In her “You and I” video, filmed just outside Omaha, Lady Gaga was a mermaid, a bionic fashionista, a leather-clad dominatrix and a demure bride, among other characters.
For each of these personas, of course, Gaga had an elaborate costume. And the singer had elaborate nails to match — fractured nails held together with rivets and tiny pieces of wire, nails the pattern of wood grain, deep blue nails adorned with studs, nails made out of hollow Latex tubes.
Judi Wendt, a nail technician at Rêvé Salon, 11025 Elm St., was among the artists responsible for those nails. Her hand-painted designs and innate ability to pick up on emerging nail trends have won her many devoted clients during the two decades she’s practiced her craft.
And this week, Wendt is in New York, designing nails for six shows during the city’s famous fall fashion week.
Wendt left Friday afternoon, after a nearly full day of work in which she saw seven clients. Reached by phone on Thursday, she said she didn’t yet know the full roster of designers she would be working with, but she knew that Rebecca Taylor and Donna Karan were in the mix. She had no idea what sort of nail art she’d design.
“It’s all last minute,” she said, “but I think it will fun.”
Wendt’s arrival onto the national nail scene started with a product called Minx.
She was looking through a magazine and noticed a model’s patterned nails. Wendt could tell they weren’t hand-painted. She could tell they weren’t acrylic, either. Intrigued, she did some digging and learned they were Minx, a then relatively new and not widely available polymer that is applied to the nail like a sticker, then molded and filed into the desired shape. Wendt called the company to request a sample, then another. When the product became available nationally, she signed up for the company’s very first workshop.
Not long after the workshop, Lady Gaga and nail guru Marian Newman came to Omaha for the video shoot. In need of a local nail technician, Newman called Minx, who directed her to Wendt.
The video shoot was exhilarating, Wendt said. She and Newman designed and created the nails, and then stood offstage during the shooting in case one fell off or broke. Wendt’s pockets were full of tips, some of which she kept as souvenirs.
“I have the actual nails that we did on her,” Wendt said.
After the Gaga video, Newman invited her to Paris, Milan and elsewhere, but Wendt, a mom, was never able to go.
“So when she called about the New York Fashion Week thing, I was like ‘Heck, yes, let’s go,’” Wendt said.
At New York Fashion Week last fall and again this spring, nails featured lots of texture, pattern and color, and Wendt said she expected this year to be the same (and that’s certainly been true so far).
To be prepared for anything, Wendt packed her bag of polishes, lacquers, polymers, decals and metal.
“We travel with all sorts of pieces of metal,” she said. “You just never know what comes of it.”
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