Being full of ennui, I felt inspired to repost the article!
Read the full story by Dayna Evans here!
I promise it isn't always as easy as it looks!
NYMAG's The Cut just published a really funny article about what it is like being a Paintbox handmodel. I know from personal experience :P but found the article to be hilarious. My favorite quote from the article is "...the life of a Paintbox hand model is a life of exquisite, almost unimaginable ennui and luxury."
Being full of ennui, I felt inspired to repost the article!
Read the full story by Dayna Evans here!
"The most essential skill one can have as a Paintbox hand model is knowing how to hold a costly prop — whether a bar of chocolate, a flute of rosé Champagne, or a Brazilian passport — as if it were just about to slip out of one’s hands and come tumbling to the ground. One cannot grip anything too tightly or too gently."
I promise it isn't always as easy as it looks!
I was recently interviewed by FAB beauty!
We discussed how I got started and what it is really like to be a professional hand model.
I was recently asked where I like to go get manicures here in New York and thought that I'd share a few of my favorite spas/salons in the city.
If I'm in a rush or just need a quick and convenient polish before a shoot, I'll pop in pretty much anywhere but I just ask that they don't cut my cuticles. Cuticle oil and pushing back the cuticles will do the trick 99% of the time. I really only ever get my cuticles cut when I'm with a manicurist I completely trust and there is actually something to cut off - I find that people love to cut into cuticles that really don't need to be cut.
Anyways, as for my actual recommendations, here are a few of my favorite (and hand model approved!) nail salons:
For a basic manicure and an amazing spa pedicure - Polaris (20 E. 22nd St.)
Polaris is great for standard manicures; they are really careful and make sure your nails look perfect. They take their time and the end result is always consistently good. They have a solid assortment of colors to choose from and their polishes don't chip off right away. If you want to treat yourself to a great pedicure, I highly recommend their spa pedicure!
For a luxurious hand and foot treatment - Jin Soon (56 E. 4th St. and additional locations)
I have had the pleasure of working with Jin Soon on various hand shoots, not to mention for her own line of nail polishes, so it was fun for me to check out her salon. I have long been a fan of her polishes - from the packaging to the formula, it truly is great polish!
Her salon is equally nice. I love the milk and honey hand and foot treatment. Complimented with your choice of essential oil, the milk and honey treatment is ultra hydrating and relaxing. There is wide selection of designer polishes and Jin Soon's namesake polishes to choose from. As I said, I am a huge fan of Jin Soon's polish, I love the colors and that it last so long!
Pro tip: make sure you get the citrus tea, its so delicious!
For nail art - Paintbox (17 Crosby St.)
Paintbox is a curated nail art salon in SoHo that does exclusively manicures. I have also had the pleasure of working with the Paintbox team as a hand model so I have personally tried a variety of their nail art looks - I'm partial to anything with negative space but they offer seasonal looks so there is always something new to try! I really appreciate the quality products that they use like the Deborah Lippmann cuticle cream. The paintbox salon itself is just a lovely place to be in, they offer great coffee or prosecco to make your experience even better and the staff are some of the nicest people in New York! It's a great experience and the paintbox mani cam is the perfect way to take a "nailfie" after your manicure!
Save the Seinfeld jokes—hand model Susan Schell has heard them before (and yes, admittedly, some of them may have been from us). When Schell reached out to us offering to fill us in on what it's actually like to be a hand model for part of (she also happens to be a writer) her 9-5, our minds admittedly started to wander. To be frank, we've heard some unbelievable anecdotes regarding what it takes to be one—think wearing gloves full-time when you're not shooting. We quizzed Schell on the biggest misconceptions about her trade, her favorite product picks that keep her hands, nails and cuticles in photo-ready shape and the weirdest thing she's done in the name of nail maintenance.
Read more here!
Recently, I did a little hand model interview with Yahoo Beauty about how I got started hand modeling and my hand care routine. Check it out here!
We all remember the hyperbolic glass dome worn by David Duchovny’s “world’s greatest hand model” character in Zoolander. And while real-life professionals do indeed take great care of their hands and nails, the lengths they go to aren’t so extreme — and they’re actually easy to emulate at home. “I know of a few hand models who do wear gloves all the time, but I’m personally not that radical. I do try to be very careful, especially when cleaning my apartment,” says NYC-based hand model Susan Schell, whose portfolio includes a plethora of work for clients like Paintbox, Vogue.com, Refinery29, and Ladurée.
The 23-year-old says she had no knowledge of proper hand care when she first began modeling, but that she quickly gleaned a lot from other girls. The most important tip? “Not to cut my cuticles, [because] cutting them improperly can make the skin around your nails grow back thicker and more jagged.” Cuticles are like the root of the nail, she says, so like the roots of our hair, they are very important. “Biting or cutting cuticles improperly can also lead to infections. If you have a hangnail of course it’s OK to cut off, just make sure you aren’t digging into your skin.” But cuticle care isn’t the only key to getting model-status hands.
