Madeline Poole’s Karl Lagerfeld nail art.
About five years ago, Madeline Poole was assisting the prop stylist on a photo shoot when she saw a woman painting the model’s nails. Wait, she thought, that’s a job? Until then, the word ‘manicurist’ made her think of her local salon, but as soon as she realized it was a real career—one that let her hang out on set without lugging props around—she was in. “I’d had a lot of odd jobs in LA, and people said I’d be good at this because I was sort of a miniaturist already,” she says. “I had a lot of patience.”
Poole went to CVS to buy a handful of supplies, set up a small table in her apartment, and immediately invited friends over to paint their nails. Then their friends started coming over, and then those people’s friends, until she was operating her own makeshift nail salon at home. “I remember picking up these acrylic paints and the first thing I did was a Hello Kitty design on the tip of my nail,” she says. “I thought that was so easy! If I can paint it on paper, I can paint it on a nail.” She started a blog, asked her newfound clientele to share their manicures across social media, and landed a book deal.
Manicurist Madeline Poole. Photo: Sally Hansen
Along the way, Poole went to nail school, and earned buzz for her sophisticated take on nail art. On Instagram, New York it-girls like Jen Brill and Chrissy Miller showed off Poole’s negative-space designs, which became Poole’s signature. “My style is this very simple, wearable kind of unexpected twist on a manicure,” she says. “I’m always looking for ways to take something simple and do a new design that’s never been seen before.” It didn’t take long for Vogue to come calling, and now Poole paints plenty of famous nails, as well as the models at Stella McCartney’s runway shows, while earning profiles in magazines like InStyle and Teen Vogue.
When Poole’s parents said, “Huh?” to her newfound career, she pointed out the Sally Hansen ads at their local drugstore. “See,” she said. “I’m going to be the person doing those ads someday.” Just four years later, the brand signed Poole on as their Global Color Ambassador. “It’s one of the only brands that has hand and skincare along with color products,” Poole says of Sally Hansen. “It’s so important, and neglected by a lot of artists, but haggard cuticles ruin everything.”
An image from Poole’s inspiring Instagram feed, @mpnails.
If you’re wondering what Poole wears on her nails, the quick answer is, “I love classic red.” But then she adds, “…and periwinkle blue and bubblegum pink, and the color Jungle Gym. I love navy blue. Dark Humor is a really great, dark color. I just love color!” Probably because when she paints it, everything looks good.
Stay tuned for monthly nail art tutorials from Poole, starting next week!