Lauren LaRouge – Nail Artist
“Do what you love!” A sentence that is thrown around more than a cricket ball at a test match, however living in one of the world’s most expensive cities can mean having to take a job that you love less and despise more. Getting stuck in an office with grey walls, slogging away with zero creative inspiration led Lauren LaRouge to get creative and start bringing some colour to that drab office using her nails as tiny canvases. She has now managed to nail doing what she loves, literally. No longer confined to a boring office Lauren spends her days creating handfuls of artworks, taking nail art up a notch or ten.
The Westies: How did you get into doing such fabulous nails?
Lauren: That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I growing up I always loved doing crafts and arts, but I could never figure out how I was going to turn out into a day-job. My dad’s Greek, so his favourite saying was, “You can’t be an artist, you won’t make any money until you’re dead!” That was his biggest fear, that I would want to become an actress, or an artist.
I got peer-pressured by my parents to do design at Uni so I went into design. However, when I was doing the design course, I stopped for a little while and worked at an Ad agency on reception, and I saw the designers at work – the reality didn’t sync up with the vision. I thought, “God, maybe design isn’t for me”.
I went traveling after uni then worked in admin, and just hated my life. People used to ask me what I did for living, I’d say “I’m babysitting for adults” and it just really felt like that to me. Thank God I was doing Burlesque, performing at nights, that gave me some sort of creative outlet. Because I wasn’t content, I hated my job. I liked the people I worked with, but the actual work itself, I just took no pleasure in.
Then one of my mates very randomly found a Tumblr account called Burgers & Nails, and it was chicks in America taking photos of their nails, holding burgers, and they would rate the burger-joint that they’ve been to. I thought, “Wow! What’s this?” I’d seen nail-art in the salons in the Westfield and everything, but it was the airbrushing that has been done since the ‘80s and ‘90s, and that never really appealed to me. So I saw this whole different world of nail-art, it just blew my mind. I was like, “What is this? It’s amazing!” Anything can go on your nails, not just airbrushing.
I had a burlesque gig on a boat, and my mate had a couple of nail-art pens, and she said “Oh, come over, I’ll do some nautical nails for you!”. People commented that night “Oh God, your nails look amazing!” Because from a couple of meters away, they looked great.
For the next couple of weeks at work, every time I was sitting there and I looked at my nails, it just made me smile. It just made me happy. I was like “Oh, this is nice to bring a bit of colour” to the very grey office I was working in.
The Westies – And that’s what inspired you to start doing your own nails?
Lauren – Yes. I thought okay, work don’t care about my nails, I can do them however I want. Pretty quickly it became a bit of a thing to see what I was going to do next. But still the penny hadn’t dropped that I could actually pursue a career in this. I was just amusing myself.
People would comment, “Oh that’s so fun, that’s amazing”, but they wouldn’t say, “Oh, I’d like that!”. Then it was one Halloween, I had a lot of friends going to dress-up parties, I got a bunch of random nail art requests, to which I said, “Sure, just come over and bring me a bottle of wine”. I ended up with a lot of bottles of wine! That was the lightbulb moment, where I thought, “There is a demand, this might actually be something I could do for a job, and not only do I not hate this, I actually really like this.”
So I enrolled, in a Cert 2 [Nail Technician] course, where literally 5% or less is nail-art, I think we made a lot of really dodgy Santa’s hats, that was it. Luckily, nails – as with a lot of stuff where you’re using your hands – you can teach theory, till the cows come home, but it’s all about doing it. The one good thing about the nail-school was that there were a lot of elderly ladies who were looking for really budget nails, so we always had quite a few people to practice on.
Before I completed the course I met my fiancé. He’s the one who really gave me the push to do it full-time. He believed in me, he would say “You’re going to be amazing, you’re great!”, “You’re the best I’ve ever seen” – not that he had seen much, bless him! He believed in me 110% from day dot. Without him, I don’t know if I would even be doing this full-time now, because I don’t know when I would have made the plunge
The Westies – You were living in Darlinghurst when you were studying and you originally established your business there. What brought you to Parramatta?
Lauren – When the lockout laws came in, I swear to God it was like someone turned off the light-switch. I knew so many day businesses, boutiques, cafes, they just shut up. I lived in Darlinghurst for years before, so I knew people who owned shops and overnight – bam! They were just all gone.
My partner had been telling me for a long time. He said, “You’ve got to go West, you’re over the top, you’re blingy. Girls out West, they’re going to like to stand out like you.” So I came out here and had a wander around, I liked the scene. It was a bit of a change to when I had come here ten plus years ago and there were scary guys with baseball bats just wandering around the train station. I walked down Church St and saw AE-Hair salon, it was so boutique I thought, “Wow, this could work”. I went in, had a chat and it turned out they had a makeup artist that was leaving to have a baby very shortly, it was just perfect timing.
The Westies – How does working in Parramatta compare to Kings Cross?
Lauren: You know what, to be totally honest, it actually reminds me of the Cross a lot in the daytime, just because I find you get that mix of working professionals and loose units, for a want of a better word. You get people in suits, but then you also get some colorful characters, and I love that.
When I was at the Cross, a lot of clients were coming and getting feature nails, but they wouldn’t want to go the whole shebang, I did a lot of nude polishes. Since coming out here,I have a lot more bright colours. I feel like people here say “Yes, let’s do everything!”
I will say it definitely has got a real sense of community here. I love it, the park’s right there where people doing Tai Chi, there are markets on Fridays and there’s always some sort of cultural festival. It always seems like there’s a lot going on, I had no idea how many things really do happen here.
Photos: Katrina James