If you’re into nails, and you live in Canada, then chances are you’ve heard of Rita Remark. Formerly of Tips Nail Bar—THE place to go for nails in Toronto—Rita is now the nail expert and spokesperon for Essie in Canada, as well as a freelance nail artist and on-set manicurist for print, fashion and film. (Did I mention I have a major case of job envy?) Her work has graced the hands of some of the world’s most sought-after supermodels backstage at New York and Toronto Fashion Weeks, and her talent has been featured in countless beauty spreads in glossy magazines.
I had to know how she landed her dream job—and what’s it like to paint Karlie Kloss’ nails (OMG!)—so I caught up with Rita to get the lowdown on all things lacquer.
How did you get started in the nail business?
It was a gradual progression that began in art class. I've always been very detail-oriented, and went to Ryerson for New Media. After first year, I left the program to pursue my passion for beauty and become a makeup artist. It was while I was in esthetics school that I fell in love with nail art. I noticed that nails were quickly becoming a necessary ritual in the beauty world, and so I dropped everything else to pursue a career as a manicurist and nail artist. It is the perfect combination of detail and beauty. It was a match made in heaven for me!
What was your first nail-related job that made you pinch yourself in an "I can’t believe this is happening!" kind of way?
Early in my career, I was given the opportunity to polish Andreja Pejić's nails for the cover of a magazine. This was such an incredible "pinch me" moment. Not only was my work going to be seen on newsstands, but the exquisitely gorgeous Andrej was going to be wearing it. Times like that make me so grateful and so excited to be doing what I do.
How did you become Essie’s lead nail artist at such a young age?
I am so proud and excited about my title with Essie. Earning this position was a combination of a few things that I recommend to anyone in any industry: be passionate about what do; work your butt off; and be kind to everyone. Passion allowed me to follow my dream of having a career in this industry; working hard earned me the skills and experience necessary for the role; and being kind to everyone led to me getting a lovely referral for the position. I feel so grateful to wake up every morning and get to do what I love.
What are the best and worst parts about your job? (Because it can’t be all roses, all the time, right?)
The best part of my job is working on-set. I love the teamwork involved with the hairstylist, makeup artist, photographer, stylist and myself. It's all about working together to set the right tone and mood, and seeing the results is so rewarding. The worst part of my job would definitely be those hilarious times backstage at Fashion Week when I am crunched under a table, polishing hands in near darkness and getting showered with hairspray. My job is not always so glamorous, but those moments are so funny to share after the fact. A lot of nitty-gritty goes into backstage beauty.
Which show you've worked at had the most fun backstage atmosphere, and what it made it so awesome?
Every New York Fashion Week backstage experience has its own charm and excitement, but this past season working with Wes Gordon was the most memorable. I was extremely honoured to be the lead nail artist for his show. I had a blast visiting his studio and working with him and his team to come up with three designs that suited his stunning collection. We then put the final nail art choice to a vote on social media. Followers voted for the look they liked best and in the end, they chose my favourite look! The satin red nails matched the satin red shoes in his show, and seeing them side-by-side was a feast for my eyes.
Who has been your most surreal client?
Karlie Kloss was a pleasure to polish. She was so elegant and charming; a real class act. However, when I'm polishing on-set or backstage, I can get myself into a place where all I see is the hands. It's only when I finish and look up to see Grace Coddington beside me casually chatting to Diane von Fürstenberg that I remember where I am, and I have to pinch myself a few times.
What's your favourite nail look you’ve ever done?
I think my favourite nail-art look is always my most recent. Ask me today and I'll tell you it is the two-toned pink french manicure I did on-set this morning, but ask me tomorrow and you'll probably get a completely different answer. I'm always fixated on the latest and greatest!
What’s your all-time favourite Essie shade?
I've always gravitated towards blues and greens. I may stray, but I generally return to my favourites, like...
- and Turquoise and Caicos:
My go-to metallic shade is Penny Talk; it's a perfect rosy copper that looks great even with one coat:
What's your go-to nail look?
