For as long as she can remember, Naomi Yasuda (@naominailsnyc) has been fascinated with art. A native of Japan, she showed a predisposition for detail and creativity at an early age as she patiently watched her grandmother, a kimono tailor, create intricate designs on fabric. Eventually, Yasuda channeled those talents into a different art: nail design.
“I started painting my sisters’ and friends’ nails,” says Yasuda. “They really liked what I did and I felt I was very good at it, so I enrolled in Chunichi Beauty College in Nagoya, Japan, where I studied the art of the manicure and nail design.”
After graduating, Yasuda packed her bags and headed to New York City, where nails are her canvas.
Clockwise: Nicki Minaj (Getty Images); one of Yasuda's nail creations; Vogue Japan; Glamour; Rita Ora (Shutterstock)
Word of her artistic skills spread quickly, and it wasn’t long before she developed a legion of fans (think: Madonna, Lady Gaga, Gigi Hadid, Rita Ora, Kesha and Nicki Minaj) who seek out Yasuda to create nail looks that are creative, colorful and accessorized.
“Coming up with nail designs is always a collaboration between me and my clients,” says Yasuda. “They often share their ideas or show me what they’re wearing, then I’ll draw inspiration from that, as well as from my surroundings.” Take Minaj’s look for this year’s Met Gala. “It synced up perfectly with her outfit and the event’s religious theme,” says Yasuda.
Her nail artistry has also been front-and-center in ad campaigns, including Kenzo Paris, Chanel and Fendi, and in films like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Likewise, her work was featured in the exhibition, Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial at the Smithsonian Design Museum, highlighting her influential role in the popularity of nail art. “That was a real high point and honor for me,” says Yasuda.