When I first met Stephanie on a shoot a few months ago, I instantly fell in love with her. She’s hilariously funny, incredibly kind and plays down her achievements massively.
She’s the kind of person you wish was your best friend: a loud and bubbly blonde, with tonnes of funny anecdotes and stories to tell. We bonded over our love of animals, all things nails and I love how she somehow manages to see the good in pretty much everything. “I’m just pleased to be doing what I love,” she says, sweetly.
But beneath that girly exterior lies a level-headed, talented and ambitious businesswoman who works on the world’s biggest films, editorials and fashion campaigns, and who has tended to the likes of Rita Ora, Eddie Redmayne, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis (to name a few). After years of hard work (“I work A LOT”), she’s now at the stage where she regards a lot of her celebrity clients as friends.Her story is an inspiring one, but I have no idea how she manages to still stay so positive after some of the things life’s thrown at her. Her career hasn’t been handed to her on a plate – she’s worked exceptionally hard to get to her position, with hurdles that most people would find hard to ever overcome.
It wasn’t until she offered to drive me home after our shoot that I realised how wonderful and inspiring she truly is. If anyone deserves their success, it’s her. And I’m so glad she’s experiencing it.
Stephanie’s early life was a painful one, suffering years of child abuse (and later, domestic abuse), yet she never moans about what happened to her. This is someone who, at one point, was left with broken bones and who was put in hospital by her mum’s ex-boyfriend. “It took me many years to realise I’d been a victim of abuse,” she says about her experience, which led to both an eating and mental health disorder.
Stephanie spent her early childhood years being raised by her grandparents in South-East London, whom she’s incredibly close to. “They were some of the happiest years of my life,” she says. “My grandparents have been above and beyond supportive of me. I wouldn’t be here without them today.”Her life was turned upside down when, at eight years old, her biological mum suddenly announced Stephanie would be moving back in with her, tearing her away from the grandparents she had grown up with and loved. Her mum’s then-boyfriend took a dislike to her for some reason, and the physical abuse started.
It’s hard to think that someone so upbeat and smiley could have ever experienced something so awful. Most people would crumble under what Stephanie had been through; instead, she’s channelled her past into being the driving force behind her brand. “I’ve used the negatives to drive me forward. Failure is not an option for me.”
Despite childhood dreams of becoming a cardiologist, the troubles at home became too much and she ended up abandoning higher education at sixteen, as well as leaving home. She instead began volunteering in a newly-established nail bar, learning the trade for six months, seven days a week, for free.
Although she’d experimented with nail art as a child, the nail salon saw how passionate (and good!) she was at nails. They not only offered to pay for her first nail kit, but clubbed together to raise the money so she could train properly at a local college. It was their generosity that essentially changed her life. “I’ll be forever grateful for what I learnt with my mentor, Amy,” she says.
Stephanie began assisting some of the industry’s biggest nail artists, like Marian Newman, perfecting and honing in on her skills until she was ready to work freelance. Her award-winning career has seen her work for the likes of Vogue, Glamour and GQ, as well as huge Hollywood films, including Alice Through the Looking Glass and The Avengers. Recently, she also set up a collective of high-end, backstage nail artists, NAILSQUAD, who come together to work on huge fashion shows.She’s thrilled she can share some of her success with her grandparents. “I get some great perks and try to take my nan and grandad to as many events as I can,” she says.
Needless to say, her nails are in top condition. Her go-to shades are dark colours, like plums and navy blues, with matte finishes. I ask how she keeps them looking so healthy. “Boots do skin hair and nails tablets for £5.99 – I swear by them. Combine that with CND solar oil twice daily and you’re on your way to nail strength.”
To a lot of women, working daily with the some of the world’s biggest celebrities seems like a dream. I ask how she managed to get herself noticed and stay in-demand in an industry that is notoriously competitive.
“Once I worked with my first celebrity, that opened the door for me,” she says. “I just networked and introduced myself to the people I felt inspired by. I thought outside of the box and created work where there wasn’t any. It’s a bit of a blur to be honest, but even now, I work crazy hours just to make the dream work.”
And what about working with difficult clients? “I’m quite straight-forward as a person, so I just ask them to do what I need of them. I’m nice and sympathetic of whatever is causing them to be difficult. We all have bad days, and they tend to relax a bit more knowing someone is on their side.”
I ask her what advice she has for any budding celebrity manicurists. “Be original, be respectful and don’t give up, no matter how hopeless you feel,” she says. “There is always something better lying ahead.”
Birthday: 14th April 1988
Fave colour: Black
Fave animal: My kitty, Prada
Fave nail product/colour: OPI’s Matte Topcoat/Morgan Taylor ‘All White Now’
Fave food: Italian, cheese and Jelly babies