Q&A: Rita Remark, Global Lead Educator for Essie

Essie's global lead educator, Rita Remark

Essie's global lead educator, Rita Remark

During a rare breather backstage at World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto, the nail-art star tells us how she scored her dream job

If anyone understands the importance of keeping your nails on fleek, it’s Rita Remark. The Toronto-based polish pro has been Essie Canada’s lead nail artist since 2012, and in September, became the brand’s first-ever global lead educator, which means she now shares her hands-on expertise with manicurists around the globe.

Having honed her skills at Toronto’s award-winning Tips Nail Bar, beloved by beauty editors for its innovative manicure designs, Remark regularly lends her artistic vision to editorials in some of North America’s top fashion and beauty glossies, including Flare, LOULOU and Harper’s Bazaar (see: Serena Williams’ deep red mani in the November 2015 issue). With a long-standing gig at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week, Remark can also be found backstage at the New York tents, where she designed the Spring 2016 nail looks for Jenny Packham, Sally LaPointe and Wes Gordon.

Here, Remark shares her tips on breaking into (and surviving) the runway rigmarole, finding inspiration and achieving a perfect manicure. Spoiler alert: It’s all about the filing.

How did you get your start in the beauty business? I worked at a nail bar around the time that nail art was just [taking off], and everybody was slowly but surely warming up to the idea of having statement designs. Not a lot of people were doing it at the time, and we were very lucky to move in and champion nail art while it was fresh.

What was your first backstage runway experience? Greta Constantine, the Toronto designers, with the salon I was working at. We did a black smoky ombré nail. It was thrilling! It was one of those experiences where, once I had a taste of it, I was addicted.

What advice would you give to a manicurist who wants to work backstage? Definitely get some salon experience. Simply being a nail artist isn’t going to cut it because backstage, we’re taking care of many problems and are, in essence, giving a full manicure. It’s not always just about the polish. Models have been through a lot of runway shows and their nails are starting to wear, so we’re doing a lot of moisturizing, cuticle care, filing. It’s a full package.

How do you keep your cool backstage? Practice. This is my seventh season backstage at Toronto fashion week, and I’ve learned that it’s always going to be a bit chaotic. Know where you’re supposed to be, and understand that you’re probably in somebody's way most of the time. Everybody’s moving around—you’ve just gotta go with the flow.

What’s one thing you’ve learned backstage that you wish you’d known when you first started? Don’t take anything personally. Work fast and efficiently.

What are your top three products for WMCFW spring 2016? Essie’s Matte About You is big this season. For the Haley [Elsaesser] show, we’re using six of our Watercolours—I literally copied her metallic rainbow dress. And cuticle oil. It’s the hero every season! I don’t know what we’d do without it.


Rita’s Nail Looks from Toronto Fashion Week:

Which one of your signature techniques should every woman know? Filing. I’m very particular on having the same shape and length throughout. Each nail should always look exactly the same. It’s a big pet peeve of mine when I see nail art done and I’m like, But that one’s square-shaped, that one’s long, that one’s oval. They gotta match!

Who do you admire as a living icon in the beauty world? Definitely Pat McGrath [international makeup artist and creative design director of P&G Beauty]. As far as carving a path and consistently changing up the game, her creativity just blows my mind.

What is your biggest beauty regret? I don’t have any regrets—they all make me laugh. I’ve never done anything that’s had a lasting effect on my appearance, so I can’t regret it. It’s hilarious that I had skinny eyebrows and black hair in high school. You learn from it.

If you could change anything about the beauty industry, what would that be? If you had asked me this years ago, I would have said we need to embrace more forms of beauty, [but] I think we’re heading in that direction. Continue moving; keep that ball rolling.