Sharmadean Reid, WAH Nails Founder

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“I moved to London almost ten years ago now. I’m from a really small town called Wolverhampton; it’s near Birmingham right in the middle of England. My approach to beauty has always been experimental, but when I was fifteen I found my look and I have literally stuck to it ever since. Now, I’m twenty-seven years old and I still wear black eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and some lip gloss, and all that’s happened over the past twelve years is that my products have gotten more and more expensive. We have a brand in the UK called Rimmel, it’s what every teenager starts using—I’ve been using a Rimmel eyebrow pencil since I was fifteen, when my cousin decided to shave my eyebrows as everyone does when they’re a kid when you’re testing stuff out. My mom went mental and she helped me fill in my eyebrows with a pencil and kind of since that day they’ve never grown back. And I really love thick eyebrows—my brow icon would have to be Brooke Shields. If I could have those eyebrows, I would cry.

When I wake up in the morning, I wash my face with Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel and then I’ll pat it dry. Then, I kind of have a merry-go-round of moisturizers depending on if I’ve been drinking the night before—my skin will be really dry—but the one I’ve been using daily lately is the Kiehl’s oil-free one, the one in the little blue bottle. I brush my teeth while my moisturizer is sinking in, because if I try to put makeup on straight away, it just goes all greasy. I use that Marvis toothpaste in Jasmin. I love it—you can buy it from Liberty. Then I put my makeup. I’ll use MAC Studio Fix Foundation in NW50. Then I’ll do a sweep of black eyeliner with Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner. Then I’ll put on YSL mascara. Before I had a baby, I never used to wear lip color—I was always just a Vaseline girl, like bare Vaseline on my lips—but then when I had a baby and I didn’t feel so glam, I felt like lipstick was the quickest way to instantly make my face look good. So, I’ve started wearing lipstick. The one that I wear most to spice my face up is MAC’s Ruby Woo, which is a classic red one, or a YSL nude one, Nude Beige. I prefer a nude every day, because I like my lips to be almost the same color as my skin, does that make sense? I like it when it looks quite ‘60s, like when your lips are the same as your skin and just an eyeliner is popping out. I like that. And I love Yves Saint Laurent because of the packaging. I won't buy a beauty brand if I don’t like the packaging, which is really bad. I love Aesop because I love the branding of it, and I use a lot of Kiehl’s. I kind of want my bathroom to look a certain way, which is white, gold, brown. There’s a photo on Into The Gloss that I just thought, ‘That’s my bathroom inspiration!’ where the girl has all of the Yves Saint Laurent mascaras on the fur—Lisa Marie Fernandez. I love her swimsuits. I love her aesthetic. When I saw that photo, I was like, ‘Yeah! That’s totally what I’m into.’ So, yeah, that’s kind of my face. You know what else I love? A little bit of Vaseline on the eyelids. Sometimes I feel like it makes my makeup move around but if I put it really close to lash line, like one dot, you’re good. I just love that glossy eyelid look. It’s, like, so 2002 or something.

I get my hair done by Alex Brownswell at Bleach London; we share a salon with them. They basically brought out this dip-dye trend that exists now—it wouldn’t be mainstream without Bleach London. My natural hair is kind of like chin-length and then she puts in extensions, some Brazilian hair. The only thing I ever do is use Moroccanoil. So, I’ll wash it with Kiehl’s Amino Acid Shampoo and then I’ll use that cheap Aussie conditioner. I use loads of conditioner on it and then sometimes I’ll use coconut oils or treatments or conditioners from the afro hair shops—there’s so many afro hair shops in the square mile of my house. Every day I just rub a bit of Moroccan oil on it and I brush it. I recently watched Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, have you seen that Russ Meyer film? I was like, ‘The girls in that film look incredible!’ There’s a black girl, a redhead girl, and like a blonde-y brunette and their hair is so big and amazing. So, I did my hair a bit thicker this time. Like, I put more extensions in it and I curled the bottom bit because I wanted it to have that kind of seventies big curl bounce, do you know what I mean? I get a lot of my inspiration from films, to be honest, for almost everything. Like, when I was fourteen and watched that film Jamón Jamón with Penélope Cruz in it, and all summer I just wore espadrilles and a-line dresses. I love a woman in a film for makeup, hair, clothing inspiration.