Though I am always full of new nail-art ideas for my clients, on myself, I keep it simple. Because I am constantly changing up the colour, I let the polish speak for itself.
Finish this sentence: "I can’t live without ________ for my nails!"
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil! I am constantly washing and sanitizing my hands, and sadly, my cuticles pay the price. I keep a little bottle of this heavenly amber liquid in my purse and by my nightstand to remind me to moisturize.
What's your biggest nail pet peeve?
Chipped nail polish! I say wear perfect polish or bare nails, but nothing in between. It's so easy to repair a chipped nail, so there are no excuses. Dab the same colour of polish on the chipped area and then use a long-wear top coat like Essie No Chips Ahead to soften the contrast between the old and new application.
Do you prefer salon or at-home manis?
I'm inclined to say both. Nothing beats a true salon manicure. Your nail technician has the skills and experience to provide you with a manicure that can treat your nail needs and give you a killer nail polish application. However, at-home care is just as important. Think about salon manicures as your facials and your at-home touch-ups as your nightly cleansing regimen. If everyone cared about the health of their nails as much as they did the health of their skin, no one would ever have dry cuticles.
Do you have a favourite nail polish remover?
I generally opt for pure, undiluted acetone. It is the most effective solvent, even when removing stubborn red and glitter polishes.
What's your favourite nail shape? And which nail shape makes you cringe?
I love almond nails. [I KNEW they were on point! - N] They're classic and have a "high-heel" effect on our hands. They instantly look elegant and elongated. I absolutely cannot stand the duck-billed, fan-like nails. This is a shape that can only be achieved with false nails and it looks alarmingly fake. Thankfully it is not a trend I see catching on anytime soon.
Any upcoming trends for spring and summer that we should know about?
Runway trends this spring and summer definitely leaned towards a more natural approach to nail colour. Nude polishes of every variety graced the runway, from matte opaques like Sand Tropez at Alexander Wang:
To sheer, better-than-real hues like Mademoiselle at Donna Karan:
This isn't to say there aren't splashes of colour to look forward to. Candy-coloured pastels will ring in the spring, making way for bolder, brighter shades this summer. Colours that I saw repeated the most were sky blues and sunny tangerines. Try blues like Flare to Dare [an in-salon gel polish] and Find Me An Oasis:
And oranges like Tart Deco:
and Meet Me At Sunset:
All I’ve been hearing lately is that nail art is dying. From an expert point of view—is it?
Just because nude colours are trendy it doesn't mean that nail art is not dying; it is maturing! For the past few years I feel like nail art experienced an adolescent period of experimentation. We were using dozens of colours and textures and appliqués. Now that we've had time to take what we've learned, fashion-forward yet wearable nail art designs have emerged.
Any advice for girls who love nail art but don’t think they can DIY it?
There are plenty of nail art "cheats" that they can use! Anyone without a steady hand can use tape or re-enforcement stickers as a great and easy way to achieve a moon manicure or French tip. Backstage at World Mastercard Fashion Week in Toronto we used tape cut into shapes to help us achieve a "cut-out" nail art look that is fast, easy and looks great.
Who or what do you think has influenced you the most as an artist?
My family and my friends. My family pushed me to continue pursuing my dream, even when I had plenty of self-doubt. My friends are overwhelmingly supportive, but also very inspirational. I am really lucky to surround myself with an incredibly talented group of artists. Among my friends there are digital animators, visual artists, painters, illustrators, performers and photographers. Their work inspires me daily and pushes me to keep making nail art that is original.
Any advice for people looking to land a similar career to yours?
Find something you're passionate about. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Educate yourself. Find great mentors. Never be embarrassed to ask questions. Don't fear hard work. Be patient. Practise, practise, practise. And finally, be kind to everyone because you never know who may lead you to your dream job.
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Have Your Say
Does Rita have your dream job or what?!
Have you tried any of her polish picks?
Which shades will you be wearing this spring/summer?