being amazing!
What do you love about teaching people to make? And inspiring people who don’t think they are traditionally creative?
It makes me feel good to be able to share my craft with others! I think that anyone can be great at nail art if they want to be. All it takes is a little patience and practice.
What other makers inspire you?
Jenna Hipp (Nail Stylist and Owner of Nailing Hollywood), Sam Levine (Jewelry Maker and creator of Auburn Jewelry, Miley Cyrus (Musician and Artist), Tuesday Bassen (Illustrator) and Rory Rockmore (Graphic Designer).
What is the weirdest, most unusual or worst job you’ve ever had?
When I first started working as a freelance Nail Stylist, the work came in very slowly. Most of my jobs were booked last minute, so I needed to keep my day schedule available for last minute bookings. I would leave all my days open for nail jobs and clean a photo studio at night to supplement income!
And yes, all the covers you see above feature nails painted by Steph! So cool.