Trini nail tech wins big at international competition

Lecah Maloney. -
Lecah Maloney. -

FROM helping her older sister remove polish from clients' nails, to now having her own thriving nails business, Lecah Maloney's life has come full circle. And now, the 33-year-old boasts of winning two categories at the international competition Nailympia.

Maloney is not from the region of Trinidad and Tobago her name might suggest, but, rather, hails from Salazar Trace, Point Fortin – an area commonly called "Mora."

She attended Vessigny Secondary School, followed by UWI, St Augustine where she did a bachelor's degree in leadership and management.

She told WMN she was always been interested in anything related to art, and doing nails went hand in hand with that. She can also draw, paint and sculpt.

She said for public holidays and during school breaks, "I would have been going to work with (my sister Liselle) as the little sister and sit there while she’s working and the interest was there from about six or seven years old."

When she was around ten, she said, she began to help removing polish from clients' nails "and probably get my $1 tip."

She laughed as she recalled where it all began.

"I grew from that to helping buff the nails or probably putting a top coat as time went along."

From her teenage years, she was able to teach others under her sister's guidance.

"I would attend expos with her, I would do demos...I was always inquisitive and researching for myself.

"Art was always my love so anything artistic, whether its craft, drawing, anything like that, I would always be draw towards it. I love to demonstrate my (artistic) talent."

She then began doing nails along with her sister for the business.

Lecah Maloney won the Realistic Nails category as well as the Joy of Nails category in the 2024 Nailympia competition. -

"While attending UWI, people would see my nails and like it and I would send them by my sister in Chaguanas. I would go there to do the nails or she (my sister) would do it.

"But then my sister was like, 'Instead of you coming down to do nails and sending people by me, just do it up there and make money.' And I was like, 'That's a nice idea!' To this day, I thank my sister for that."

She used this as a way to earn income to help sustain herself while at university, but had not been considering making it a career.

Job hunting proved to be a challenge after graduating in 2012.

One of the first jobs she managed to secure was at a company in Port of Spain which paid $1,800 a month.

"I said I would take it for the experience and I worked hard. I'm never of the belief that (if) a company is (paying me a low salary), I will not work hard.

Nails by Lecah Maloney. -

"You can take the experience you gained at these places and expand and move on to things that can make you more money."

It was during the time she worked at the Point Fortin Hospital as an on-the-job trainee (OJT) that she made the decision that doing nails would become a full-time job for her.

"Word was spreading about 'the girl from Mora.' While I'm on work, I'd get calls all day (from people asking), 'Can I get my nails done?'

"I had to tell them I had another job but they could check me after work as I had a walk-in service."

Nails by Lecah Maloney. -

When she returned home, she would meet several parked cars with potential clients waiting to be attended to.

"I started to think, 'Lecah, if this is running you down, run with it, don't run away from it.'"

She had always wanted to open her own business, but was not sure what type.

And so she launched S Squadinary Nails Hair by L En M.

Her nickname at UWI was S Squared, so she chose a name that was a play on that.

"Everyone started to say Nails by S Squared when referring to me.

"The end (of the business name) is my initials – Lecah Evelyn Noella Maloney."

As the name suggests, she also did hair when she just started out. However, she told WMN the demand became too much for her alone to handle, so she focused on nails.

She said business has been excellent throughout the years. So much so that she was forced to switch from walk-in services to appointment only as clients would park up outside her shop as early as 3am to ensure they get a spot since she was in high demand.

On why she remained in Point Fortin, she said, "I love my core.

"I was born and raised in Salazar Trace, Point Fortin, and no matter what, I like to be able to say I'm from there.

Lecah Maloney works her nail magic. -

"People go as far as Mayaro to get good food. Why can't I stay in Salazar Trace and have people meet me here?"

She said the loves the "authenticity" that comes from remaining in her hometown.

"Come see there's a good thing coming from here. Wherever something good is, people will find it."

Maloney first entered the Nailympia competition in Orlando, US in 2023, placing second in the reality nails category.

On its website, Nailympia says it hosts the world's leading nail competitions. Competitions are hosted annually in Orlando, China, Mexico and London. It falls under the Premiere Orlando Trade Show.

In 2023, Maloney was simply attending the general show out of personal interest with no intention of competing. But when she learnt of the categories in Nailympia, she asked an organiser if there was still time to apply – and there was.

Realistic nails as a category requires nail technicians to show their versatility and ability to cater to people of different ages, gender, etc. It must also be suited for a fast-paced environment.

When she learnt she came second, she said, "I just start to bawl down the place. I ran, I screamed.

"I'm there like, 'Imagine you didn't even prepare for this.'"

She said the organiser who had assisted her earlier said she hoped to see her (Maloney) again the following year.

This year, Maloney won the realistic nails category as well as the joy of nails category.

The latter lets technicians show their ability to shape nails differently, as well as get creative.

Nails by Lecah Maloney. -

Maloney is an educator for the international nail supply store/brand Mia Secret, so she was able to enter the apprentice level of the competition. But now that she has won, she has moved to the rank of master.

"I was shocked again.

"I was waiting for the results and my heart was pounding. I felt just how I felt last year."

She said this victory reaffirmed that she is doing a good job.

In the entire competition, there were 84 competitors from 13 countries.

Lecah Maloney poses with her certificates and medals after winning two categories at Nailympia 2024. -

"I would ask my clients what's the great thing about me that you like so much that you don't go to anyone else, and they would say, 'Lecah, you are really good.'

She teased that some of the people who did not want her to touch their nails when she was still a child are now asking her for appointments.

She said her sister has even attended classes she has taught and believes she (Maloney) has surpassed her skill level.

She thanked her parents Erica and Clinton Maloney for never pressuring her to enter a traditional career field, and urged other young people to "put in the work" when it comes to their craft.

"Students of mine have had friends and family discourage them from this path. Even I had people who would ask what I'm doing now and when I say nails, they would say, 'So you not working anywhere? Ent you went UWI?'"

She said she would simply respond, "Yes (I went to UWI) and I'm doing me.

Nails by Lecah Maloney. -

"Young people, expand, research your craft and passion, get to know it like the back of your hand. Don't try to run a business on talent alone. Invest in your craft."

She also thanked her other three siblings, close friends and fellow members of the nails fraternity for their continued support.

"Thank you to Lee, Antonette, Lloydan, Lecu, Akilah, Dana, Natasha, Natalie, Amanda, Annie and others."


"Trini nail tech wins big at international competition"

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