Beauty Chats with New ISLA Nail Artist Maddox
Welcome to the ISLA team! Tell us a bit about yourself; where did you grow up and what brought you to Berlin?
Thank you so much, I am so happy to be a part of ISLA! I grew up in the Southern United States, specifically Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has a really thriving art scene, and I think being immersed in that as a child really helped me develop a strong creative energy that has carried me well into uni and beyond! After graduating high school I headed north to New England where I studied Textiles for four years at Rhode Island School of Design.
Honestly, I ended up in Berlin on a complete fluke! Near the end of uni, I started sending out applications for as many jobs as I could and was over the moon happy when I found out I landed an internship at one of my favorite companies at the time, Namilia. When I initially applied, I had no idea they were located in Berlin. I always figured I’d end up a few hours away in NYC, or maybe LA. When I got the job, I had no reservations, I just packed my bags and went! Flew out literally the day after walking the stage at graduation.
How did you hear about us and how did the opportunity of working as a nail artist at ISLA come about?
When I found out I was moving to Berlin, I immediately took to Insta and started scoping out brands, stores, salons, influencers, etc that were popular there. As you can imagine, it did not take long to find ISLA! For months, I swooned over the nails from across the pond in the US. After I arrived in Berlin and got settled, I finally went to ISLA and got an amazing set of jelly nails from Roslin that had smiley faces and glitter. Everyone and their mother heard about / saw those nails if they were in my vicinity-- I absolutely loved them! That was about this time last year. Now I am working as a nail artist.
As far as how I met Charissa and then started working at ISLA, it all started last fall when I took a job handing out flyers at a fitness convention at one of the old airports in Berlin. After my internship at Namilia ended, I started up German language classes and was taking on as many small, random jobs as possible in the meantime to support myself. I found the flyer job on an “English speaking jobs Berlin” Facebook group. As it turns out, the man who hired me to hand out these pamphlets was an incredible person and ended up hiring me to work on a lot of various design projects over the next few months. He also happened to be in business with Charissa (small world!), and pretty soon I started doing small design jobs for her as well.
In January, Charissa slid into my DMs and asked if I had ever considered doing nail art as some of my makeup looks were very detailed and maybe I would have a knack for it. I was absolutely buzzing and started training at ISLA soon after. Never looked back!
You originally trained as a makeup artist - how did your love of all things beauty related begin?
I have always loved makeup and like many other 90’s baby makeup artists, I was the girl constantly lurking around the MAC kiosk at my local mall. My older cousin Hannah Jordan was my style icon since day one and she loved makeup so I did too. By the time I was 13, I was definitely wearing a full face whenever I woke up early enough in the morning! We had uniforms in middle school, which I found really toxic and stifling, as it denies kids the opportunity to express themselves through clothes. I turned to makeup instead! I think one of the most rewarding parts of makeup is the transformative aspect; I could feel like one type of person while wearing pink winged liner and a green lip, and another person entirely while wearing a charcoal eye and a matte black lip. It was a good stand in for not being able to wear different outfits! I was always trying new things, bright colors and glitter were the MVPs. Hair was no exception--in the span of two years I had dyed my hair nearly every color of the rainbow, including having an extremely long, blonde weave sewn in. It ended just above my tailbone, and everyone called me Lady Gaga. I was fine with that! There was absolutely a rule against this, but the school administrators sort of winked and sent me on my way. I went to a relatively conservative and very small high school and even though I definitely looked like the odd one out, all of my peers and teachers were really supportive and totally accepted me doing my own thing.Having now officially trained as a nail artist, do you see any similarities in the skills needed? How have you found the transition from makeup artist to nail artist?
When I arrived at ISLA, I thought I knew how to paint nails pretty well…turns out I had more than a few things to learn! ISLA is, of course, an incredible salon with absolutely top notch work and it has been a very humbling process working to bring my work up to standard. Through practicing new techniques and discovering which worked for me, my polish got smoother, designs crisper, cuticles cleaner, lines straighter, etc. As I pushed myself to improve my nail art skills, my attention to detail and cleanliness drastically improved in my makeup looks. I have a much higher standard for myself, and I want to continue to raise the bar!
Each nail artist at ISLA has their own unique style. How would you describe yours and are there any particular looks/designs you are loving right now?
