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CANNES, France — As a married father of three, Tom Bachik is an unlikely poster boy for the manicure trade, but make no mistake: The self-branded “MAN-icurist” has his sights set on the top.
The most recent addition to the L’Oréal Paris team of makeup and hair experts, the Californian made his first appearance for the cosmetics brand at the Cannes Film Festival in May, creating looks for brand ambassadors including Freida Pinto, Milla Jovovich and Barbara Palvin.
With a roster of regular clients that includes Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham, Bachik has been one of the industry’s hottest nail artists for close to two decades. Now, he is ready to bring his expertise to a wider audience.
“Do you remember the old nail commercials with Madge?” he said, referring to Madge the Manicurist, the character that appeared in Eighties TV ads for Palmolive.
“Madge became like a household name for manicurists. I remember when I started out, they said, ‘What’s your goal?’ and I said, ‘To be bigger than Madge!’” he recalled with a laugh.
As a celebrity spokesman for L’Oréal Paris, Bachik creates looks for its brand ambassadors, both on the red carpet and in commercials. But with extensive experience in research and development, he hopes to eventually have a hand in product development.
“With L’Oréal being the world’s largest cosmetics company, I feel that there is so much to learn, still, in all aspects of the business,” he said.
The 41-year-old, who studied graphic design, originally leaned toward a career in airbrushing. When a cousin suggested that a more lucrative future lay in painting nails, he was far from convinced — but the prospect of a recession-proof job soon won him over.
“When you’re painting race cars or motorcycle helmets, your clients come back once a year. In the nail industry, they’re back every two weeks. And so it was kind of that opportunity to build a clientele based on how hard I wanted to work,” he said.
Once he got started, Bachik was unstoppable.
“I figured if I was going to be a guy doing nails, I’d better be good at it. So when I was in school, I found out that they have nail competitions,” he said. “And I’ve always been competitive, racing jet skis and bikes, and having played sports all my life. So, I was like, ‘I can compete at doing nails? The girls are going down!’”
By 1995, less than two years after getting his manicurist license, he was ranked as the number-one nail competitor by the trade publication Nails Magazine, and has since won hundreds of competition titles at trade shows.
That in turn led to successive gigs with companies including Creative Nail Design — at the time a division of Revlon — and Chanel, which, in 2010, hired Bachik as its first celebrity manicurist. Over the years, he has worked in every aspect of the business, from marketing and sales, to R&D and education.
In parallel, Bachik has created countless looks for runway shows, magazines and music videos, perfecting everything from a flawless French manicure to extravagant creations featuring feathers, dried flowers, beads and even diamonds encased in acrylics and gels.
Bachik’s handiwork will next be seen in the video for Jennifer Lopez’s “Goin’ In,” and the new L’Oréal Paris advertisements starring Gwen Stefani. “We did a little chromed Eiffel Tower on the nail,” he revealed.
The nail guru’s ascendance has coincided with the explosion of Asian nail salons in the United States, which brought with it a whole new generation of customers. His favorite aspect of the job is seeing how nail color can influence a woman’s mood.
“They come in, apologizing, ‘Don’t look at my nails. They’re chipped,’ whatever. And then by the time you’re done with the manicure, they’re talking with their hands, and they’re expressive and they’re confident. It’s funny how for so many women, just having a good manicure makes them feel complete.”