Interview | Salon Geek Meets Marian Newman


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The Ed.

Well-Known Member
Oct 19, 2011
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SalonGeek HQ
When I first asked who you'd like to read an interview with, there followed a flurry of names representing the best and the brightest in the industry. However, there was one name that I saw over and over again: Marian Newman.

It's not an understatement to say that Marian is a legend in the industry. Not only is she one of the very best nail technicians out there, she's almost single-handedly responsible for bringing nails to the forefront in the fashion world. There isn't a glossy fashion mag that she hasn't done the cover for and there isn't a nail technician in the world who hasn't heard of her.

Ladies & gentlemen, it's a pleasure to introduce, Marian Newman.

1. It's not an exaggeration to say that you are a legend in the nail industry and have inspired thousands of nail professionals all over the world, but what or who inspires you the most?

Why, thank you ma’m! Different things at different times inspire me. I suppose what, in general, I find the most inspiring are the people that are really good at what they do, whatever that might be. We all come across people like that from time to time and I have been so lucky to work with so many that are just brilliant at what they do. That brilliance rarely comes naturally. It takes belief, hard work and dedication.

2. You've just completed another fashion season. In all the years that you've been doing it, what's your stand out moment and stand out nail design?

Oo, my goodness! There have been so many! I suppose one I’ll never forget is the first show I ever did for Alexander McQueen (Givenchy) in ’97. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I’d never even seen a fashion show before, let alone one at that level. I didn’t know how they worked, the etiquette, the models (except for Naomi Campbell). But, fortunately no one had seen a nail technician at a show before so that helped. I knew what he wanted for the nails but no idea how to make them and no one to ask as they hadn’t been done before. I had to work it out for myself and have carried on doing that ever since. It worked, the show was fabulous beyond anything I had ever seen before and I was hooked (they were 12” spirals, by the way, that curved under the fingers and long talons with oriental symbols). I was also fortunate enough to work on Alexander McQueen’s last show - that was spectacular! We pre-made 1000 nails for that show so there were plenty of options. The nails also got longer as the show progressed. A marathon!

I’ve made some quite bonkers nails for the likes of the designer Gareth Pugh, Mugler and Lady Gaga. I made some riveted nails for Gaga that swivelled. She loved them so much she instructed the film director to get a close up of them while she was singing so she could swivel them with her mouth. That was a bit of a moment!

3. Is there a moment you'd rather forget about as well?

I’ve never really had a disaster or truly embarrassing moment. I’ve had some hysterical moments that should probably not be repeated in print!! I have forgotten more than I’ve remembered. Usually because the show was not very exciting. A girl (or boy) has to kiss a lot of frogs (or buff a lot of plain nails) to get the prince/princess (bold, featured nails). I’ve been very lucky to have won a lot of princes over the years.

4. You've written books, you've won prizes, you're the most sought after nail pro at fashion week, you've graced the covers of the glossiest magazines at least once…what's left to do? What goals do you still have?

I am really lucky to have worked on some of the best jobs over the years and still manage to do so. Most of my boxes have been ticked. I don’t like to repeat things or do something that has been done before. I am working on a few projects at the moment that are all quite new and original. There is one that I have been slowly working on for a number of years. If I can pull that one off I will have ticked the very last box and retire happy.

5. You've done a lot of session work and many nail pros aspire to be where you are. What advice would you give to those pros who want to be doing Cara Delvigne's nails for the front cover of Vogue?

Nail skills of every type is key. I rarely arrive at a job knowing exactly what I’m going to do nor the condition of the models nails. If you can ‘turn your hand’ (excuse the pun) to just about anything (at speed) and be ready for every eventuality you’re part way there. The other part is character. A big fashion shoot has a lot of egos and a lot of creative people. Everyone should work together as a team but I believe it’s not worth forgetting that nails are a small detail/accessory of the whole image and act accordingly. I have had to fight my corner for years and still have to on many occasions. But it’s the way you fight that counts!

Discretion and tact is also important. Social media is part of daily life now but there is knowing if pictures can be taken and information divulged or not! It’s mostly not as the information is someone else’s property. Plus if the model/celebrity and other members of the team thought there was a chance a picture of them or a bit of back stage gossip were to find its way onto the social sites there would be no further bookings! I sometimes despair when I see people (with little or no experience) putting out info at the wrong time.

To do this job properly, i.e. earn a very good living at it full time, the only way is to focus. A lot of people think they can dip in and out and the good ones will usually get some reasonable work. But to get the best jobs and earn more than sitting at the nail desk it takes focus and dedication and that very rarely, if at all, comes from trying to work that column. You spread yourself too thin and do nothing as well as you should. It’s tricky but those set on doing this job will find a way and it will be very rewarding.

6. In your career, what are you most proud of?

Lots of things really. But I do have a belief that anyone can do something twice, maybe 3 times. The tough part is to keep doing it to the best of your ability and to exceed expectations. I suppose I am most proud of the fact that, after so many years, I’m still working at the top of my game, even with so many newcomers populating the scene. I can still pull something new out of the bag when required! Phew!

7. What's your pet peeve?

In the professional industry the people that are cheapskates in the education stakes! I find it astonishing that people do the minimum (and cheapest) training that takes 5 minutes and then let themselves loose on the paying public calling themselves a ‘professional’! Then post pictures of the most dire nails and expect praise!

8. When you're not kicking butt in the nail world, what do you do to relax? Do you ever not think about nails?

I often am not thinking about nails these days. I love being at home. None of my children live at home now and, although I miss them, the house is so tidy!! I do so much travelling that being at home, cooking, listening to music, having a lie in is just heaven. I find it very easy to switch off. All very boring really. I’ve always had a good life outside of work and that, to me, is essential.

9. You offer nail professionals the opportunity to work with you on Fashion Week. Who should we be watching? Who's the next Marian Newman?

I’m always happy to give people the opportunity to see what this side of the profession is like. I’ve had many technicians pass through my hands (see another unintended pun). Some have gone on to do good things for themselves, some like to dip in and out, others have discovered it isn’t as glamourous as they thought! It’s isn’t just about the shows. In between there are months of doing shoots, videos etc. That’s how stylists and designers get to know you and your work.

I still have my core team who have been working with me for years fortunately. More recently Kimberley Casey has done loads of stuff with me (including coming to Shanghai with me) and has been doing some great work on TV. I love having Kat Kramek working with me. She is such a calm and generous girl who is fabulous at nails. This season I had 2 girls that came to every city and every show with me and, if they decide to continue down this road will be great: Lyndsay Makintosh and Hollie Wakeham.

It’s nice to think that some people would like to be the new me but I think what is more important is that they find their own niche and not follow anyone too closely. The way to get those bookings is to bring something new to every job if at all possible. As I said earlier, character is almost as important as people need to like working with you. You may be able to do stupendous nails but if the team don’t like you, forget it! If you are nice to have around than sometimes a bit of ‘winging’ will work!!!

10. Finally, what was big on the runway this year? What nail trends will we be sporting this year?

This year so far was such a mixed bag! Last season was all nude. The recent shows (AW13) had a bit of everything! One thing I can tell you though: nails are almost as important as your knickers!!! They MUST be worn and be clean!


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Thanks Marian and Ed for doing this interview. I enjoyed the read.

You are to be admired Marian, a great inspiration
Fantastic interview. Loved reading it. Marian you are what every nail technician aspires to be. Fab! Xx
Great interview
Very inspiring
Thanks a lot
Absolutely loved reading this interview! Marion really is a truly inspirational woman! X
Very intriguing, thank you!

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