Celebrity manicurist Beth Fricke remembers her first-time doing a manicure for an “everyday” client. It was at a salon where acrylic nails were the thing to do. A newbie, Fricke could barely conceal her nervousness. Sometimes clients would ask questions that she wasn’t sure how to answer. But a little bit of the pro that she was to become started to slip in. Fricke learned to listen to the answers some of the older and more experienced manicurists would give to their questions. She made it a part of her routine to read all the nail magazines that were around. Oh, and she got inquisitive, really, really inquisitive, asking all the right questions.
Years later, she found herself giving one of her first ever celebrity manicures. The client? A singer named Mariah Carey. Fricke was a production assistant on a music video Mimi was shooting at Edwards Air Force Base. On a Friday night, Mariah was needing a manicure for the next morning, but there were no salons in the area, and all the beauty and manicure agencies had closed shop for the night.
Beth Fricke to the rescue! The music coordinator for the shoot sent Fricke off with $300 of shopping money, and Fricke shrewdly gathered all the needed materials, and voila, Mariah Carey was served. “It was my first time not working at a table and with other people. I didn’t have a routine or rhythm… she was very sweet. And then I was to change my shirt and go pick up trash in the parking lot.”
No one asks Beth Fricke to pick up trash these days. She gives the orders now, thank you very much.
How did you initially get interested in a career as a manicurist?
I took some time off in high school and
didn’t want to finish, so got my GED. Before I started taking college courses, the family suggested I should have a trade on which to fall back. I wanted to do floral arranging… my Aunt suggested manicuring. The money was better with manicuring, so I took that route. That said, I always wanted to be an artist, but didn’t have the traditional skill set to make a living at that. Manicuring and acrylic nails allowed me to be that artist, and to be the giver/ service provider that I am which is why I love it so much.
How did you get your first major client?
I guess that would depend how you define major client. My first major clients were from my first salon in Kansas City: a nail biter, a Lee-press-on-set-gone-wrong, and a couple of really cool ladies. I did their nails for a decade until I left Kansas City.
My next major clients were from the spa I worked at in Los Angeles: a Disney exec, a casting agent, a lawyer. And I’ve done them for another decade. As far as celebrities go, that would be Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Kate Bosworth. I met Rosie on Victoria’s Secret’s jobs and she referred Kate. I see them when they are in town or have events.
Let’s say it’s a Wednesday in the work life of Beth Fricke celebrity manicurist. You live in LA, so because of your clients on the other coast, you probably rise on East-coast time…and how does it go from there?
Most of the photo shoots in Los Angeles will start between 5 and 10 am, some close by, some locations an hour or more away. East coast usually starts around 9 or 10. I arrive, figure out what we are doing, speak with the stylist, photographer, editor, hair, make-up and talent to determine the direction and color for the nails and wait for my window to get started. Often hair, make-up and I work together on the talent to save time. I am usually there at least through one wardrobe change, sometimes all day for polish changes or editorial security.
Sometimes calls will come in during the day for last minute jobs. I usually have to be there within the hour. I have a few regular clients that I see in the evenings or on Sunday mornings. Consequently, most of that work is in Los Angeles, and at the moment in New Orleans.
What should everyone know when it comes to taking care of their nails?
A little cuticle oil a couple times a week will make the nails healthy and happy. If you are not in socks and shoes, you need to put some lotion on your feet… that will keep them soft. Do not cut things that are in use! This goes for cuticles and calluses.
Are there certain techniques that you use to make a manicure last?
Yes! So many! Clearing all of the cuticle from the nail, gently buffing the surface of the nail, wiping the nail with acetone, pH balancing the nail, the right base coat, the right polish, drying between coats, the right top coat, and oil to replenish the nail and cuticle. Repeating top coat every day or two will hold it even longer.
I am terrible with follow-up, so I pretty heavily rely on doing the best job I can do, giving all the love I can, hoping they like my style and keep coming back. Everybody likes something different, but the ones that like me stay around for a while.
What factors do you think timing and persistence play in the success of a beauty entrepreneur such as yourself?
Timing is always important, but it’s hard to know when it’s good or not when you’re in the middle of it. I came back to manicuring and started looking for an agent five minutes before it became a thing. Right place, right time, but I didn’t know that for a few more years. So, what I did focus on was the persistence: reminding people I was available, showing up always and on time, giving the best manicure every time, being present but quiet, accommodating, happy, zen… I kept getting the calls because I was consistent.
And how do you go about staying on top of your game?
I read all the nail magazines: Nails, NailPro, Scratch and Nail It! I listen to Nail Talk Radio, talk to other manicurists, attend conventions and continuing education classes, and try new products.
Glamour, 944, US Weekly and Genlux have all called on you to speak your mind about emerging trends. What are some of the trends you anticipate will take over the nail world in the next few years?
I am usually speaking to current and next season’s fashion trends and color forecasts. As far as emerging trends, I think we will continue to see further development with long-wear products and colors (like soft gels and Vinylux), and with consumer access to nail art tools, supplies and tutorials, I don’t see that going away anytime soon. I personally would like to see more value on the health/medical aspects of manicures and pedicures, attention to detail and pride in the work…
As a manicurist who’s very much in demand on both coasts, how do you manage that? I imagine there’s a lot of traveling…jet-lagging.
For the most part, manicurists claim a town and do their primary work there. There are occasional trips, but not so often keeps it fun.
Here you are…a little girl from Kansas City, who has some of Hollywood’s biggest names as clients. What have you not accomplished as of yet that you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years?
A steady income. [Laughter] No really, I have really done more than I could have ever imagined!
I have just settled in New Orleans to accommodate all the celebrity clientele shooting here now, and am going back into a salon and spa to get back to my roots, a table with a light and to meet some new people. And flying back to Los Angeles and to Miami for editorial/advertising work.
You studied film and television in college. Do you ever hope to turn your attention back to that…perhaps make a documentary or feature film about Cixi, the socialite that some say was the original manicurist in ancient China?
Choosing the study of film/TV was really me trying to get me out of school fast so I could go to law school. Who knew I would have loved it and then started working in the field? I was really more about the production and logistics than the creative side. That sounds like a great documentary… I know some people… we could make that happen…
What if you were called on to give a motivational speech to this year’s graduation class of a nail tech program in Kansas City? And each of these students had their mind set on being the next Beth Fricke, or as close as possible. What would you say in your speech?
As with anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If you value, appreciate and love yourself and your work, others/clients/employers will too. Life is too short to not enjoy your work and to not have fun at work… it’s not always fun and easy, but for the most part, we all want to be happy and deal with happy people. It is contagious.
The “glamorous” jobs usually involve a ton of consistent, reliable, hard work for unreliable, if any, money. The free work has to be done to earn the paid work… The best business is repeat business! Work like you don’t need the money…