These Rising Nail Artists Are Taking Over The Beauty Industry One Claw At A Time

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For many of us, going to the nail salon for a new set is the cornerstone of beauty. (Case in point: we know the Long Nail Goddesses of New Jersey just for their overgrown claws.) “Black folks have always worn nail art as an accessory,” multidisciplinary artist Tru Violet tells ESSENCE. Known for stepping out in loud statements, from Flo Jo’s 3XL curved acrylics to fabulous jewel-encrusted fingers on Lil’ Kim, Black nail art has long been a holy identity in our culture. 

That said, who are the rising nail artists setting today’s trends, you’re wondering? Below, ESSENCE speaks to four Black nail artists you should know about what they do, the cultural impact nails have, and the techniques they’ve learned along the way.


My name is Melissa Samuel and I’m a full-time nail artist based in Brooklyn, New York. I was born and raised in London, and emigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago. I describe my work as “wearable art,” the type of art that should be behind glass in a museum. I want my nails to have the “wow” factor, and fit the style and aesthetic of the client that is wearing them. I take pride in no two sets being the same. I’m constantly pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. My work is heavily embellished; mixing metallic finishes and textures. I incorporate hand drawn art alongside rhinestones. My style has become known as “the mix n match.”

On Black culture and nail artistry:

Black culture is full of color, prints, and gold. We really put effort into our style which, in turn, creates trends and influences street style, runways, and fashion houses. Nail art is another form of self-expression and an extension of this. The heavy embellishments, length, and bold color choices are something we have always done. The difference is time and social media. Now, these styles are now more socially expectable.

Favorite nail looks:

Isolated chrome designs. Chrome is not the easiest to master, but it adds a unique edge to my designs, especially alongside gems and hand painted designs. It elevates the overall look. My favorite nail icon of all time is Flo Jo. Those long red nails still have us in a chokehold!


I’m a Texas native! It’s something I’ve always been really proud about. The south is so rich in culture! I grew up in a suburb of Dallas. I’ve always been an artist across many mediums and wanted to master each one according to what I thought mastery was … not anyone else’s.

I create. I like to make things that I enjoy so much that I want to share them. For me, creating feels like a guilty pleasure in some way. It’s my favorite thing to do but making a career out of it is an experience. Creativity feels like little timestamps that represent experiences and connections all created by me. My work is based around duality! I like to bring opposites together. Masculine and feminine. I love asymmetry. I love color. But I always need it to be chic and polished.

On Black culture and nail artistry:

Black culture influences everything art-wise! I think our culture gives people the freedom to do things loud and proud. The way we express ourselves is not only inspiring to the world but it sets the tone for what’s next. We’ve seen this play out over and over again.

Favorite nail look:

My favorite beauty icon of all time is Grace Jones. I think she’s the perfect example of duality and expression as a whole. She’s edgy but she’s sleek. She’s loud but she’s mysterious. A timeless beauty with no limits to where her artistry extends.


I am a Black, Queer, multidisciplinary artist, Divine channel and lover of all things. I grew up in Atlanta and Detroit. I am currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. I moved to NYC at 22 to pursue an acting career, but ended up pivoting to becoming a DJ. Later, I pursued a part time career as a nail artist. I’m also secretly a Mental Health Counselor and Reiki Practitioner (if you know, you know) to facilitate energy healing.

I was called to pursue nail art designing by my passion for beauty and aesthetics. I have had an extreme obsession for all things beauty since I was a child and was always using it to express myself. [After my grandmother passed,] I first started drawing my emotions and coloring in an art notebook that I had specifically for art therapy. Then, one day, I started drawing the nail designs I would want to rock. Getting my nails done was very therapeutic for me. During the pandemic quarantine, I felt called to pursue nail artistry more deeply and purchased mannequin hands to practice on and started posting my sets on Instagram.

Earliest nail memory:

Going to the nail salon with my aunts, waiting for them, and watching them get their airbrush acrylic full sets in the mid ‘90s.

Favorite nail technique:

Definitely learning how to sculpt with solid UV gel and using pendants, crystals, and other 3D charms and objects that most people wouldn’t have thought to place on a nail. Airbrushing has also been significant for me as well.


I’m a press-on nail artist and painter. I love my job because it allows me to bring any ideas I have on my mind to life. I like the stimulation it gives me and, in a way, I can escape from the world and into my own creative reality.

I got into nail artistry three years ago. I had a terrible experience with getting my nails done and I was tired of leaving unsatisfied so I thought, “why won’t I just do my own nails?” I could always draw, I just never really pursued it until I started creating press on nails. I wanted to be able to take any design that might’ve looked difficult and master it.

My work is all about freedom and reminding people to create anything that they want to make. Bend the rules and go against whatever everyone else might be doing. Challenge yourself– you’d be surprised at what you can create.

Defining beauty:

To me, beauty means being unapologetically yourself, without even thinking about the opinions of others. It’s about uplifting others and loving the skin that you’re in.

On Black culture and nail artistry:

I feel like Black culture is expressive and bold; to be able to stand out and be comfortable with what you have on. The bold colors and abstract designs found on nails, especially with 3XL curved long nails, create a statement. We literally created a trend that is still being recreated years later.

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