When I was younger, I always painted my nails myself. I used to watch Clueless and I’d want my nails to match my eye shadow to match my hair accessories, so I remember painting them lilac all the time. And then, when I moved to London and started university at Central Saint Martins, I started getting them done at salons, but they were never like great. I remember seeing this one shot of an entire hand in Vogue, and the nails had a white base with a neon pink tip and a neon green moon—it was incredible. And I ripped it out and put it on my wall. But I was so frustrated with the fact that I could never go to the nail salon and they would just do something out of the box without a fuss. Like, sometimes they just wouldn’t do it, or sometimes they would do it but kind of begrudgingly. So then, when I graduated, I had a really good year of styling. I used to assist Nicola Formichetti, who was the fashion director of Dazed and Confused magazine back then—he was always so successful. And then I started styling my own stuff—I was styling loads for Nike and Levi’s, lots of really good commercial work, so I was earning good money. And then I just had the idea to open a nail salon, because I had another crap nail job. Like, I wanted a Dior-red base with white tip or white half moon and they just wouldn’t do it. I was so angry—when my boyfriend picked me up, I got into the car and slammed the door and said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to open my own nail salon!’ And that was that! And then he actually found the location, which was a couple of doors down from where we lived at the time. And when I look back, I was so naïve…I don’t know what I was thinking. I took the lease on the building, and we had no money left to fit it out by the time I paid the lawyers out for the lease—I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that bit!’ So, we had to fit it all out ourselves. My boyfriend literally poured the concrete on the floor and I painted all the walls, everything.

I found my staff, then I had a few little private ‘thirty girls come get your nails done’ type things and that went crazy. WAH finally opened July the 31st, 2009, and the party was packed. Like, it spilled out onto the street. And all the convenience stores and the corner stores—like, there’s a fish and chip next to my shop—they stayed open two hours extra because they had so many extra customers spilling in from the party. It was so funny. Then what happened is, the salon is huge—it’s cavernous, when really all I need is four nail desks that take up a quarter of the space. So I met these super cool girls, hairstylists—one of them just came and got her nails done and she said, ‘I really love the salon. I really wanted to open one to be like this.’ And I kind of thought, ‘Oh, lots of people have kind of imitated the idea and tried to copy it,’ so I was really surprised that she came right out and told me that she wanted to do one like it. Like, once we started doing nails, girls just started popping up doing nails that had never been doing nails before. The fact that she outright told me that I was her inspiration for it, and didn’t have any qualms telling me, I said, ‘Well, why don’t you just have it in the back of here to start with if you want.’ So they were like, ‘Yeah, that’d be really cool.’ They’re my closest friends now. They opened Bleach in the back of my store on our first birthday, so they were just born and it was our first birthday. And the flyer we did, I did the flyer, I did a gif where it was Lil’ Kim and Courtney Love crouching down in the same pose, because, to me it was like WAH was like Lil’ Kim and Bleach was like Courtney Love...they’re like two sides of the same ‘90s experimental girl coin.”

Photographed by Rachel Chandler Guinness 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Hanna

    Absolutely gorgeous!!!

  • Ashleigh @ Jolie Jouel

    Wow, she looks like she has great skin! Those are some long nails she's sporting...but I guess as nail person she goes all out! Fun article.

    joliejouel.blogpsot.com

  • ELISELOOK

    DOPE. love this. great story.

  • Phoebe Lovatt

    My favourite girl on my favourite blog. Nice! x

  • http://twitter.com/Mirror_Reality Phil

    Now that's some great skin on her. Didn't hear that many great things about the oil free kiehl's products..

    http://mirrorreality.blogspot.com/

  • Tamara

    Great post! I have to get Ruby Woo soon. I've been looking for a great red lipstick, and everyone seems to love Ruby Woo.

    http://thereadingmagpie.blogspot.com

  • Sarahbethann

    I've never heard of Dermatologica!

  • www.azrakun.com

    I truly enjoyed these series. Always full of great tips!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VA2OGBEXUG7RUVZT5AH5RNQB5U Kim

    She is beautiful. Low maintenance but doesn't look it.

