Julie Kandalec: “Support each other”

Be well rounded in your area of expertise, even if you don’t want to publicly offer every service. I teach this to my students as well. You could be a master at gel polish, nail art with gel, and everything gel, but if a client walks in with dip powder on and you don’t know […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Be well rounded in your area of expertise, even if you don’t want to publicly offer every service. I teach this to my students as well. You could be a master at gel polish, nail art with gel, and everything gel, but if a client walks in with dip powder on and you don’t know how to remove it safely, then what do you do? Turning them away is a loss of income and potential long-term client.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Kandalec.

From Essie campaigns to backstage at New York Fashion Week, Julie Kandalec is the nail professional that editors, designers, and celebrities call to make their dream nails come to life. The founding creative director of Paintbox in New York City, Julie made chic and on-trend nail art accessible to a mainstream clientele and now shares her years of experience with salons, schools, spas, and hotels around the world as the founder of Masterclass Nail Academy. Her clients include Mariah Carey, Camila Cabello, Emma Roberts, and Hailee Steinfeld. Her work has been featured in Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Vogue, WWD, and on campaigns for Chanel, Dior Beauty, YSL Beauty, Tiffany & Co., Glossier, Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay and Maybelline. Follow her nail journey around the world at @julieknailsnyc!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have wanted to do nails all my life — since I was about 10 or 11. At the time, I was part of a father/daughter group with the local YMCA and we went to a cosmetology school for one of our monthly field trips. The students weren’t in class at the time, but one of them left their Caboodles out with the tiniest gold teddy bear charms and colored striping tape I’d ever seen. I’d always loved miniatures and art as well — and it was then that I knew I wanted to do something with nails.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was on set for Cosmopolitan a few years ago with celeb photographer and my good friend, Yu Tsai. We were doing a story that featured 6 male models called “Models + Bottles” and supermodel Tyson Beckford was the last to arrive. He said that he just had a manicure, so I do what I always do — offer a hand massage anyways. To my complete shock, he said “Sure, I’d love a shoulder massage”! How could I say no?

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

In my interview with my first agent, I was bolder than I ever would have been normally. He asked me, why don’t you live in New York? And I said, verbatim, “If you sign me, I’ll move”. He signed me on the spot and I flew home and began packing that night. So, I would describe my tipping point more as doing what you know is best for you, even if it’s risking everything. In Ohio, where I grew up, I owned a 3-bedroom condo, had a full clientele at one of the best salons in town, and was the head of the nail department there. I also had a great boyfriend and of course, my friends and my family. So basically, I had everything to lose. But I knew it was time for a change and I had to strike while the iron was hot. I knew New York was going to play a big role in paving a way in my story.

I also worked for free — a lot. There are a lot of mixed feelings about not being paid for a job (and I agree with many) but we also have to remember that as we are starting out in a new career or in a new city, we also learn by doing, and that can be more valuable than the little bit we would get paid for an editorial job. I recommend being selective about what you do for no rate. If the shoot’s inspiration you already have a ton of in your book, you may want to pass on it. However, if it’s an opportunity to shoot with a makeup artist you’ve been dying to meet, it’s the best way to put yourself in front of them and hopefully work on more paid jobs in the future.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In 9th grade, there was the option to take Fine Art, a huge step up from the regular art classes offered. I wanted to get in that class so bad because I knew I was better than I had the opportunity to showcase previously. I begged the art teacher, Kurt Reichert, to let me try out. I remember being terrified during my audition, but he accepted me. I remember learning color theory in his class and still have the oil paintings I made. I’m so grateful to him for believing in me. Color theory is so important, and I explain that in my new book, Nail Art Design Book.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

On my first trip to the Maldives, I saw the need firsthand for higher nail education in hotel spas and salons during a casual chat with the spa’s manager. Through further research, I learned that resort spa technicians all did multiple services — facials, massage, and nails. However, nails frequently seemed to lag a bit behind in both education and therefore, skill. So naturally, when a service isn’t performed as frequently, it becomes the less favored service which results in a loss of income and a rise in customer complaints. I set out to fix that, and Masterclass Nail Academy was born. (pic attached of me teaching my first class at the Residence Maldives two days later).

Having higher nail education in hotel and resort spas helps the spa employees, who often come from lower-income areas, make more money by offering better services and earning better tips, which of course, makes a world of difference to their home and family life. Receiving a better service also gives the client a better experience as a whole, which in turn, gives the beauty industry a morale boost. A win-win!

