Mistress of the mani/pedi Hermione Woodgate is head nail technician at Cheeky in Holborn, London
“Before joining Cheeky I worked in a very reputable, incredibly serious office job. It didn’t make me happy. When my dad passed away in 2012 I realised life is short, and I should follow my heart. I always loved painting friends’ nails, so my boyfriend convinced me to apply for college and turn pro. Best decision ever.
“Most mornings I arrive early. With the team I check the tools are laid out and everything’s in good order for the first customer at 9am. I’ll see maybe eight to ten clients a day, offering file, shape, cuticle-cutting, paint, massage and a friendly chinwag. Treatments are designed to fit around the client’s lunch break, so we take care of them in under an hour, leaving ample time to grab a sandwich on the way back to work.
“When we have a bit of downtime the girls like to brainstorm, try new designs and practise on each other. It’s such a creative environment, with so much to learn. Our new obsession is chrome paint: so shiny you can see your face in it. We love bold looks, but we don’t go mental. For instance, there’s a trend in Mexico right now for incorporating baby scorpions into acrylic nail sets. Whatever tickles your pickle. We certainly don’t do it. I’d get told off.
“Cheeky is my home. I’m among my people here”
“Clients come through the door in all moods. Most are lovely, some never want to talk, others are stressed and determined to take their frustration out on us. Reading people is a key pillar of the nail technician’s art. Judge their mood well, do a good job, and they’ll leave happy, eager to return for the same experience another day.
“A while ago a client of mine launched into a tirade about how all men are dreadful and she’d never find love. I said all three weddings I’d been to that year were the result of online dating sites. During treatment I talked her into giving it a whirl, and together we set up a dating profile with the girls throwing in suggestions. The following week that same lady skipped happily into the shop, gushing about ‘the most amazing guy’ she’d met because of us.
“I think it’s a shame more guys don’t come in for treatment. We get a few, some of them clearly under duress from their better halves. Boys have such lovely, juicy cuticles. So satisfying to cut.
“Cheeky is my home. I’m among my people here. After leaving college I applied for 67 jobs. Soho House was the warmest, friendliest company I met for interview. I felt at ease then, and I still do now. Grown-up spas like Cowshed are brilliant, but I probably wouldn’t get on so well working there. I’d be too giggly and chatty.”
Interview by Andy Hill.
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