Meet 21-year-old Nail Artist Who Has Already Become NY Fashion Week’s Go-To Gal


oday, I’m introducing a new segment on the website profiling the careers of amazing and inspiring women.

Halle and I met last spring in NYC. We just so happened to cross paths because she was doing nails at a really cool Lime-A-Rita event and I was lucky enough to end up in her chair.

I was so blown away by her skill that I kept trying to capture the perfect boomerang of her doing my nails to add to my NYC Instastory. Not only did she help me, but she gave me permission to tag her on IG…My kind of girl! Upon glancing at her IG, I knew that I was in the presence of someone special and in fact she was (just as I expected) a nail artist on the rise.

Name: Halle Butler

Career: Nail Artist & Full-Time Undergraduate Student

Age: 21

Location: New Jersey (shore area)

Education: Senior at Northeastern University in Boston, MA

Notable Accomplishments: New York State Licensed Nail Tech, Voted Fan Favorite in 2nd Annual The Essie’s Nail Art Awards, Nail Artist at Paintbox for 2 years and their first ever intern, Featured on Teen Vogue and Refinery29.Tell us at what age you started painting nails and who gave you your first bottle of nail polish?
I started painting my nails when I was really young, in elementary school. I think my mom gave me my first polish, it was a round bottle of sparkly red glitter, and I spent forever trying to paint it without getting it on my fingers. Needless to say, it got everywhere. However, it wasn’t doing my nails that got me inspired, but my first ever nail art manicure that sparked the lightbulb for me to start attempting designs myself.What was your first nail art job and how did you land it?
Believe it or not, my FIRST ever time getting paid to do nails was at New York Fashion Week! AW2015. It was a whirlwind! I was backstage at Naeem Kahn doing nails for the models during hair and makeup. I felt like such a newbie, I had to look over at the other team members. Do we cut cuticles?? Do we do anything but paint? Where does she put her shoes when I do her toes? Where do I put my body when I’m in everyone’s way? I hadn’t yet gone to nail school, so I just went with the flow.

(Turns out they don’t really teach you this in nail school anyway). No one besides my mentor Julie Kandalec, her assistant Naomi Gonzalez and I knew how inexperienced I was, so I just pretended, and no one questioned me. (Thankfully I knew more than I thought I did). Since then, I have been lucky enough to be able to join Kandalec again on the Essie team for every NYFW since! (now seasoned, less awkward, and finally licensed in nail technology).How she landed it…
I found my now mentor, Julie Kandalec, on Instagram of all places (through a really weird spiral of stalking my high school music teacher who had a photo with a makeup artist who was friends with Julie) and discovered she was a celebrity nail artist!

I had no idea that was even a job, but since I was super into nail art, I stalked her and got her to follow me back! Then I emailed her and asked her about her career. She emailed me back with tons of advice punctuated with smiley faces and kind words. She also scheduled a phone call! To talk to me! How much nicer can you GET? So I asked her what felt like hundreds of questions, and she answered every single one, eager to help.

Julie also mentioned that she might want some extra help during fashion week. I never forgot that last detail. In fact, I annoyingly followed up with her just about every other week until she totally confirmed that she’d like me to assist her at New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015. I immediately replied saying yes, failing to conceal my over-excitement. That basically kicked it all off. I owe everything to Julie, she took me under her elegant swan wing and never looked back.

What’s in your beauty bag?
I never leave home without a nail file, and I never travel without a nail clipper. You never know what may happen, and you don’t want to be annoyed by the feeling of a broken nail all day.

My makeup bag has everything. My at-home and travel stuff is the same, because I can’t live without every piece. I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup since middle school, but I keep it in natural colors. It’s a mix of Sephora and CVS bought products.What are your Top 5 essential nail products?

  1. Cuticle Oil. Cuticle oil is amazing! If you put this stuff on daily, the skin around your nails will remain soft, supple, hydrated, and it won’t peel! I recommend this especially to people who pick and/or bite at their cuticles, because the less they peel, the less you’ll want to pick/bite. Perfect Formulas has a cuticle oil that sinks in really fast and has absolutely no odor. Click here to see Halle’s favorite cuticle oil!
  2. Nail file
  3. Nail clippers
  4. But what people don’t know is essential is a buffer. The grit is softer than a nail file, so it can smooth off the edge of your nail after filing. I also use it to buff off cuticle from the nail plate.
  5. Cuticle nippers are also super important because they’re the best at getting hangnails! Just don’t get too clip-happy, because the more you cut, the more you may peel.

What inspires your nail art?
Mostly other nail artists. When I started out, I was only recreating other artists’ work because I wanted to test my abilities (and I had no ideas of my own). Now I don’t blatantly copy people anymore, but I follow a lot of artists on Instagram that are simply amazing and I can’t help but be influenced by their ideas. I made a list of the best accounts to follow, because their art is so inspiring! Click here to check out Halle’s round-up of the best nail art on Instagram!

For example, @Ayano_129 will do a beautiful floral design in black + white on nude, and then I’ll go do an angular lace design in the same color combination with delicate detailing in a similar way. It’s not the same, but the inspiration is there. But sometimes I am inspired by artists like Monet, shapes like the Eiffel Tower, and even bloggers with amazing style like you, who wear inspiring color combinations and silhouettes.

What’s one pro-tip that you can share about nails?
This is less of a pro-tip and more of a common sense must do. Never ever ever do your nails, or even get them done, in a rush. You’ll mess up, I promise. Always take your time, and make sure your nails get enough drying time.

How big is your current nail polish collection?
About 300 bottles. I began my collection years ago by joining the Julep Maven program, where I get a fun box of nail polish each month, and now most of it is Essie due to my competition winnings.

What’s been the most exciting moment of your career to-date?

I think the most exciting time was being on Refinery 29’s Facebook live! I got to feel like a celebrity expert, and have so much fun! Click here to watch Halle’s R29 video!

How has being a 2017 Essie Finalist changed your career?
It’s hard to think of my nail world as a career when I’m still in college, especially since it’s still a side-gig. But, winning the fan favorite showed me how much support I have from people, and that’s incredibly heartwarming. It’s caused me to engage more with my followers and other people who care about nails, and take it a little more seriously.

How has being a 2017 Essie Finalist changed your career?

It’s hard to think of my nail world as a career when I’m still in college, especially since it’s still a side-gig. But, winning the fan favorite showed me how much support I have from people, and that’s incredibly heartwarming. It’s caused me to engage more with my followers and other people who care about nails, and take it a little more seriously.

What are your Top 5 essential nail polishes?

  1. 1 &2 are a base coat and top coat are not optional! They are the MOST essential. A base coat protects against staining and it keeps your polish on longer, acting like an adhesive. A top coat protects the color, helps it dry faster, and adds shine. I never trust a 2 in 1.
  2. Fiji by Essie is the absolute perfect pink.
  3. Male Tears by Deco Miami is the perfect soft blue (and the best polish  name I’ve ever heard)
  4. Really Red by Essie is my favorite fierce red.

What advice would you give to other women who are interested in making their passion for nails a career?
Don’t Lie! When people ask you what you do, you might want to make up a false answer to avoid annoying questions. When I first meet someone, I just tell them I do marketing.But, do it! We need more ethical, artistic nail stylists! (Paintbox is hiring!) The nail world is a small one, and it may feel daunting to break into, especially when people are so concerned with ‘who you know”. I think we need to replace the word “connections” with “relationships”. You may be scared to enter a world where you don’t know anybody, but you can reach out to someone who inspires you and try to learn from them. Try to build relationships.

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