A Laois woman has just returned from London where she was working behind the scenes of Simon Cowell's huge TV music contest The X Factor.
Karen Conroy has been a nail technician in Portlaoise for 16 years. She has carved a career for herself in the nail industry and also works as an educator for the biggest nail academy in Dublin, Creative Academy Ireland, teaching others her trade. She has taught students all over the country.
Karen has spent time with some of the popular X Factor contestants and done their nails for their live television performances.
She is no stranger to television as she has also been featured numerous times on TV3’s Xpose. Karen is originally from Dublin and she met her husband from Rosenallis while on a girly holiday in 1995.
They bought a house in Laois in 1998 and she commuted every day which she said was hard work.
"I decided I needed to get a job closer to home, but was shocked to discover there weren’t any jobs for me here, so I realised I needed to find something and saw a niche in the market - no one was doing nails. I was the first person to offer a full nail service back then in the town - things are so different now.
"I always loved nails, but just assumed it was something that beauty therapists did and I didn’t realise it was something I could specialise in.
"I saw an advert in the Leinster Express - yep you are the reason for my success - for a nail tech course in Marie Threse’s Burke’s beauty college and I booked myself in for a 6-month nail technology course back in 2002. I think I was top of the class - that made a nice change because I certainly wasn’t like that in school.
"I’ve gone from renting a space in a beauty salon, owned a salon and rented a space in a hair salon and now I work from my home salon in Rossvale and have a nail studio called KC Nail Studio & Academy.
"I’ve also won two highly commended awards for best nail salon and best nail technician from the IBPA which is a very prestigious award as it’s the Irish Beauty Professionals Association.
"I have a regular clientele and some of my clients are coming to me for 16 years. I have great clients who are mainly professional women.
"I teach nails two days a week and take appointments for nails three days a week. I have such a passion for my job and love nothing more than teaching and helping others. My students range from girls who are mobile nail techs starting out, to salon owners who have been in the Industry for years and I teach classes from the beginner to the more advanced using all Hand & Nail Harmony Products who are the people who made Gelish.
"I’m a Hand & Nail Harmony Master Educator and I have to re-train every two years to keep that title.
"I love nothing more than seeing a really bad set of nails and I love to transform them and make them look beautiful. I have a lady who bit her nails for years and felt mortified coming into me, but I transformed her nails and now they’re all natural," she said.
Karen has done TV presenter Glenda Gilson’s nails for Xposé and have worked at Pippa O’ Connor’s fashion factory for a charity event.
"I got to meet all of the contestants backstage at the Xfactor and got to see them all in rehearsals and I did Scarlet Lee’s nails with my fellow educator Cliona Sweeney from Beautique Cork, as well as Giovanni Spano and Anthony Russell," she said.