Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My First Nail Show - A Recap

Hello Loves!  I've been working on this post for a few weeks now, trying to cut down some of the words and find more pictures.  As you know, I recently attended the Nail Tech Event of the Smokies in Gatlinburg TN.  This was a HUGE first for me - not only was it my first time attending a nail show, but it was my first time working one too.  What can I say?  I go all out.  lol

First things first, I should note that the weekend was a whirlwind of excitement.  I was completely overwhelmed, excited, exhausted, and I forgot to take pictures.  I only took one picture the entire weekend.  Blogger fail!  I know, I know...I've been doing that a lot lately.  In my defense, it was a busy weekend right on the heels of putting in super long days to finish school.  I graduated, packed my bags, and set out for the event the next day.

So, what is the Nail Tech Event of the Smokies?  And how did I end up working it?  Well, the event is a Nails Only event that is held annually in Gatlinburg, TN.  Unlike most shows, it is not a beauty industry thing but a nail industry thing.  That means nothing but nails for 3 straight days (classes on Saturday and Monday, show on Sunday).  Let me tell you...walking into a huge conference hall where every booth is nail related was AWESOME!  So many great brands were there.  I won't even pretend I remember them all, but just to name a few...AII (makers of IBD, Gelaze, Trugel, Progel, etc), OPI, Jessica, Crystal Nails, Akzentz, Light Elegance, LCN, Wildflowers Nail Academy, Tuff Enuff Nails...there were so many!  So how did I end up working the event?  Well, I was chatting with Brenda Anderson from Tuff Enuff Nails one night on facebook about her products.  Out of the blue, she asked me to come to Gatlinburg and do nail art demos with Poly Polish at her booth.  First I squealed.  Then I sat back in disbelief.  Then I said yes!  And that's how this journey started.  lol

Go ahead and grab a coffee...this is going to be a long read.  Go on now.  I'll wait....

My husband and I dropped the kids off with my parents Friday night and set out for Gatlinburg first thing Saturday morning.  We arrived around lunch time and met up with Brenda.  We stayed in a large suite with her and three other lovely ladies - all seasoned nail techs.  One of the other ladies was Simmy Bredal-Bell.  Brenda and Simmy were both part of Team Vicki Peters back in the day.  (If you aren't familiar with Vicki Peters, google her.  She was one of the top global educators in the nail industry before losing her battle with cancer last year.  Not only was she a major competitor on the national circuit, but she was also a pioneer in nail education and a cover artist for some of the top nail magazines.  Seriously, look her up...my short little bio here does not do her legacy justice).  After settling in and running around to get supplies, we made it back to the room in time for a quick bite to eat before heading out to the Nail Talk Radio Meet and Greet.  As we sat there eating fresh corn on the cob and BLTs (corn and tomatoes fresh from New Jersey!), I was awestruck.

The conversation had turned to the "old days" of competing with Vicki.  That was the moment that it really struck me - Vicki Peters was alive in that room, her legacy living on through the ladies there - and I was there to learn from and work beside them.  If you can't learn from the master herself, there is nothing better than learning from two of her students and clearly close personal friends.  I turned and looked at my husband in disbelief.  His response was completely different than mine.  I was awestruck, and he said "this feels like family."  Thing is, he was right.  There I was - a brand new graduate who isn't even licensed yet, sitting in a room filled with amazing talent and history, my first real introduction to the best in the industry - and it DID feel like family.  It was like sitting around my mother's table at home on Thanksgiving.  I couldn't have asked for a better introduction.  Just regular people sitting around chatting about the past.  This was not the industry I had read about.  There was no competition there.  No jealousy.  No attempts to hold others back while pushing yourself forward.  This was supportive.  Loving.  Nurturing.  And that is exactly how the rest of my weekend played out.  I didn't meet a single person who was anything less than encouraging.  I know there's another side of this industry, but I didn't see it in Gatlinburg.  Maybe it was the small nature of the event.  Or maybe it was just that I was clearly talking to the best of the best who no longer need to fight to make it to the top.  I don't know for sure, but I do know without a doubt now that this is the right place for me at this point in my life.  I walked into that hotel room thinking there's no way I can hang with these ladies.  I walked out a few days later knowing in my heart that it isn't about hanging with them.  I am one of them.

Here's a not so flattering photo of me with Brenda and Simmy before the show on Sunday.  Photo complements of Brenda's cell phone.  ;)

Ok, enough about that.  Let's talk about the show.  The first night was the Nail Talk Radio Meet and Greet.  This also happens to be where I took the one photo of the weekend.  lol  The Meet and Greet was interesting.  Chaotic, at first.  Apparently the event space from the year before became unavailable at the last minute so they had to scramble to find a new place.  We had to search for the room and I didn't see any signs until we were leaving.  I wouldn't be surprised if some of the guests gave up before they ever found the place.  Once inside, the room was set up with lots of round tables for seating, a stage, and a buffet area.  All of the guests were standing in a huge circle around the room.  We weren't sure where the line for check-in started or where it ended.  lol  As I walked around, I saw some fun things sitting out on the other tables.  Essie polishes.  Glitter.  Tammy Taylor practice sheets.  IBX samples.  It was clear that a lot of sponsors were involved and contributed to the event.  The food looked awesome, but I was still full from the BLTs back in the room so I didn't try any.

