The Residencies: Nails With Jenny Longworth
Introducing The Residencies, our brand new service which brings the experts to you, offering private appointments both online and in-person with some of the world’s leading authorities in style, health, wellbeing and more. Placing the world of high fashion - literally - at your fingertips is celebrity nail artist Jenny Longworth, whose list of clients include Rihanna, Harry Styles, Gucci, Dior and more. We chat to Jenny about her upcoming Residency at Browns and hear some of her glittering stories from behind the scenes...
Hey Jenny! Can you tell us about your journey into nails?
I was a serial nail biter throughout childhood and tried everything to stop. When I was 16, I found a tiny nail bar in my local shopping centre in Birmingham, called Dee-Vine nails (big up Dee if you’re reading this) where you could “try one nail for free”. I had an acrylic nail applied to my little finger and I was hooked. The next year, I began a part-time course, got my qualifications and started doing nails as a side hustle. I got a place at London College of Fashion to study Specialist Make-Up Design and started out doing make-up and nails on set. As the demand for on-set manicures grew, I began to focus solely on nails and the rest, as they say, is history.
When you were starting out, was there anyone whose nails made you think: “They’ve got the look!” or who had an early impression on your work?
The soundtrack to my life, around the same time as I started doing nails, was Lil Kim’s The Notorious K.I.M. She had these nails on the album cover that were hot pink with a diamanté French. This type of style is so intrinsic to nail culture and has stayed with me ever since.
Now you’re a jet set nail artist, what’s been your most memorable career moment so far?
There have been so many, where do I even begin…? I still have moments where I think: “How have I, a girl from the backstreets of Birmingham, landed here?” Being recognised as a New Wave Creative and walking the red carpet at the British Fashion Awards was a huge moment for me. Gucci dressed me so I felt like a million dollars in my gown and heels...topped off with perfect nails, of course.
My first meeting at Gucci HQ and working with Alessandro is up there. It was like something out of the Wizard of Oz - I had finally reached the Emerald City and was meeting the Wizard. Shooting the Dior Campaign in Versailles was like a dream. We had exclusive access to the palace at night. It was breathtakingly magical, a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Can you tell us about some of the celebrities you’ve worked with and how you went about creating nail concepts with them?
I’ve worked with Rihanna for ten years now and we’ve created some iconic nail looks together. Her look is always evolving and pushing boundaries, so the nails must follow suit. She’s super-involved and always wants the latest thing in terms of nail art. The 3D Byzantine-style nails for Garage magazine were a major moment. All the flowers were individually handmade, gilded in gold leaf and took two days to make.
Beauty experts are often trusted confidantes to their clients. Do you find that chatting and conversation is also a big part of your job?
Touching someone’s hands is such an intimate thing and, in those moments, you can often make a unique connection. A manicure can sometimes become so much more than a pamper session - it can become a therapy and wellness session too.
In terms of session work, it’s not only about how masterful you are at nails, but also about your personality. You must know when to talk up and when to pipe down. I think one of my strengths is being able to gauge when someone wants to chat or when I just need to keep my head down and deliver the perfect manicure. This is an important balance that an on-set nail artist must master in order to be successful.
Aside from nails, how else do you outlet your creativity in your life?
My passion for nails comes from a love of balance, symmetry, form and cleanliness. Think perfect polishes, crisp lines, and clean cuticle work. I am a bit of a perfectionist, a side of me which manifests in my home surroundings. I enjoy creating spaces that feel beautiful to me, whether that be arranging ornaments on my mantelpiece in a particular way, or colour co-ordinating a bookshelf. I often walk around the house straightening things up - my boyfriend thinks I’m bonkers.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Be yourself, trust your instincts, and have confidence in your ability, creativity, and skills. Oh! and never, EVER pack the acrylic liquid (the stuff that hits the back of your throat when you walk into a nail bar) in the same case as your clothes before an overseas trip. Disastrous.
For those not lucky enough to book a treatment with you, what are some top tips you’d recommend trying at home?
Regular filing is great to discourage biting or picking, and it keeps nails looking tidy. If you’re only going to use one thing then oil is your hero nail product. Hand creams are also great – maximise their effectiveness by combining with a scrub beforehand.
What are you most excited about for your Residency at Browns?
Doing some nails! It’s been a while since I've actually sat in a beautiful salon setting, so it’s going to be great to meet some new people and truly enjoy the process. Days on set can sometimes be quite rushed so it will be nice to savour the treatment and create a truly luxurious experience for the clients.
Lastly, what’s the best thing to do with your hands?
Hold someone else’s.
Jenny will be in residence at The Parlour at Browns Brook Street from 20th - 24th April 2021.
Interview by Georgia Graham
Graphics by Axel Swan