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Kristie Lee nails it: RISD sophomore brings nail art to College Hill

Lee designs nails for over 150 students with her own business

<p>Lee prides herself in being able to do the complex and creative designs her customer desires.</p><p>Courtesy of Kristie Lee</p>

Lee prides herself in being able to do the complex and creative designs her customer desires.

Courtesy of Kristie Lee

Kristie Lee started her nail art business during her first year at the Rhode Island School of Design. 

“I started to paint my own gel nails in my first semester,” Lee said. “Later in that winter session, I had more free time, so I thought: ‘Why not make it a business?’” 

After one year of being in business, she has done nail art for over 150 students from Brown and RISD.

Painting nails in her dorm, Lee values the ambiance and atmosphere she creates for her customers. Before every nail session, she asks her customers what music they like and plays their favorite songs. She also makes a point to get to know her customers during the sessions. “My favorite part of it is getting to meet really cool people,” she said. “There are so many creative people across all majors from both schools.”


Francesca Postigo, RISD sophomore and one of Lee’s customers, echoed Lee’s sentiment. “Whether she’s doing my nails in her room or the lounge of (RISD dorm) 15 West, she plays the best music and we always end up having the best conversations,” she said. 

Before coming to Lee, most customers have a design they have in mind, which Lee adapts to best fit their needs. RISD junior Chanya Vitayakul, a consistent customer, appreciates Lee’s wide range of nail art designs. 

“I’m personally very specific about what I want with (on my) nails, and she kills it every time. I have a lot of trust in her nail-designing abilities,” Vitayakul said.

Other customers give Lee full artistic freedom over their nails. “In my work in general, I tend to have a feminine, flowy, continuous form,” Lee shared. “So for nails, I like to do intricate lines.”

Lee prides herself in being able to do the complex and creative designs her customers desire. RISD junior Ryan Yan admired Lee’s ability to design on the spot. “I can show up with just a mood board or color palette and put all my trust in her to come up with something beautiful,” Yan said.

Lee’s nail business has also inspired her other artistic pursuits. As an industrial design major, Lee drew inspiration from her nail designs, channeling them into a piece created on a three-dimensional large nail made of plexiglass and other materials.

“In general, I’m still trying to carve my niche in industrial design, especially in the soft goods side,” she said. “But I will take my nail stuff wherever I go.”


Rebecca Weng

Rebecca Weng is a Senior Staff Writer for Arts and Culture. She is a freshman from Guangzhou, China studying English and CS-Econ.

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