Of course with travel in a holding pattern, my classes will resume in 2021. In the meantime, I finished and released my Nail Art Design Book, which is likened to a sketchbook for both DIY nail art lovers and nail pros to sketch their ideas in. It has educational elements like illustrations of my favorite nail brushes and tools, color palettes, and color theory to assist in the art design process, plus wire-bound to lie perfectly flat. A percentage of June’s sales went to Trade Works, which allowed us to send one under-resourced Jamaican youth on an entire summer internship in the beauty industry!

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

1. Body positivity and showing wrinkles, acne, cellulite, and all body types and shades!

2. Hyper-personalized beauty like Tan Luxe and Function of Beauty

3. Skin and skincare is in, and heavy makeup is out

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

Right now, I have one concern and it is the lack of direction from our State Boards in regards to giving solid direction during COVID-19. There are millions of beauty professionals in the US, and us working or not technically affects 95% (or more) of the population in some form. California just shut down their salons for the second time, this time with zero notice. The NY State Board of Cosmetology never had a single update on its website the entire height of the pandemic with updates advice. I never got an email from them either. If I could implement change, I would love to see a union of some sort to advocate for clear guidance from our state boards and allow us the option to work outdoors, like restaurants are doing.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

– I have started to dry brush my skin before I shower and I have become obsessed! I recommend this dry brush from EcoTools. It’s a fast and inexpensive way to promote circulation (especially early mornings) and remove dry skin. Tip: Always work towards the heart for the best circulation benefits.

– Use up your travel-sizes and samples! Most of us have tons of these stockpiled and they don’t have the same shelf life as their full-size counterparts. Since we won’t be traveling just yet, use those up and give yourself a much-needed spa day

– Get outside! I know this sounds basic and obvious, but after being indoors for so long, being around people (from afar of course) is a free way to boost morale, get a little Vitamin D, and get some much-needed fresh air.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

1. Your schedule will never be truly predictable (especially if you work on set) so flexibility is key. When I have to make a doctor’s appointment, 80% of the time I have to reschedule it because my work schedule often changes at the last minute.

2. Your income will never be predictable or steady either. One day, your rate could be 2,000 dollars or more, and the next day’s rate could be 150 dollars (or nothing at all). I recently waited almost 2 years to get paid for a two-day advertising job and only got it after two dozen emails and getting my attorney involved. Taking classes to learn how to budget and save will also help you tremendously during slow times.

3. Learn how to use social media. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay, and utilizing it for the beauty industry is crucial as we are visual beings! Clients expect to find you on Instagram — if your IG game isn’t up to par (or nonexistent), they’ll move on to find someone who is. Take classes to learn how to kill the IG game and utilize good light (I can’t stress enough the importance of good light)! and take interesting photos. Examples of fantastic IG feeds are @paintboxnails and @hallebnails for their use of excellent light, color, and composition, and @suetyrrellstylist for her use of light, technique, and clarity on what she’s using. Can’t always take your client outdoors to grab a photo in the sun? Train them to what you’re looking for and offer an incentive to send you a photo on their own the following day.

3. Support each other — it’s a very small world and there is plenty of business to go around. True story — once I ran into my friend @natalieminerva of @nail_swag on the street in Tokyo — then again 6 months later in Las Vegas!

4. Stay on and ahead of trends. For example, setting or creating a new trend will help you grow your social media following quickly, and that’s how people learn who you are and your business expands — every client wants to be the “first” to be on-trend — and they love to show it off on their channels too.

5. Be well rounded in your area of expertise, even if you don’t want to publicly offer every service. I teach this to my students as well. You could be a master at gel polish, nail art with gel, and everything gel, but if a client walks in with dip powder on and you don’t know how to remove it safely, then what do you do? Turning them away is a loss of income and potential long-term client.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh wouldn’t this be awesome! Well, I am all about education, and every single one of us are both students and teachers in some way with teachable moments. I would love to see some sort of “pay what you can” education platform for mentors and mentees to pair up together. And now you have me thinking… 😉

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always say, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. When I signed with my first agent way back in 2010, I was ready to take the next step. And it worked in my favor, as I was signed on the spot.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @julieknailsnyc and @masterclassnailacademy

Twitter: @julieknailsnyc

Bio and portfolio:

New Nail Art Design book and Academy:

YouTube: Julie Off Duty

Beauty and Travel Blog: Julie Off Duty

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Insights From a Nail Artist That’ll Make Your Life Easier in 2021

by Kimsea Brooks

“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Julie Gordon White, CEO at The Well for Women Entrepreneurs

by Yitzi Weiner at Authority Magazine
Biztuition and The Infobesity Epidemic with Julie Christopher #LivingFearlessly on #ThriveGlobal

Biztuition and The Infobesity Epidemic with Julie Christopher

by Lisa McDonald
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.