How nail art became an Olympic beauty ritual
The manicurist behind the manicure, Emily Gilmour, said the British athlete was “very involved” in the design process. The nails intentionally “celebrated” the host nation of the Olympics, she explained via email, adding, “She wanted a nod to Japanese culture.”
Dina Asher-Smith’s Great Wave off the Nails of Kanegawa by Emily Gilmour, seen at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Credit: Andrej Isakovic / AFP / Getty Images
At each edition of the Olympic Games, professional athletes are expected to act as their country’s spokespersons on the world stage. Audience scrutiny goes beyond athletic prowess to encompass their social media presence and physical appearance – nail art included.
Over the years, Olympic manicures have become a tournament ritual for some and a form of gentle diplomacy for others, whether it is following Asher-Smith’s lead in honoring the host nation or proudly wearing gel nail flags in a display of patriotism.
Clemilda Fernandes Silva of Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Speaking to CNN Style via email from Tokyo, Robinson said the Olympic Village nail salons are incredibly popular. She added: “Sometimes it can be difficult to get a reservation for the day.”
Close-up of the gel nails to press that Emily Gilmour made for Dina Asher-Smith of the GB team, inspired by “Great Wave off Kanegawa” by Hokusai. Credit: Emily Gilmour @emilysmakeupandnails
Since then, nail art seems to have gained popularity among Olympians. “It’s a way for athletes to express themselves beyond their performance,” said Robinson,
In the case of Hong Kong Olympic swimmer Camille Cheng, it’s also a way to stand out beyond her uniform. “As swimmers we run with pretty standard caps, goggles and wetsuits,” she said via email from Tokyo. “I think getting my nails done adds a bit of my personality.”
The manicure inspired by the French flag of the printer Mélanie Couzy during the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Credit: Tauseef Mustafa / AFP / Getty Images
Cheng’s hand-painted soft gel manicure featured the Olympic rings, the Japanese flag, and the bauhinia flower that appears on the Hong Kong flag. Hong Kong salon Tinted nail artist Nana Chan also created miniature swimmers battling the waves, made up of blue swirls and negative space.
“For these Olympics, I wanted Hong Kong to be represented, Japan (because it’s held in Tokyo), the Olympic rings and something related to water or swimming,” explained Cheng, who also participated. at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “We are proud to represent our country on the biggest sporting stage and we reflect it in our nails.”
Tinted founder Carroll Lee called it an “honor” to work with Cheng, while nail artist Chan said, “It was almost like Camille was bringing my spirit with her to compete in the Olympics. ”
Details of another design by Emily Gilmour for Dina Asher-Smith Credit: Emily Gilmour @emilysmakeupandnails
“Good Luck Talismans”
“I believe fingernails can be a form of luck,” Gilmour said. “To me nails are no different from having a lucky necklace or some other form of talisman.”
Serena Williams’ American flag-inspired manicure at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Credit: Luis Acosta / AFP / Getty Images
Making sure the talismans stay put is another issue, however. For Asher-Smith’s elaborate designs, Gilmour created a set of “easily applied with nail glue” pressures, as they were best suited for high-intensity sports where “the nails may be under pressure.” ManiMe, a company specializing in adhesive gel nails that only take 15 minutes to apply, has also supplied similar products to the US Women’s Rowing Team in the recent past, with founder Jooyeon Song saying via email that the athletes “were looking for a nail solution that could withstand their grueling aquatic training program.”
For others, like Cheng, manicures have become a “pre-race ritual” and a form of self-care in the midst of intense training. “We work hard during the season and for me the fun part is running,” she said, adding, “I think getting my nails done is like a grooming session (and a way to). make it fun for hard work. “