When I grow up I want to be a Trophy Wife

Chelsea Bagan is all about pretty pointers, nice nails, fancy fingers, terrific talons…you get it, she does a mean manicure.
Words by Tara Kenny.

“It just kind of grew naturally”, says Chelsea Bagan, as she perfects a representation of Saturn’s metallic silver ring on the nail of my index finger. She’s not talking about her eau natural acrylic free talons, but the now profitable business that grew from hours of painting her housemate’s nails during a period of economic lack. After following a lively international community of nail artists online, Chelsea decided her digits were destined for more than your regular French tip, but didn’t know where to get it. “The ladies at the nail salon always hated even painting different colours. They were like, why do you want this? Your nails are too short,” laughs Bagan, as she describes her futile attempts to recreate the finger equivalent of the Mona Lisa at the local Tips n Toes.

A natural artist, Chelsea honed her creative visions on the mini canvases of lucky comrades until demand got out of hand and Trophy Wife Nail Art was born. Although these days she can DIY anything from the tasty delights of a tropical fruit salad to the patterns of Romance Was Born’s SS2012 Miraculous Mundane collection, Chelsea is a firm believer in practice makes perfect. Ambidexterity helps, too.

It’s not just the absence of witchy, fake nails for which Chelsea “does not feel much”, or her can-do attitude in the face of ten pint sized Mario Karts that sets the Trophy Wife experience apart. With conversation traversing everything from shellac to weekend plans, hair colour and the Jaguar driving teenage boyfriend of a friend who has popped in for a chat, the visit is all about comfort– I’m talking the kind that comes from genuine human engagement rather than a massage chair with 100 vigorous settings. “Listening is always something that I’ve been really good at. A lot of people come to me because they feel like they can talk, unlike sometimes when you go to nail salons and it’s a bit awkward.”

A scene from vintage Sex and the City that captures this awkwardness is brought to mind. After being reprimanded for her use of the phrase “working class” by Carrie, Charlotte responds, “You’re trying to pretend we live in a classless society…and we don’t”, before pointedly casting her eyes downward to where four women are slavishly buffing dead away dead skin, mid-pedicure. We can only assume there are no petite watermelons about to be painted onto tootsies there. The rigidly divided relationship between client and service provider highlighted in the scene seems largely irrelevant today, but still exists within the confines of most traditional nail salons. Contrastingly, at Trophy Wife Nail Art, everyone is equal, although the one wielding the varnish is certainly more skilled.

Those equally fond of nails that are only limited by your imagination and a good old fashioned yarn can visit Chelsea during her residency at Alice Euphemia, at her newly opened studio in Fitzroy, or even in the comfort of your own home. If you find the experience more therapeutic than the shrink’s couch and notice your new BFF has gone a little quiet while you’re mid sentence about why you never truly bonded with your Mum, don’t worry. You haven’t overstepped the mark, she’s just concentrating. A moment of silence is a small price to pay to be sent home with doctor’s orders not to wash a dish for a week and a galaxy pretty enough to make perfect strangers grab your paws in amazement.

Studio Location: Level 1, 333 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
P: 0422 052 874