I would say that my style is colorful, bold, and edgy, but also a little bit sweet. Pastels and jellies are my favorite polishes to work with, and I tend to gravitate to traditionally “cute” elements such as sparkles, stars, and hearts. That being said, I also have a serious soft spot for retro motifs such as car dice, cherries, 8 balls, Nokia phones, Nintendo, tamagotchis, lava lamps, Lisa Frank, and the Powerpuff Girls. I will be the second person--Alina was first!--to say that I’m not over the flames, I still love them! One of the coolest trends I have seen circulating lately is the incredible lava lamp nails from Liam Peter (@liampeternails). My biggest inspiration in the nail community is Kro Vargas (@krocaine), a nail artist from Miami. Charissa introduced me to her work a few months ago, and I was blown away. I really admire that her style is unmistakably her own--badass meets cute meets 2000’s fantasy. No one else does nails like her!
We’ve been following your Instagram and your makeup looks are incredible! Where do you get your ideas from and how do they develop into a final look?
Thank you so, so, much! I mostly get my ideas from other artists that I see on Instagram; I am a discover page stalker and am saving things left and right. A lot of my looks draw inspiration from drag culture and the idea of using makeup, hair, and styling to transform yourself into a character. I closely follow many queens in the local scene and some more well known queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and am constantly looking to them to get my wheels rolling! When I have a free day with enough time to do a makeup look, I will sit down at my table and start trying to sort out which sort of look I want to tackle! I always have ideas in my head and sometimes it’s hard to decide which looks to pursue. Sometimes I will do a little sketch, but usually I just go for it. If I have a reference, I turn off my phone’s lock screen and keep the photo up so I can study it as needed. Between set up, filming, taking final photos, and clean up, it usually takes me about three hours for a “simple” look and up to five or six for a complex one. I hope to get faster with more practice and better techniques! When it comes to editing, I keep it minimal, just brightening, color correcting and doing away with little blemishes. The software I use is Photoshop; I know a lot of influencers are FaceTune loyal but I have no idea how to use it and have been working with Photoshop since I was a teen, so that’s most comfortable for me!
Instagram is obviously a powerful tool for creatives like yourself to share your work. Who do you look to for inspiration?
Instagram is the first place I go for inspiration; I am constantly checking my discover page, and I have different save collections for fashion, nails, and makeup. There are so many big-name influencers whose work I follow closely, but I would love to draw attention to lesser known accounts who maybe don’t get as much traction but are still killer! First and foremost I really respect and am inspired by Eleonora Piras’ work (@ele.pirass). Her looks are executed to perfection on top of being well-designed which is something I aspire to in my work. Next up would be @honeydon.t --not sure what her real name is. All of her photos have this beautiful dewey, sun-kissed glow, and the makeup looks are colorful and experimental. 10/10 would recommend! I also love Kiko (@kikopaint), she uses a lot of unconventional materials in her looks; they really push avant-garde / couture beauty to a new level. Last time I checked she was glueing broccoli stems to her face and turned up looking like she walked off a runway. Unbelievable!
What is beauty to you?
For me, beauty is whatever makes you feel like your best self. There is no right or wrong way to be beautiful. My sense of what is beautiful is always evolving--I guess this principle gives birth to things like trends in the fashion scene. Right now, beauty for me is baggy pants, natural makeup, adidas sneakers, a loop to pocket chain, an oversized patterned tee, socks with fruit on them, and a beanie!
What would your dream project be to work on?
My dream project would be to do creative makeup and styling for / in collaboration with Jazzelle Zanaughtti (@uglyworldwide). Jazzelle is a professional model and Instagram star who has developed a unique image that flows freely between masculine and feminine aesthetics. An article in Vice described her as “sitting right in the center of fashion's rising representations of racial diversity and queer gender expression,” and I think these are the most important things. She is an absolute icon and I would love to do some super freaky, unexpected, crazy makeup on her!
And finally, how are you enjoying Berlin so far? Any favourite spots you can share with us?
Berlin has been so good to me! I have some favorites, most of them food-based, as the majority of my activities are food-based. My all time favorite place is Papaya, it’s a little Veitnamese / Thai fusion place in the heart of Friedrichshain near U Frankfurter Tor. Get the summerrolls! And for veggie based lads, they have identical restaurant right across the street, only vegan! Another must-eat is Standard Serious Pizza, near U Rosenthaler Platz. I didn’t know what pizza could be until I ate there. Last but absolutely not least is not necessarily food based, but I recommend bringing a wine and cheese picnic along--Tempelhofer Feld near U Banhof Tempelhof. It’s an old airport tarmac that has been turned into a public park, and it is gorgeous on a sunny day. Must see while in Berlin if the weather is in your favor.
Maddox is currently available for Shellac nail art at ISLA. Book your appointment here.
Check out Maddox over on Insta - @ballpit_addict
Written by Hazel Hedges.