At the competition to determine the World's Fastest Set of Acrylic Sculptured Nails, the air is thick with the smell of acetone and ambition. Eight contestants sit at long folding tables, heads bowed as if in prayer. Hosted by the Nailpro Trade Show, the contest is being held at the Pasadena Convention Center on a spring day so lovely and carefree it gives little indication of the tension inside.
Preparation has been intense. Contestant No. 112, Shannon McCown, for instance, sat in front of the TV all night every night for a month doing her 19-year-old daughter's nails, driving her family crazy with nail talk. She now fiddles anxiously with bottles of sanitizing solution and Tammy Taylor conditioning cuticle oil.
Two tables over, as if the pressure weren't bad enough, sits contestant No. 113: Tammy Taylor herself, holder of the unofficial record for fastest set of acrylic nails, author of the beauty school standard The Complete Guide to Manicuring and Advanced Nail Technology, inventor of the flattened brush ferrule and Dazzle Rocks White Twinkling Stars nail powder, and president of Tammy Taylor Nails Inc., "where nails are always fun, and never feel like work." Word is that Taylor has this thing in the bag.
Contestants will do natural-style "pink and white" nails. Good pink and whites are narrow, sleek and straight, with a crisp "smile line," or distinction between pink and white. Today, however, the nails don't have to be good. They just have to be filed smooth to the touch. The judges estimate that it will take 15 minutes to do all 10 nails — 90 seconds per finger. The winning time will be enshrined in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Cuticles soaked and trimmed, the competitors are ready. Eight tiny brushes hover above eight tiny pots of acrylic. The contest director starts the clock: "On your mark, get set. Go!"
The contestants dab and pat and swipe and stroke and buff. Contestant No. 112 fumbles with her buffing file. Drat! Precious seconds wasted. Contestant No. 102, Azumi Kanene, who flew in from Hawaii, is as stoic and silent as the grave. A look of intense concentration fills her peachy, pale face. She dips brush into liquid monomer, then into acrylic, picking up a small ball of wet powder. Her model holds her breath. Kanene's touch is light as a feather.
John Hauk, contestant No. 106, the competition's lone man, is doing things a little differently. He starts with pink acrylic instead of white. Perspiration beads on his forehead.
But it's Contestant No. 101, Amy Becker, from Milwaukee, who does things extremely differently. She is deploying tiny, plastic molds shaped like nails. She tamps the acrylic into the molds, then presses the molds onto the fingers. When the acrylic hardens, she pops off the molds. A quick blast with a tiny heater, and she's done. She rolls the model's fingers this way and that, inspecting them. Finished.Up next: Things get ugly