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Photography Vitali Gelwich

Lora De Sousa’s distorted nail art is both beautiful and lethal

Long, twisted and embellished, in de Sousa’s world, nails are not just for polish, but sites of sculpture and performance

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Anti-conformist. Distorted. Sharp. Lora de Sousa’s nail art often looks more like the claws of an otherworldly creature than a pretty manicure. Long and twisted, sometimes adorned with piercings or charms, in de Sousa’s world, nails are not just for polish, but miniature sites of sculpture or even performance. Take this look, where nails split open to release once-contained butterflies, or this for Panconesi, where embellished nails are just the extremities of an entire hand mid-morphosis into a jewel. 

Many of de Sousa’s looks feel like small feats of engineering, a challenge that is integral to her process. “I like creating something with your hands with improbable techniques and materials,” she says. “I like experimenting.” A love for creativity is clear in her work, and it extends to all areas of her life, where she is driven by her passionate fascination with art, music and history. “The three are very closely linked”, she says, “you can tell a story in music, make music an art and art a story”.

It was only four years ago that the Paris-based de Sousa finally began pursuing her passion for nail artistry. After moving from Portugal to France 20 years ago, starting (and quitting) a law degree, and then embarking on a ten-year stint as a make-up artist at MAC, she taught herself how to do nails mostly by watching other artists and then experimenting on her friends. Since then, she’s hit the ground running, working as a manicurist for Adidas x Gucci, Thierry Mugler and Louboutin in the past year alone.

Read on for more from Lora on what beauty means to her, her career highlights plus her pick for a song that could save the human race from alien invasion.

What is it you do and why do you do it?

Lora de Sousa: I am a nail artist and passionate about art, history and music. For example, when I have some free time I like to go to the museum, put on my headphones and look at the work. I create my bubble. This allows me to understand the artist and their story. Sometimes I find myself in front of a work which at first glance seems simple, but looking more closely reveals the artist’s research and its complexity. 

How did you get into it?

Lora de Sousa: I am a self-taught artist. I‘m really passionate and stubborn in a way that when I have an idea, I have to materialise it. So I started four years ago alone by watching other artists and developing my own techniques. The sharpness and perfection of a nail set for me are essential. I perfected myself by passing training in Russian and combi manicure (the techniques used to have clean and clear cuticles).

What’s your earliest beauty-related memory?

Lora de Sousa: It goes back to my childhood, staring at my grandmother doing her beauty routine. She had 30s-inspired looks; I would then take her fashion magazines and draw on the pictures by adding lashes, sketching the lips, and adding nails.

What’s been your career highlight so far?

Lora de Sousa: Today, my career highlight would be to have been able to collaborate with photographers Carlijin Jacobs, David Sims, Elizaveta Porodina, Harley Weir, Jenny Brough and many others. I am grateful for their trust. 

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why? 

Lora de Sousa: Mystique from X-Men. Whatever the situation, she adapts.

When do you feel most beautiful?

Lora de Sousa: When I have my nails done or when I have a new tattoo.

Are you optimistic about the future?

Lora de Sousa: I like to believe that a better world will come. I think the path will not be easy, but we will gradually manage to change things and pay more attention to everything around us: the environment, animal welfare, human beings.

What is the future of beauty? 

Lora de Sousa: You never know what the future holds. We clearly live in a world where digital has a strong presence. I think my future of beauty will be a perfect blend of digital and analogue.

You have to replace part of your body with that of an animal or a mythological creature. What do you go for?

Lora de Sousa: Shiva arms, so I’m able to do many things at the same time.

You encounter a hostile alien race and sound is their only mechanism for communication. What song would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

Lora de Sousa: “Follow Me” by Pabllo Vittar, with a dance step! Yay!

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