“I use moisturizers daily,” says Schell. “Nothing too fancy, just really hydrating stuff. I love Trader Joes’ Coconut Body Butter — it’s super cheap, smells great and works really well.” She is also a proponent of both cuticle creams and oils, using them all the time. “I think a healthy cuticle makes for a healthy nail,” says the model whose go-tos are Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme ($6) and Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil ($20).
Critical to keeping hands in picture-perfect shape is hydration, and also exfoliation (she uses Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser with Orange Extract ($35) on her sensitive skin), especially in the winter. Additionally, she swears by paraffin wax treatments. “You can get this done at certain spas or use an at-home paraffin bath and do it yourself. When your hands crack or peel due to dryness, it’s fun to dip your hands in the warm wax and it soothes sore cracks as well as leaves you feeling really moisturized,” she says.
Occasionally the night before a shoot she’ll “slather my hands in lotion or hand salve and wear cotton gloves to bed to give them some extra hydration.” Plus she wears SPF whenever she’s in the sun, to avoid sunburn and sunspots. As far as her nails go, between jobs — she’s worked with top manicurists including Madeline Poole and Jin Soon Choi — she pushes her cuticles back, files her nails and paints a clear, protective topcoat on herself.
On a job — as you should at home — Schell always asks for a base coat under pigmented colors, because she’s been stained before by bright red polish. The model’s parting advice? “Keep a bottle of lotion next to your sink—it will remind you to moisturize after washing your hands and help keep them from drying out.”
This was really exciting! I got to share the story of how I became a hand model and some FAQs with MTV! You can check out the full story over on their website here!
By Susan Schell
Hand modeling is not something I ever expected to be doing—it is something I happened to fall into. Typically people don’t even realize that hand modeling is a legitimate job, let alone how often hand models are used in advertisements or editorials. I certainly had never met a hand model before becoming one, and I didn’t know it was a real profession until I saw the viral hand model lady video on Youtube. However, since working as one, I find myself noticing how many ads on TV or in the subway feature hand models, and at this point, I can even identify fellow hand models by their hands in certain images.
Hand models are utilized in campaigns that can range from diamonds to diapers, so I never know what to expect when I arrive on set. It truly is a strange job, and it can be surprisingly demanding physically. The work can vary in difficulty from simply resting your hands on a table to contorting your body into painful positions to get the perfect angle and shot of just your hands. Nonetheless, hand modeling can be genuinely fun and entertaining work—it involves many free manicures, often with intricate nail art, and I am fortunate to work with some of the industry’s most creative and talented people. One of the most intriguing aspects of my job is that it can be quite anonymous—I can be in an ad or editorial without anyone else knowing that it’s a picture of me.
It seems worth mentioning that I did not move to New York City to become a hand model. I actually moved here to study jewelry and fine arts at Parsons The New School for Design and I have since been working as a jewelry and accessories designer at Bobby Pin Jewelry for the past few years. I began considering hand modeling because I managed Bobby Pin’s social media accounts, and I would frequently post pictures of my hands wearing rings and bracelets. I started noticing that people would often comment on my nails or my hands in addition to the jewelry.
Eventually, I got thrown into a jewelry shoot for TWELV Magazine at the last minute, and that is how I got my first official hand modeling pictures. I decided to send those images into a parts modeling agency to see if I was hand model material, got signed on with them, and have been working ever since! It all happened pretty quickly, and I suddenly found myself being asked by friends and people that I meet a lot of questions about hand modeling.
So, here are some of the most frequent questions I get asked:
Are your hands insured?
Definitely not! I’m not even sure how to go about getting them insured. It does not seem necessary to me for the time being. I am not insanely obsessive about my hands, but I do make an effort to keep them camera-ready. I try to keep them very moisturized and cut/bruise-free, but accidents do happen from time to time. I just try my best to be careful and I use copious amounts of cuticle cream.
What makes a good hand model?
I would say the most important thing is healthy-looking nails and hands with long, straight fingers. Some hands are just randomly incredibly photogenic! Of course, there are different types of hand models—for example the everyday hand (think dishwashing commercials or chopping food), the glamorous hand (long fingers and nails typically used for beauty shots or jewelry), or the unique hand (someone with tattoos or a distinctive feature.)
Is it an easy job?
It can be, but it can also be really challenging, sometimes painful, and often incredibly time-consuming. It can require being very still in awkward positions for long periods of time, so being steady and patient are pretty important for a hand model. Patience is essential on any photo shoot—I’ve had days where I had to be on set all day long, but I was only needed for maybe 20 minutes. And steadiness is paramount as a hand model must because a trembling hand will photograph blurry.
