The Owner & The Brand: Meet Mimi D.
New York Fashion Week is a pretty big deal. As one of the ‘Big Four,’ joining the ranks of London, Paris, and Milan, NYFW is one of the pinnacles of the industry. For any designer or model, to be a part of any of the shows or events is huge; it’s the stepping stone for big things.
Often overlooked, however, are nails.
It’s easy to forget that just like hair and makeup, nail art is crucial to the execution of a designer's complete vision. And, often like the clothes and makeup and hairstyles, the nail art coming down the runway will often establish and dictate the colors and artistry and trends that become popular in local salons for upcoming seasons.
A few months ago, I was able to meet Mimi D., a manicurist and nail artist based out of Los Angeles. Her work has been seen on the likes of celebrities, Bethenny Frankel, Olivia Palermo, and Tyra Banks; in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Ebony; for brands like Covergirl, Samsung, and Target; to name only a few of each in her extensive resume. She’s done nails for celebrities on the red carpet, in photo and video shoots, for private and special events, and for models on the runway.
Like, New York Fashion Week.
I was lucky enough to meet Mimi over a manicure and ask a few questions, namely, what it’s like being a manicurist for the models on (and off) the runway. Here’s what she said.
Q: When did you first decide you wanted to be a nail technician, and how did you find yourself doing Fashion Week?
A: I realized that I wanted to become a nail tech after coming home each night after work and having to polish my nails as a way to relax. Working long hours in a club and dealing with crazy managers, it was the only thing that helped me forget about the day and zen out.
Q: What was your first show?
A: The owner of the salon that I worked at knew Lisa Logan and she recommended me to assist her for a show in 2012. That was my first show.
Q: You’re hands-on with a lot of the models walking the shows; can you name a few of the men or women you’ve worked with?
A: Imaan Hammam, Binx Walton, and Vashtie Kola.
Q: Can you walk us through one of your schedules on a typical day during NYFW?
A: Wake up super early, (anywhere between 4-6 am) and have a light breakfast. Travel to my first location, check-in, get settled, and wait for the team to arrive. I’ll have another light meal. Meet with the team to discuss the nail look for the show and polish anywhere between 3-6 models in a 2 hour window. After that, it gets pretty repetitive. Travel. Eat again. Meet with the team, discuss the nail look and polish models. Sometimes I have three shows a day, sometimes only one. It depends, but for the most part, it’s get in, do the job, and get out.
Q: As a woman of color, what has been your most memorable or unique experience while working a show?
A: When FW was at the tents, I was able to attend a Carolina Herrera show. Most of the time, our badges get us backstage access, but this time I was able to get into the show to view it. It was awesome because most of the time, we’re only seen as “the help” and often have to watch the show from backstage. So to be granted access to view the show from the show floor and see all of the props and the set up was a really cool treat.
Q: On a slightly unrelated note, I remember when you were doing my nails, you told me that a lot of black models still have to bring their own foundations and makeup to shows. Has this been lessening over the years, or have you still observed it as an issue?
A: It had definitely lessened over the years. Especially with the creation of Fenty Beauty, more beauty brands are starting to create more shades as a means to make more models feel included. More makeup artists are starting to carry more shades [with them] as well.
Q: What advice do you have for young women of color who would like to be manicurists at FW? What’s the best way to get your foot in the door?
A: There are several avenues manicurists can take if they’d like to work at Fashion Week. My advice would be to reach out to brands directly and ask to be placed on the assistant list. You can also reach out to the lead manicurist and ask to be placed on their assistant list. Finally, you can reach out to other manicurists who you see working FW and ask them to let you know if there are openings for assistants.
Since the people you’re reaching out to may not really know you like that, you may need to find a creative way to show off [your talents] to them. Be sure your social channels showcase your skills, whether that’s through your nail art, or really clean, polished nails.
From her amazing portfolio, here are just a few examples of her work.
Peep my nails after I met Mimi (above), with a few pieces from her portfolio, and please be sure to support this amazing artist!
Check out more here!