Meet The Nail Artist: Mei Kawajiri of @nailsbymei
The artist bringing your mani dreams to life.
From Dua Lipa to Bella Hadid, nail artist Mei Kawajiri is the go-to for some of today’s most influential talents, creating the viral nail art wonders that are most likely gracing your feed daily. Kawajiri also counts herself as one of ManiMe’s beloved collaborators, having worked with the brand most recently on the 2021 Glow Up collection, creating three stunning gel nail designs — including one previously seen on Dua Lipa herself.
The Japanese-born, New York City-based artist draws inspiration from all around her, but credits her home country with the foundation of her aesthetic. “My style is very influenced by Japanese culture,” she shared. “I always try to look at things in a unique and new way.” That approach to the true art of nails and design is evident in the range of Kawajiri’s work, going from glam french nails one day to extra-long museum-worthy designs the next.
Ahead, read on to hear more about her process, style, and tips on how to accomplish your own Insta-worthy manicures at home (hint: it involves ManiMe stick on gel nails).
What was your introduction to nails and nail art?
Mei Kawajiri: Nails are the canvas for my art. Nail art is my favorite style of art, because it is always a part of my body. My nail art is funny, dynamic, detailed, surprising, kawaii.
How did you develop your nail art style?
MK: I was born in Japan, and my style is very influenced by Japanese culture. I always try to look at things in a unique and new way. I can find inspiration stopping into hardware stores, thrift shops, toy stores, fabric stores! My materials are not just nail products.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
MK: Anime, fashion, movies, and what is happening around me in life!
What's your best tip for an at-home manicure?
MK: Use ManiMe! It is the best way to have amazing, at home nail art! Use a simple manicure file to shape, push up the cuticle (never cut too much of the cuticle!) buff nail bed, apply base coat as treatment, and don’t forget cuticle oil afterwards!
What advice would you give to an aspiring nail artist?
MK: Try unique designs, and believe in your original ideas. Also, even if there is elaborate art, remember that clean and healthy nails are a must. It is as important as what is on top of the finger tip.
What are your favorite colors or textures for nail art?
MK: My favorite color is bright red, but I also change my mind every day, so I would say it actually depends on my mood! ManiMe makes it easy to change your manicure often without damaging your nails like traditional gel. I love 3D nail art texture and a shiny look with round edges, almost like cute little plastic toys on your finger tips.
What does a day in the life of Mei Kawajiri look like?
MK: [I] usually wake up early around 7-8am and make coffee. I love to do pilates [and] yoga for about 30-60 mins. Movement is so important for me, sometimes I’ll just dance. Then it is time to take a shower and get ready for work! Work is always different everyday — sometimes it is nails for clients, creating nails for special projects, sketching. If I have a photoshoot, I am normally at the studio for the entire day. In my free time, I love walking around and people watching. It is so relaxing to cook and watch movies (mostly anime!)
What's one hard truth about the industry that doesn't get talked about enough?
MK: Many industries still refer to us as manicurists, but I really think we are nail artists.
What's one look or design that you're most proud of?
MK: I love these hand painted super long anime nails, they are like a fine art masterpiece.
Bold or subtle? Bold
Bright or neutral? Bright
Matte or glossy finish? Glossy
What's something in your bag right now? iPad Pro with iPad pen always for drawing.
What's your coffee order? Coffee with fluffy oat milk and cinnamon powder
What's your sign? Pisces
Heels or sneakers? Sneakers
Where can we find you? @nailsbymei on Instagram - see you there!