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Tomoya Nakagawa’s out of this world nails will take you to the year 3000


TextDominic Cadogan

The Tokyo-born, New York-based creative switched life as a fisherman to pursue nail art

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopaedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to make-up prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

Looking at Tomoya Nakagawa’s incredible nail designs, you’d probably imagine that he’s been carefully honing his craft from a number of years. Well, you’d be totally wrong, given that the Tokyo-born creative was working as a fisherman until very recently – February of this year to be exact. 

After moving to New York, Nakagawa was influenced by his partner and fellow Community member Eichi Matsunaga into trying out nail art and the results are truly awe-inspiring. From double helix shapes to delicate Dior logos, Nakagawa’s signature is creating delicate, almost microscopic amoeba blobs that look like they’re growing out of the nail. 

Elsewhere, his oversized nail chips can be filled with anything from sand and shells to green slime. “It makes me happy to see people get surprised when they see my artwork,” he explains to Dazed Beauty. “That motivates me to make something even more interesting for the next piece.” 

Though Nakagawa is capturing Instagram’s attention with his designs, don’t expect him to be making art forever; he’s already got his eyes on his next creative venture. “My next profession I plan to become is a firework artist, Japanese firework artists are really amazing,” he says. “After that I would definitely like to be a singer and a Kaleidoscope artist.” 

Here, we speak with Nakagawa about life as a fisherman, finding beauty in nature, and why he wants everyone to be a part of the X-Men.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?

Tomoya Nakagawa: I grew up in an environment where there was lots of surrounding nature, even in Tokyo. My father was in the garment industry and my mother owned a hair salon business. While I was a student, Tokyo was a very stimulating place with lots of different cultures. The ‘Japanese Gal culture’ in Shibuya was the first encounter I had. 

What is it you do and how did you get into it?

Tomoya Nakagawa: After graduating, I worked in fashion as well as starting my swim float product and I was also a fisherman. I had many different experiences but now I’m a nail artist. I started after being influenced by my partner Eichi Matsunaga when I moved to New York in February 2020.

What are you trying to communicate through your work and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: Taking on new challenges is fun and I get very excited. I like to see things I’ve never seen before and I love beautiful and unusual things – I would love for my artwork to achieve that. 

Before I moved to New York, I was a fisherman on a small island called Kii Ōshima in Japan. Every day I would spend time on the beautiful ocean and the experience I had at the time is naturally reflected in my work. 

Can you talk us through some of your favourite beauty looks and how you created them? 

Tomoya Nakagawa: Nail with sand – I used a 3D printer and created a hollow nail chip and then put sand and shells I found at the beach inside. 

Silver tribal nails – My friend made a video and I made the artwork based off of her image.

Collaboration with Eichi Matsunaga – I created the centre winding flower piece using gel under a UV light to make the sculpture. This is an original method I came up with and I get so many questions about it, so I’m planning on making a How To video. 

What’s been your career highlight so far and what do you hope to accomplish ultimately?

Tomoya Nakagawa: Unfortunately my career is still very short and I don’t have a masterpiece yet. Eventually, after I’ve created everything and I’m satisfied with all the artwork, I would like to quit being a nailist. 

What are you working on at the moment? 

Tomoya Nakagawa: I’m currently making nails for a music video for an artist I really like and creating new nail designs. It’s not out yet, but I also did nails for a popular artist and I’m working on unique and original nail chips and parts so look out for it! 

What does beauty mean to you?

Tomoya Nakagawa: Being healthy, free, and natural. It’s important to spend quality and fun times with family and friends.

What’s your favourite smell and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: Osmanthus because it’s the smell of first love. 

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: The main character Tora-san in a Japanese movie called It’s Tough Being a Man. He’s a silly guy who is not popular with girls, but he’s a hippy and I can relate to him!

Also the character Tsukino Usagi in Sailor Moon. She’s normally goofy, but at the last minute she has great powers that is unstoppable. I like the overflowing love she has.

When do you feel most beautiful?

Tomoya Nakagawa: There are many times but especially when the skies are clear and I dive into the ocean, the sparkles are very beautiful. Also sometimes at sunset, when the sun turns purple. I feel very special when I see a purple sunset.

How do you want to change the world?

Tomoya Nakagawa: I would like the world to change it so there is no racism, no poverty, no violence, and no environmental destruction. Everyone has different opinions but we should all move towards peace and change the world together.

You’re the editor of a time-travelling beauty journal 100 years from now, what beauty trends are you reporting on? 

Tomoya Nakagawa: Alien special feature! In 100 years we will probably be in touch with aliens so how to do alien skin or eyes!

You have to donate a feature/limb of your body to an icon of yours. You get nothing in return. What feature/limb do you give and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: I thought about it overnight but couldn’t come up with an answer…  I’m so sorry!

If you had to choose one surgical enhancement, what would it be and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: I would implant vampire teeth so when I smile I would look like a monster. That sounds like fun.

It is the sixth day and you are creating humans. They can look however you want them to. What do they look like and why?

Tomoya Nakagawa: I want to make lots of mutants like in X-Men and I want to be a part of it. I would make my character macho and be able to fly around the sky.

Would you rather live forever as an old person or live your life in reverse? 

Tomoya Nakagawa: Neither. I want to live as a human and die like one would in a normal life.

What is the future of beauty?

Tomoya Nakagawa: That’s a tough question! I hope everyone’s beauty problems will get resolved easier than now!

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