Do you go on hand castings?
Surprisingly, yes I do!…And I’ve booked jobs this way. It is exactly like normal model castings except for your hands.
What are hand photo shoots like?
Hand shoots are often a lot like normal photo shoots except, obviously, all of the focus is on your hands. Since it’s all about the hands, it often involves a lot of ducking or leaning out of the way to hide the rest of my body. From time to time, I’ve been on shoots where I got to hold something like a bag or a bouquet of flowers in front of my torso, so poses like that are much more natural and less uncomfortable over time. It is kind of funny that I have had to learn to pose my hands—there are elegant hand shapes and poses that tend to be more flattering and make for better pictures.
Have you seen Zoolander or the episode of Seinfeld where George becomes a hand model?
Yes, I have! And no, they did not inspire this career path.
You can check out more of Susan’s work on her website and be sure to follow her on Instagram!
Just like regular modeling, parts modeling can get you a wide range of jobs so I never really know what I'm in for until I get to set. Sometimes I am chopping food, pouring a drink, holding beauty products, wearing jewelry, showing off nail art, or a lot of other random things. It is always a fun surprise to see what exactly I'll be doing for a shoot but unexpected issues can definetly come up from time to time.
For example, I did an engagement ring shoot last year and when I showed up on set I saw a rack full of wedding gowns. I assumed there might be a real model who would wear the dresses and I would be doing a close up hand shot with the rings in addition to pictures of the gowns. This wasn't the case - the dresses were for the hand models! We were going to be wearing the dresses and holding bouquets of flowers or handbags in front of ourselves so the dresses would serve as the background.
I was surprised and not prepared for wearing a gossamer gown; I just happened to be wearing bright neon pink undergarments. There also happened to be a lot of security guards on set because of all the expensive engagement rings we were using. So I had to walk out of the changing room in the see-through dress in front of five enormous security guards. The team behind the shoot ended up having to send their intern out to fetch me nude underthings so that mine wouldn't show through.
It was embarrassing and awkward but the team was nice about the whole thing and the end result turned out very pretty. Nonetheless, I certainly never expected my first time trying on wedding dresses to be quite like this.
Check out the final images below and here!
I was recently given the opportunity to share some of my hand care routine and tricks with online beauty magazine Byrdie!
Check out the article on Byrdie.com here!
1 of 5: Ditch the Cuticle Cutters
My number one most important hand-care tip is to ditch the cuticle cutters and use a cuticle cream or oil. Cutting your cuticles can make them grow tougher and more jagged if not done properly. The cuticle is like the root of your nail—if you want healthy and long nails you need to start taking care of your cuticles. All you need to do is use cuticle oil or cream and gently push back your cuticles. I personally love to use Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme and Deborah Lippmann’s Cuticle Oil.
2 of 5: DIY Overnight (Hand) Mask
My next tip is a hand-model favorite for getting your hands extra moisturized: The night before a shoot I generously slather my hands in lotions, as well as the all-important cuticle oil, and then slip my gooey hands into cotton overnight gloves. This retains moisture all night and you wake up with incredibly soft hands. I like to mix it up with a Burt’s Bees Hand Salve or the Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream—they are both super-rich and pretty sticky so they work best with the glove technique.
3 of 5: Try Paraffin Wax
If your hands ever crack or get especially dry in the winter you might want to look into a paraffin wax treatment. My mom introduced me to this and I actually really like doing it: You dip your hands (or your feet) several times in melted warm paraffin wax, let the wax harden around your hands, and then slip on these towel-like mittens to keep in the warmth. After about 10-15 minutes, or when the wax has completely hardened and cooled, you just crack off the wax and your skin feels crazy soft and rehydrated.
4 of 5: Remove Glitter Polish
This is a trick I picked up from manicurists on set when they were removing a bright polish, a complicated nail art design, or even a glitter polish. If you soak cotton balls in nail polish remover and let them rest on your painted nails for a little while it will loosen the polish. Then when you squeeze the cotton balls down and pull them off the nail, the majority of the polish should come off. Sometimes rubbing off dark polishes can stain your skin or even push pigment under your cuticles so this is great solution.
5 of 5: Buff Away Stains
Now this tip might seem a bit obvious but I cannot stress this enough: ALWAYS use a base coat when painting your nails anything colorful. Unfortunately, this is something I learned the hard way. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for weirdly stained and nasty looking nails to grow out. I like to use Sally Hansen’s Double Duty Base Coat and Top Coat because it is two-in-one and doesn’t chip. I also use this as a clear coat because it feels like it makes my nails a little stronger. If you do accidentally stain your nails, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage. First, lightly buff the surface of your nails with a fine grit nail buff to help remove the stains—typically stains are only in the superficial layers of your nails so buffing them can make a big difference (just remember buffing can also make your nails thinner and weaker if do it too aggressively, so go easy!). After gently buffing, scrub your nails with a soft toothbrush using a mixture of peroxide, baking soda, and lemon juice, to help clean out any residual stains. A great way to “cheat” whiter edges on your nails is to use a whitening pencil—this is not permanent but it is a helpful quick fix.
