We all can agree: Nails are an integral part of Black beauty culture. From the lengthy acrylics Flo-Jo wore in the ’80s to Cynthia Erivo’s jewel-encrusted nails at last year’s Met Gala, Black people have been rocking intricate nail designs for decades. While our innovative nail art has often been deemed “unprofessional” or “ghetto” by society, it’s clear our creativity continues to set trends in beauty.
When we have conversations about the impact of Black nail culture, it’s important to discuss the talented Black nail artists who have been creating out-of-the-box designs for years. Below, meet 14 Black nail experts to follow and appreciate. Each of these manicurists is pushing the industry forward with every brushstroke.
Gracie J considers herself a “nail ARTchitect.” She is the visionary behind the nails on TNT’s Claws, serving as the former lead nail stylist. If you scroll through her feed, you’ll find an endless array of dynamic designs like her five-part nail series inspired by Beyoncé’s Black Is King film. Through her platform, Gracie J also offers ultra-chic press-ons, so you can easily achieve her artsy nail sets at home.
Celebrity nail artist Bernadette Thompson is an all-around pioneer. She notably created Lil Kim’s iconic money nails (which were on display at the Museum of Modern Art) in the ’90s and created the first Black-owned nail brand. She offers high-quality polishes and nail appliqués (which include a kit you can use to recreate her signature money nails).
Celebrity nail stylist Gina Edwards initially turned to nail artistry to pay for expenses as she pursued her psychology degree. However, she eventually immersed herself in the industry full-time. Her career has led her to work with today’s biggest names like Taraji P. Henson, Priyanka Chopra, and Mary J. Blige. Edwards has also been the global brand ambassador for Kiss products for several years and has helped conceptualize nail art for countless fashion shows (ranging from Pyer Moss to Calvin Klein).
Lisa Logan has been a nail artist for nearly three decades. One of her most notable clients is the one and only Queen Bey. She’s created countless manicures for the singer, including one for the “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video. When she’s not working with her A-list clients (including Queen Latifah and Pink), she’s working at her NYC salon, The Nail Suite.
Mimi D is an award-winning nail artist who regularly collaborates with brands, fashion designers, and celebrities. Some of her highlights include: working with Angela Bassett, nailing the talent for the latest Ivy Park campaign, and working backstage during numerous fashion weeks for designers like Diane Von Furstenberg. Mimi also pours back into her community by sharing nail tips and tricks via her Pinterest series, “Hands on with Mimi D.”
If you have ever admired Saweetie or Mary J. Blige’s nails, you’re familiar with Temeka Jackson’s work. Originally from Connecticut, Jackson is L.A.-based these days and constantly working on Hollywood sets. She’s undoubtedly a pro at creating glamorous, custom nail sets—anything you can dream up, Jackson can make it happen.
Dawn Sterling has been an NYC-based fashion manicurist for 10 years. She’s the beauty pro behind the nails in Telfar’s latest collection. Sterling also has an extensive roster of high-profile clients like Alicia Keys, Zendaya, and Normani. Wanting to use her decade of experience to help aspiring nail artists, Sterling currently offers one-one-mentoring sessions via her website.
Aja Walton is a self-taught nail artist known for her manicures inspired by impactful cultural moments. Her nail designs captured the attention of MTV last year and they commissioned her to create designs paying homage to the unforgettable albums of this generation (like Drake’s Nothing Was The Same). Walton has also worked been behind the scenes on campaigns for brands such as MAC Cosmetics.
Shani Evans is an editorial manicurist who has worked on nails for fashion brands like Sergio Hudson. In addition to working backstage, Evans is an artist at Paintbox Nails and an instructor at the American Beauty Institute.
Lavette Cephus is a nail pro with 15 years of experience. Ohio-based Cephus is the founder of Beautè Asylum Salon Suites, and her Instagram is filled with the artistic nail designs she creates in her salon. Her impressive resume also includes being crowned the Next Top Nail Artist by Nails Magazine in 2015.
Honey is one of the most revered nail artists in the industry. She has created nail art for some of the most well-known women—ranging from Britney Spears to Ciara to Kate Hudson. She’s also worked across countless projects in the fashion industry, spanning advertising campaigns for brands like Revlon to runway shows like Tom Ford.
Tahsiyn Harley has been working in the nail industry for nearly a decade. She has worked at some of the top salons in New York City, like Paint Box and Vanity Projects. Outside of the salon, Harley has worked on fashion shows for brands including Kate Spade and Badgley Mishka. These days, she also spends time in her art studio, providing nail services and hands-on nail art classes.
Melissa, known as FinesseYourClaws to her Instagram followers, is a Brooklyn-based nail artist specializing in gel nail art and aprés gel extensions. Her intricate and ornate designs are museum-worthy and have been featured in shoots with Moschino.
Tiny’s feed is full of the innovative nail art she creates for celebrity clients like City Girls’ JT and Monica. The versatile nail artist can bring any design to life—from Spanish tile-inspired nails to Basquiat-inspired sets.