The journey from humble manicurist to reality-TV star has been an unusual and unexpected one for DC native Celeste Hampton. After growing up in Japan as part of a military family, Hampton attended Eastern Technical School in Georgia and largely taught herself the trade—the art lover is known for elaborate Warhol- and Picasso-inspired nail designs—before winding up a competitor on Oxygen’s reality show Nail’d It, which airs Tuesdays at 9. We chatted with Hampton to get the scoop on her favorite nail trends and what it’s like to be on a reality show.
What inspired you to go into nail art?
I’ve always been an artist—I got that from my dad. My dad draws, so I’ve been drawing all my life. That was the aspect that I loved about doing nails: trying to put something regular-size on a very small canvas.
How has your time in DC influenced your nail art?
The fashion here is amazing. That definitely inspires a lot of my nails. At DC Fashion Week, I definitely pay attention to all the different trends and mimic that with my nail art.
What’s a nail trend you’ve seen recently?
People ask for nudes so much! It’s so popular in the fashion world right now. I try to have every shade of nude. Everyone loves Swarovski crystals. I order those, like, every month because people want them all the time. They’re beautiful. Floral patterns are very huge. I do a lot of hand-painted faces on people’s nails.
Really? What kind of faces?
I had a client who wanted her boss’s face on her nails. It was a challenge for her job. I take a lot from art, too. When I do the nails of people who are already artists, I don’t want to mess up on a piece they consider their baby. I love doing stuff like that because the artists themselves are always so amazed at the extent of it.
Did you ever think you’d be on a reality show?
Never, ever did I ever think I would be on a reality show. Ever. When Oxygen reached out to me, I thought it was a joke. They found me through social networks. It was crazy.
What are your plans if you win?
I want my own salon in DC. A nail bar.
What’s it been like on the show so far?
It’s definitely stressful. I’ve never done a competition before. This is all new to me. You have to be here, and you’re under strict time. When I do nails I can pretty much map out how much time it takes for me to finish a client, but when you have a clock sitting in front of you and you’re down to the second, it is stressful. But I’ve had so much fun doing this. Oxygen has really stepped up as far as the network is concerned. This is the first nail show in the US—the opportunity is once in a lifetime. It’s been a journey, to say the least.