Here's that picture I mentioned.  I don't know who any of the people are in the shot, other than Athena Elliot at the front of the room speaking.

I ended up at a table in the back of the room.  Sadly, it didn't have any favors on it, but it did have some amazing people sitting in the chairs.  Of course, I was there with the group of ladies with Tuff Enuff Nails, but we were also sitting with Jill Wright who coordinates the event every year.  And to my left was Michele Baker.  Michele is an educator for AII and is a licensed nail instructor in my state!  She was super friendly and told me I can call her if I have any questions about my upcoming exams.  I'm hoping I'll get a chance to visit her salon some time over the next few weeks and shadow her for a bit.  :)

We left the event early since Keith was back at the room by himself.  Back in our suite, I took the opportunity to pick Brenda's brain and asked her to do my nails.  Holy smokes, y'all.  I learned more in one hour with Brenda than I learned in the past few months at school!  This lady is a natural educator.  I feel so much more comfortable with my e file now (though I need to upgrade it) and she was able to answer many of the questions I had still about acrylic application.  In just one hour!  It was midnight when she finished my nails and I tried to go to bed, but she refused and insisted I add some art to the set she just finished because she wanted to watch.  I whipped out a few gel polishes and went to work.  This is the result of our collaboration.  Brenda's tip with overlay and my rushed and sleepy art.  lol

Late to bed and early to rise - the show was the next day.  We got there early to set up the booth since we didn't get a chance to set up the day before.  I walked in, looked around, and got to work.  Brenda stuck me out on the end doing nail art demos and tucked herself back in the corner.  I tried to protest, but I quickly learned that Brenda not only knows how to set up for a show, but she also knows how to set up a student for success.  Here's a shot of Brenda tucked away in her corner.  lol  (Photo compliments of Jill Wright.)

And here's a shot that shows the booth in the upper left hand corner.  You can see that I was right there in the line of traffic!  Me!  Surrounded by nail techs attending the show.  All of them watching me work.  At first it was rattling, but as soon as the first person sat down in front of me for a demo, I fell into a groove and it just seemed natural to me.  It was crazy how natural it felt to me to do demos and teach people how to use the product.  This just confirmed that I am on the right path.  I am supposed to teach.  Brenda saw it long before I did and positioned me to prove it.  I have no doubts about that.  This photo was taken during one of the few breaks in traffic at the very end of the day.  (Photo compliments of Jill Wright.)

Despite being in the back corner of the room, we stayed busy.  I found that I didn't have much time to wander away from the booth.  As soon as we got a break in traffic and I tried to wander off, I would glance back to see people surrounding the booth again.  I did manage to visit a few of the other companies on the floor.  I talked to the LCN educator and picked up a few of the Recolution gels to show you (coming soon).  I also stopped by the Wildflowers Nail Art booth and picked up the paints I showed you last week.  I popped in on the Akzentz booth and grabbed a bottle of Lights Out (their glow in the dark gel polish).  I talked to the Jessica Rep and ordered their new LED Soak Off Builder.  And I managed to peek at the AII booth.  There were so many other booths I wanted to see, but I just didn't have time.  I really wanted to pop over to the Crystal Nails booth and the Light Elegance booth, but they stayed pretty busy too and I couldn't find an opening.

Here's another photo from the show...a close up of one of my demos (photo compliments of Jill Wright).  For more pictures, check out the Nail Tech Event of the Smokies facebook page.  Jill is adding photos as she works her way through them.  :)

My final thoughts:  The Nail Tech Event of the Smokies is a great show.  It is smaller than some of the others out there, but it was the perfect place for me to start my journey.  The educators for the various companies were all so down to earth and friendly.  Next year promises to be even better with more companies in attendance since the dates don't overlap with Cosmoprof in Las Vegas.  I'll be there again with Brenda and the Tuff Enuff Nails team next year.  My only regret is that I didn't plan ahead and attend any of the classes.  I will next year for certain.  I might even help teach one.  ;)

Stay tuned for reviews of the gels I picked up.  I spent way more money than I should have, but I just couldn't resist!



  1. Michelle you've obviously found your 'tribe'. I'm so happy for you. XO

  2. So cool! I am glad you've found your calling. Rock on lady.

  3. LOL! I didn't know that you blogged about The Event last year & I just now found this! Thank you so much for all your kind words & I'm so glad you get to join us again this July 9-11th in Gatlinburg, TN! www.nailtechevent.com

    1. LOL! I messaged you on facebook for some of the photos in this post. They're your shots!


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