Throughout her meteoric rise, Megan Thee Stallion has made no secret of her long-standing ardour for anime. The Houston rapper has cosplayed My Hero Academia’s Shoto Todoroki, name-checked Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z characters while freestyling, and served up an array of Instagram-breaking, anime-inspired manicures. The visionary liable for the latter is none apart from London-born, Los Angeles-based manicurist Coca Michelle, Megan’s key nail artist, who’s a go-to for a lot of of at this time’s chart-toppers—together with Cardi B, Rosalía, and Jhené Aiko—for her daring and bedazzled claw creations executed in exhaustive element.
Born and raised in East London, Michelle started doing nails at the age of six. “While I was growing up, my parents worked for a hole-in-the-wall nail salon and then my father opened a salon,” she explains. “I wasn’t able to have someone to take care of me, so I was just always in that environment and picked the skill up.” But whereas her craft was cultivated at an early age, it wasn’t till she moved to the states to attend faculty at L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and commenced working at Laqué Nail Bar, the place she relished being given full artistic freedom, at the same time as a manicurist simply beginning out. “Through word of mouth, I ended up meeting my first celebrity client, Teyana Taylor,” she explains. “I toured with her and that’s where things took off.”
In 2018, Michelle and Taylor went on to launch Junie Bee Nails, a ’90s-themed nail salon in Harlem that supplied all the pieces from the decade’s tell-tale airbrush nails to elaborate Swarovski-embellished claws. (Shortly earlier than the pandemic, which pressured the salon to shut, Michelle amicably parted methods with the enterprise.) Another standout profession second was becoming a member of forces with visible artist, photographer, and shut buddy Ro.lexx for Summer Walker’s Over It album cowl, the place she gave the Atlanta singer a set of fluorescent pink, cherry-emblazoned stiletto ideas. “I love doing things that are organic and allow me to work with people in the industry that are super grounded,” she explains of discovering like-minded collaborators. “I feel like it keeps me in touch with my roots, you know, just being from a mom-and-pop type of environment.”
Needless to say, Michelle has discovered a pure collaborator in Megan Thee Stallion. One of their standout moments was on set for Megan’s Rolling Stone cowl alongside SZA and Normani, the place Michelle gave her an categorical set of glittering lipstick-shaped claws. “They were like, ‘Hey Coca, you have like 14 minutes to create a look. And I [told Megan], ‘All right, let me just chop your coffin up and we’ll just create this new look for you. She was down and that’s when I knew, This is going to be my partner in crime.” Then there was Megan’s already-iconic “WAP” video, the place Michelle gave her a duo of placing square-shaped talons; one pale yellow, coordinated to her Nicolas Jebran look; the different a gleaming silver set peeking out from her lengthy purple fingerless gloves.
Their artistic synergy additionally hinges on their mutual appreciation of anime, after all. “We each have a huge love of anime—and she’s even more of a fan than I am!” laughs Michelle. Of all their anime-centric creations, her favourite was the one paying tribute to one in every of Megan’s favourite animes, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and its Stardust Crusaders arc. “I’d never watched it, but [Megan] is so passionate about it that it made me even more like, ‘All right, let me step it up!” explains Michelle. “The thing with anime, and the artistry behind it, is that if you don’t capture its essence, it can throw things off. It has such a cult following that having that challenge of recreating something iconic was more exciting to me than anything.”
With over 16 years in the enterprise, Michelle revels in having the ability to work with shoppers like Megan, who personal what they love but additionally wish to proceed pushing their model ahead. “I just love when people stay true to their authentic look while also evolving over time,” she explains. “With Megan, she always been super creative, and [I love] being able to be a part of her team and help step it up, create new levels.” Looking forward as lockdowns start to ease, she hopes they will begin touring throughout the globe. “Being in different environments keeps me inspired,” she says. If one factor’s sure, it is that for Michele, there are not any limits—and he or she’ll proceed to prove mesmerizing manicures which can be feats of the creativeness. “I’m the type of person where I don’t like saying no,” she says. “So whatever idea you have, I’m trying my best to make it happen.”