While some girls think about which colour to paint their nails before a big night out, Rita Remark thinks about it every morning… and noon… and night. She lives, breathes and dreams nail polish, and as the new Global Lead Educator for Essie, Rita is taking over the world of nail art one manicure at a time.
After my PR pals at ROI Relations kept gushing to me about an awesome nail artist from Essie Canada that was making serious waves throughout the fashion world, I finally got the chance to sit down with Rita backstage during Toronto Fashion Week. Everything I had been told about her turned out to be true – she was funny, sweet, smart and undeniably creative. But I also learned how she actually got started in the industry, during a time when the career she craved didn’t even exist in the world of aesthetics. With a lot of networking, a serious Eat Pray Love travel adventure and an innate ability to create the next big trend, Rita found herself at the top of every Canadian fashion designer and magazine editor’s Rolodex.
Keep reading to find out how by the age of 27, Rita had turned her obsession with art and nail polish into a globetrotting career, creating the life she always dreamed of.
It’s pretty impressive that you’ve grown to be a Global Lead educator for Essie by the age of 27. Is this what you’ve always wanted to do?
I had actually moved from Kingsville, Ontario to Toronto to be a media artist and design websites – Photoshop work, photography, film. I knew that art was the only thing I excelled at, so that’s where I channeled my energy. But very quickly I learned that computers were way less fun than actually working with my hands, so I got into beauty. It gave me the chance to work with people again and look at faces rather than screens, and I translated that passion into make-up. I again very quickly realized that wasn’t my thing either, so it turned into a bit of a process of elimination. I decided to just go into general aesthetics to get a feel for what I really wanted to do and all it took was two classes in my manicure course for me to realize, “Oh okay… this is everything.”
How did you get your feet wet in the industry after school?
It was around the time of people kind of whispering about nails being the next big thing, about 9 or 10 years ago. Do you remember that era – when nails were either red or nude? We were slowly starting to see nail art become part of the runway and part of a ‘look’. In my head I thought, “Okay I love this a lot, this is a new wave, so let’s see if I can catch it.” I started working at Tips Nail Bar in Toronto and was there for three years – I loved it and got to meet some awesome people who really helped me grow in my career.
Is that how you got started with Essie?
We were lucky to have a lot of influencers come through the salon, so I was doing the nails for beauty writers and models and people in the industry with a lot of clout. They began asking, “We love what you’re doing here – can you do it at Fashion Week and for magazines?” It was a slow integration of weaving ourselves in that fashion and beauty fabric, but once we started doing that, I was lucky to have a few influential people throw my name in the pot for the lead nail artist for Essie Canada, and I went for the job and got it!
How did it progress into a global role?
We do a lot of amazing creative work at Essie Canada, and the global offices in New York took notice. I’ve been working backstage at NYFW for six seasons now so it was something that slowly but surely happened. I was forming relationships with the global office and as soon as they realized more markets wanted to be doing what we were doing here in Canada, they snatched me up.
You’re definitely proof that networking will get you everywhere! Did you ever think a job like this could exist for you?
Not at all – I actually think I dreamed it into fruition! I just always wanted to do what make-up artists did, but for nails. It’s taken me everywhere I’ve always dreamed, but wasn’t sure was possible. I know it sounds so cliché, but really, when I started no one was really doing this job. We didn’t have people starting new trends and inspiring beauty blogs – working with Essie has gave me the opportunity to do everything I could have dreamed possible with a career in nails.
Did you face any moments of struggle where you just wanted to give up?
Absolutely. I actually left the industry for 8 months and travelled. I was working at the salon and I loved the people I worked with, but I was in a rut and was thinking, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” I needed inspiration and needed to step out of it for awhile. I was at the point where everything was moving so quickly, and I had to just to step back and remind myself why I loved doing it.
So I did the trip that I always wanted to do – I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, New Zealand and Australia. Just me and my backpack. I came home a little dazed, but the moment I landed I knew for sure that nails were still my focus, and luckily that’s when Essie came calling.
What do you love most about what you do?
The fact that it changes all the time – I’m not doing the same thing over and over again. I love that even though I have some consistencies – every winter and every fall I have Fashion Week – I get to experience all aspects of the industry that I love so much. The other day I even got to be involved in a brainstorm session about naming Essie polishes, which has been my dream from the start. Fingers crossed that one of my submissions gets chosen!
Um, that’s totally the dream! So what’s the most challenging part of your job?
I think like any artist, the most challenging part is getting over those creative blocks. I can’t force it – it’s not a muscle I can train. And it’s always at the worst time – usually when I have to submit designs on deadline and end up battling sleepless nights. I try to remedy it by taking inspirational photos on my iPhone everywhere I go – I’ll snap pics of dresses or advertising or even wallpaper that I can draw design elements from. I try to keep my ideas fresh and always up my ante.
What advice would you give to aspiring renegades?
Don’t assume that doing what you love won’t feel like work. I hate it when people say, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” You still need to take it seriously and hustle hard. Even though my job is fun, it’s no longer just a hobby, so I take every colour, every design, every interaction very seriously. I find that there are a lot of girls out there that love polishing their nails, but they have to be okay with doing this every day and night, waking up every morning and thinking about nail polish throughout breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Any words of wisdom from mentors that have stuck by you throughout your career?
My dad is an entrepreneur and owns his own business, and although he hasn’t necessarily given me advice, everything he does is with integrity and honesty and watching him work has taught me so much. He’s good to everyone who works with him and they respect him, and growing up with that to look up to has made me who I am and has shaped my work ethic.
And last question – what’s your favourite Essie colour?
Mint Candy Apple. It was the first time my eyes opened to Essie and I’ve never looked back.
Check out more of Rita’s designs and follow her Essie adventure on Instagram.