  • http://twitter.com/MademoiselleAja ♕Aja ♕

    She is such an inspiration to me, I've always been scared to start my own business but that article just made me wanna do it, like now!
    She's so cute and so is her little family! Can't wait to get my nails done at WAH Topshop when I'll go to London in june.

  • Culturesnobette

    She is serving FACE!! ALL DAY!!!

  • guest

    Great choice for a Top Shelf. What an inspiration for women!

  • Mrs. Singh

    Great story
    Thank you

    She is so beautiful and confident. I want her skin, too. Like velvet

  • KWilliams

    FINALLY-- another person of color has been featured. I love this site, but I sometimes I want tips/suggestions from people who have my same skin tone, or similar hair texture, or skin issues. I think there are so many amazing women of color doing fun things in fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc, that there should be plenty to choose from when it comes to featuring people here. Please continue to feature more African-American women, Latinas, and Asians, as we too have interesting beauty rituals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1033981551 Adeola Naomi Aderemi

    Fabulous!!!!

  • http://thesomethingfabulous.blogspot.com/ Kate {Something Fabulous}

    I love the products she uses, and I'm sure she knows what she's talking about with such good skin like that! x

    Kate {Something Fabulous}
    http://thesomethingfabulous.blogspot.com

    • theindustrybaby

      She has amazing skin!

      And I am absolutely loving all the simple beauty/makeup routines that the Top Shelf articles have been revealing lately.

      Simple is fresh.

      cj.
      theindustrybaby.blogspost.com.au

  • Iggy

    LOVE the Lil Kim / Courtney Love reference. Is there .gif still online, Sharmadean? Really nerdy but I want to see it so bad!

  • Miss K

    Would have been great to see a close up of the nails.

  • amarie

    Fantastic story.

  • Annalie

    Met this lady in her original Dalston Wah/Bleach last year, but as she never mentioned she owned it we had no idea who she was! I just thought she was some gorgeous, sweet lady getting her hair done and chatting away with us until I read this!

  • Anonymous

    I'm a huge fan of WAH nails. Thanks for the piece!

  • Jessica

    i live in australia and ive never seen that "aussie" shampoo haha

    • Guest

      Me too, weirdly I don't think they sell it here, I was in Mexico and saw it and was like ... what, where did that come from? This girl is so beautiful, your face is amazing!

    • mimi

      same here! it's like that aussie outback steakhouse in the US that sells "cheese fries" - (a) not fries, they are chips and (b) we dont have cheese fries in australia! haha. so bizarre!

  • http://twitter.com/marcelaprado_ Marcela Prado

    Coolest story ever, so many great references!

  • mimi

    this girl is really cool. i wish i had to confidence to say "well im just going to open my own nail salon!" - amazing! she's gorgeous too.

    i also judge beauty products by their packaging. it's hard not to!

  • Jessica

    She is so beautiful and cool! And inspiring. I think this is one of my favorite ITG posts!

  • Mina

    I love how you feature women from different countries, cultures, and ethnicities. As a Japanese girl, it's great to be able to pick up tips from people with similar skin tones. Also, I love the message -- beautiful is beautiful, and there is no standard look for it.

  • an

    Fck, she's had a kid? She seriously looks amazing but I think it's the strength of her style more than anything. The same look since 15 says determination. And the hardcore DIY ethic leaves me inspired! A person of vision. If she can make a nail salon into her dream job, I can __________________!

  • Ashleigh Augustyn

    She looks beautiful. I'm loving her necklace. Ruby Woo has been on my list of mac lipsticks to get!

  • RTG

    I almost sent a comment last week regarding your lack of women of color on your blog. Don't get me wrong, I adore what you are doing but I am black and would like to see more of myself from time to time. Also I am a New Yorker living in Paris so I have had my fill of French girls and their style. Yes lovely but I see it everyday.
    Sharmadean you are fab!

  • Martina

    love her!

  • Liz Lizo

    I absolutely adore her. Her skin is flawless and if she's wearing the nude ysl lip color she mentioned then I may have to tyr it.

    http://www.vogued-out.com

  • http://www.type-fashion.org/ Type-fashion

    love her necklace.she looks so beautiful

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