Painting your nails is one of the easiest ways to express yourself and change up your look without committing to something permanent. As a self diagnosed commitment-phobe this has always been one of the most appealing things to me - if I don't like the color I paint my nails, I can live with it for a day or two and take it off when I get sick of looking at it. My sister is even worse than I am; she is borderline obsessive about her nail polish looking perfect - one little nick on one nail and they all have to go.
Even before I began hand modeling nail polish was always important to me. My sister and I have quite the collection of polishes and nail lacquers. But I've noticed a pattern in our nail hoarding tendencies - we certainly have a few tried and true favorites. So I thought I'd go through and list a few of my personal picks:
Floss Gloss - Mrs. Tony Montana
Floss Gloss has, in my opinion, mastered the perfect white - Mrs. Tony Montana is a crisp white that is completely opaque. I love the look of all white nails but I really can't stand it when white polishes are too translucent; thankfully, this is absolutely not an issue here!
Jin Soon - Tea Rose
I always get complimented on my nails when I wear this shade from Jin Soon called Tea Rose! It is my favorite pinky/coral color, the name aptly represents the color. I think it looks great with my skin tone being so pale but it is the kind of color that would work on everyone.
Smith and Cult - Stockholm Syndrome
This gray color made by Smith and Cult is one of my preferred more neutral colors and is great for using as base to nail art. As much as I love the polish itself, I really like the bottle. These bottles look like little works of art on display on my vanity. The name Stockholm Syndrome is just one of the many hilarious names their polishes have.
Essie - Penny Talk
Metallic nails are one of my go to looks for when I feel like doing something a little more interesting with my nails while still keeping them nice and subtle. I love anything that looks like precious metal so this rose gold toned polish by Essie is right up my alley. It is called Penny Talk because of it's great copper-ish color.
I recently had the chance to chat with my friends at Paintbox about my favorite nail polishes/nail art as well as my jewelry designing at Bobby Pin Jewelry.
Check it out on their blog: http://www.paint-box.com/blog-posts/nails-of-new-york-susan-schell
Look closely—do you recognize these beautiful hands? Jewelry designer Susan Schell has been hand-modeling for Paintbox for several seasons, but it's what she does when she's not modeling that we're spotlighting here. Susan and business partner Maria de Diego run a custom bridal jewelry line together called BOBBY PIN. Maria founded the line in 2011 and brought Susan on board to help design and produce beautiful, one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces for brides to wear at their weddings. As part of our focus on all things bridal this month (to coincide with the launch of our BRIDAL COLLECTION), we asked Susan if we could visit the Bobby Pin studio and talk to her more about the work she and Maria do creating custom jewelry.
Susan wears Moonstruck in Essie Penny Talk.
Why do you paint your nails?
I like to paint my nails for aesthetic reasons and because I feel like they are less likely to break with polish on. I always have at the very least a clear coat of polish on my nails. As a jewelry designer, I sometimes work with rough materials and tools so having strong nails is really important to me. Having nicely painted nails just makes me feel better when I look down at my hands; it makes me feel more put together.
Susan designing a custom piece for the Bobby Pin collection.
Do you have a favorite polish or go-to look?
I personally love having solid white nails. It just looks really clean and is simple enough to go with anything. Floss Gloss has a great white called "Mrs. Tony Montana." It is perfectly opaque. I really love a good metallic nail, maybe because I work with precious metals. Essie makes a great silver called "No Place Like Chrome" that I like to wear when my nails are longer.
Where do you find your inspiration?
When I'm designing jewelry I am often inspired by geometric patterns and nature—especially flowers and leaves. These seem to be themes that I reference a lot and turn to for ideas. The thing I love about making custom jewelry and accessories is that I get to be inspired by something completely new with each client. My business partner, Maria de Diego (founder of BOBBY PIN Jewelry), and I work really well together, we seem to come up with even better designs when we bounce ideas off of each other. We both have major obsessions with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements so we find tons of inspiration and ideas from those styles.
Pieces from the Bobby Pin collection.
What do you love most about working on custom pieces for brides?
At Bobby Pin, Maria and I work with brides to make completely custom jewelry for their wedding day. Everything about your wedding is personalized to you, so we work with our customers to make jewelry, hair pieces, and accessories that are like new heirloom pieces—pieces that our clients can wear time and time again and eventually pass on to their children. I really feel like the details are what make a wedding especially memorable, whether that is a piece of unique custom jewelry or a very special manicure.
Susan Schell is a working hand model in NYC.