Photograph of Mei and photograph of the by CHLOE. manicure collaged against a red and white striped background.

Nails By Mei

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Q+A W/ CELEBRITY NAIL ARTIST, MEI KAWAJIRI

Someone once described Mei Kawajiri as “the most talented artist working on the smallest canvas,” and we couldn’t agree more. She is able to recreate famous musicians, iconic art, and even beloved condiment bottles, all on teeny tiny nails. Her excellent skill, creativity, lovely personality and ability to connect with her customers has launched Mei into a stardom of her own. She’s (almost) as famous as her clients, who range from Gigi and Bella Hadid to Balenciaga to Ariana Grande.

We had so much fun visiting Mei at her studio-slash-apartment where she painted a by CHLOE. themed manicure, complete with our original cupcake, fries, ice cream, burger and kale icons! Mei shared with us where she how she got started with nails, where she gets her inspiration from, and even showed us her “vintage” collection of past nails she has painted. At the end of our visit, we were sad to leave Mei, but can’t wait to see what big things are next for her and her tiny canvases!

 

 

by CHLOE.: Hi Mei! Tell us about your path to becoming one of the top celebrity nail artists. How did you get started? Was nail art something you were always interested in?
Mei Kawajiri: I started as a nail artist when I was 19 years old in Japan, and moved to New York City in 2012. I always wanted to be an artist, and I realized nail artist is the best because I can always be wearing my art on me.

 

bC: We love your unique aesthetic! How do you come up with such inventive design ideas? What are you inspired by?

MK: I am inspired by everything I think is cool or new. That includes movies, fashion, and culture. When I moved to New York, I became inspired by American culture.

 

bC: You lived in Japan before moving to New York in 2012. What do you miss most about Japan, and what do you love most about NYC?

MK: I miss Japanese food and shopping!! There are so many cute clothes and shoes in Japan! What I love the most about NYC is the passion, energy, and craziness. I usually get bored quickly, but NYC doesn’t let me get bored.

 

bC: You’re constantly traveling, on photoshoots and surrounded by people. What’s your favorite part about your job?

MK: Meeting so many amazing people! Also learning about music, English, restaurants, fashion, movies, and fun things to do.

 

bC: You’re designs often go viral and are imitated, like the boob manicure. Does this bother you, or do you believe imitation is just flattery?

MK: OHHHH! It makes me so happy. People copying my work is the biggest complement! But I don’t copy anyone. I’m always happy to be a nail leader, it’s an honor. Thanks for imitating me! 🙂

 

bC: What is next for you? Would you ever consider opening a nail salon?

MK: It would be nice to have my own studio. First, I gotta get more famous!! And yes, someday I want to open a studio called “We <3 Nails by Mei.”

 

bC: We must ask. Do you do your own nails?

MK: I never get my nails done! I always do them myself. “Don’t touch my nails!”

 

 

RAPID FIRE:

Style icon? 70’s movie stars, Elvis, Elton John, and Mark Gonzales.

Three things you can’t live without? Sneakers, ice cream, iPhone XR, and a hairbrush.

How do you destress? Listening to music, eating tiramisu, and dancing.

Favorite place you’ve ever been? Elvis’s House.

Choice super hero power? Flying in the sky.

Favorite thing in your closet right now? I don’t have a closet (haha), but maybe a Miu Miu jacket, or one of my vintage suits.

Last song you listened to? Je T’aimé.

What’s in your handbag right now? Phone charger, toothbrush, moisturizer, key, money, credit card, notebook, and nail tips.

Secret talent? Karaoke.