The minute Euphoria's second season premiered on HBO, people started talking about the nails. "Did you see that chrome manicure on Fezco's grandma?" a friend texted me after watching the first episode, which opened with a closeup of long, squared, gold-mirrored acrylics wrapped around the barrel of a revolver. In the proceeding episodes, each main character is given a deliberate nail art: Cassie, a baby-pink manicure lined with teeny-tiny droplet diamonds; delicate, like her. (Potentially, good Valentine's Day nail inspo.) Kat wears a holographic green French tip matching her blue-green eyeshadow. And Maddy, well, Maddy's nails change — and become more of a focal point — with each new episode.
It's funny, too, how nails have such a big impact in the overall cinematography of the show's buzzy sophomore season, because lead manicurist Natalie Minerva says that she wasn't even supposed to be a part of it.
"Alexa Demie and I are good friends, and she really pushed for me to be on the show." Minerva explains over the phone, speaking of her longtime friendship with the actor who plays Maddy. "She spoke to Sam [Levinson] and the producers. Initially, it was hard for them to see the vision. Nails seem like such a minute detail, right? But in this time — especially with this generation — those details don't go unnoticed. It was so apropos to have nail art because these girls, like Maddy, Cassie, and Kat, would be wearing nail art. And once the nails were on the, everyone got it."
Nails seem like such a minute detail, right? But in this time — especially with this generation — those details don't go unnoticed.
Compared to a show like Claws, Euphoria shines a less-direct spotlight on nails. You notice them, not because they're in your face, but because they're bold, unique, and very of the times, like the Gen Z characters who wear them. "The nails are speaking to the generational pop-culture thing that's happening right now," says Minerva. "People care about nails, and they're being more exploratory with nail art in general. It's not forever, you wear your nails for just two or three weeks to express yourself. It's like a tattoo, but not permanent — and to me, that's beautiful."
Behind the scenes, Minerva says designing each set of nails is a collaborative process that involves her ideas, as well as insights from costume designer Heidi Bivens, makeup artist Donni Davy, and the actors, too. "Heidi is doing the styling and we pull inspiration from that," Minerva explains. "Donni does makeup. I bring in my own taste and style. Then Sam, the director, is giving approvals and explaining what is happening with each character's storyline. Also, the actors have a ton of say in what goes on and what they see for the character, too, which I think it great. I mean, who knows these characters better than the actors who play them?"
The nails are speaking to the generational pop-culture thing that's happening right now.
For Sydney Sweeney's character, Cassie, Minerva says there's a thoughtful delicateness imparted through her pink, diamond-studded manicure. "For Cassie, she's a really feminine character," Minerva explains. "She's sensitive. In this season, she's going through a lot of transitions and learning some major life lessons. Part of it is also that she's trying to impress Nate." Barbie Ferreira, or Kat, is going through her own changes, which are depicted in her nails. "She's softening and trying to figure out who she is," says Minerva. "For her, we went with malicite vibes and nature-inspired colours. A lot of greens."
But the character with the most intricate nails, and the most nail-wardrobe changes by far, is Maddy, played by Demie. "It's funny because people ask me, 'Why do Maddy's nails change so often?, says Minerva. "I think we forget that Maddy's mom is a nail tech — that's part of her storyline — so that's a part of it. Also, Maddy, the character, is definitely that bitch. We know her type: She's really good about self-care. She's great about keeping up with beauty and fashion trends. Nail art just makes sense."
The nail detail speaks to Demie's real-life personality as well. "Alexa is a major nail person," says Minerva. "It's one of the reasons we get along so well. For some people it's hair or makeup, but nails are a big priority for her. Her and I are really symbiotic in the way we think about nails. She sends me inspo and I'm like, 'Yeah, that's sick.' My top three nails of this whole season are all Maddy's."
One of the things that the entire Euphoria cast has in common: they're all wearing press-on nails. "Sometimes the cast is shooting different episodes on the same day, so nail adhesives and press-ons is really the best way to go about it — it makes everyone's life easier," Minera says. "I can make them at home and then just bring the [nail] sets to set."
This too, speaks to the Gen Z trend happening offscreen, with people playing with press-on nails and stickers. Minerva actually empowers people to make their own press-on nails at home using a box set of reusable press ons and decorating them to fit your style. "All you really need is a nail-art brush, tweezers for apply rhinestones and stickers, a good nail glue or adhesive...and a positive attitude. There are so many tutorials on TikTok and Instagram, you can totally figure it out."
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