The Sephora Glossy: Deborah Lippmann Interview

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Ladies and gentleman, let’s give the nail guru and jazz singer a big hand.

It’s hard to believe that Deborah Lippmann, founder of the eponymous nail brand, didn’t always have perfectly manicured hands. “I was actually a nail biter as a kid,” she confesses. “As I got older and had my first paid singing job, the rehearsal was eye-opening because they suggested that I go to the nail salon.” She went the very next day and has never looked back. “There was something about the beauty in having my nails done that motivated me to maintain it,” she says. We chatted with the former nail biter and now nail polish guru to hear the colorful story behind her brand. RENEE TRILIVAS

How did you get into the nail industry?
I’m a jazz singer with a college degree in music. After college I had to pay the rent, so while I was singing my way around the local lounge scene and starring in musical theater, I pursued my second love of the beauty industry and went to cosmetology school. I decided to specialize in nails because I could sit during the day and stand at night in heels singing, so that was how it started. When I moved to New York to pursue singing jazz, which I still do today, I couldn’t make the kind of living that I wanted doing that alone. I started working as an editorial manicurist for some of the top fashion and beauty magazines and found myself hand in hand—literally!—with some of the most iconic celebrities of our time. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, my brand was born.

Are music and nail polish at all similar?
They’re both art and forms of expression. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to combine two things that I love. When naming shades I reference a lot of jazz music on my playlist. My team and I reference our favorite songs and we play around on iTunes to see what people are listening to.

That sounds fun! Tell us more about the naming process.
I’m very visual, but I also found that the name of a shade could make or break whether I bought a product or not. I decided to name my shades after song titles because I am a singer, and I feel strongly that the names should evoke a feeling rather than a specific shade because we all see color differently. Whether you know the song or not, the names are fun!

We love Mermaid’s Dream. It’s the perfect summer shade!
I was inspired by the beach and the easy-breezy feeling of summer. There is a customer for everything, and I felt like my customers were asking me for softer—yet still glimmering—shimmers. Mermaid’s Dream became extra dreamy when I added that yummy gold shimmer. It’s beautiful on the beach, and when you put your toes in the water and look down at them—the shimmer is gorgeous. Now we have a whole family of ‘Mermaids’ to suit your every mermaid moment.

Some of our other favorite nail polishes are your chunky glitters, like Happy Birthday. How did that shade come about?
When I started creating my glitter formulas, I had the feeling that we all needed something to help us feel happier and I created a shade that is like a “party in a bottle.” I created it at a time when a lot more women were starting to care for their nails at home versus going to a professional. I had the idea to take the pressure off of women having to polish their nails perfectly as they were venturing into DIY manicures. I created a glitter shade that left a spattering of different sizes and colors of glitter randomly on the nail. Your pinky doesn’t have to match your forefinger with the same amount of glitter that’s dispersed. Happy Birthday took off in a way that I never expected.

How do you know when a shade is a hit?
It’s always flabbergasting to try and guess which shades will be overwhelmingly popular. You never really know what’s going to resonate. I never thought that glitter would become what it is today. There seems to be an unending thirst for glitter right now–I love it, but I don’t know that it would’ve been the same five years ago!

SHOP DEBORAH LIPPMANN ▸

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