Stacey Whirlow Luffy

Never giving up

Growing up I was always interested in the beauty industry, I loved hair, makeup, etc. But it wasn’t until high school that nails started becoming a passion for me. I can remember my girlfriend and I always changing our nail looks, either to coordinate with outfits or just trying new designs. Acrylic nails were becoming the thing, and I had one of those early DIY kits trying to do my own. I never was one to pick just one color, I always had to have a design or glitter or whatever the fad was at the time. I remember having “the gold nail” or the piercing. It took me 20 years to finally get into beauty school, and I can remember when we got to the nails and skin classes I was hooked. I decided to focus on just those two areas. I got my aesthetics license first. At the time my husband was still active duty Air Force and we were stationed in New Mexico. It would take me another 13 years to get back into Cosmetology school. I knew three months in that all I wanted to to was nails. I can remember doing 3-4 different designs on my nails before school. Craziness, but I was so passionate about it and at that time my hand was what I had to practice on.

While in Cosmetology school, I had a teacher, Karen Munson, that really supported and encouraged my passion for nails. I can remember her bringing in the latest copy of Nails Magazine, and I was like “WHAT is this?!” I read every single word and was mesmerized. I started following Robin Moses and practicing her art – practice, practice, practice! I also started following Holly Schippers aka “The Fingernail Fixer”. I was just hooked. I remember reading a small blip in Nails about this Nail retreat and I looked it up online and was like, “Holy Crackerjacks! It’s like RIGHT HERE!” Two other experiences that stayed with me… The 1st was I discovered this online web show called Nail Talk Radio and I was obsessed, I couldn’t wait for the next episode. While in school, I fought hard for my passion despite being highly encouraged to give it up. I was told that doing nails wasn’t worth it, hair was where it was at. But I didn’t give up. I went to the Cosmoprof show and met two people that would become very important to me and still are to this day. Heather Reynosa-Davis and Tanya Sisson of CND. They spent time with me and made me feel valued, that I was just as important a student as a veteran Nail professional. It meant the world to me and I have never forgotten that. When I graduated school, I had goals… I knew I needed more education and I looked to where I could find it. Five months after graduating, I attended my first NW Nail Tech Retreat. It was THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE! I entered my first nail competition and went crazy, I learned so much in that weekend it was insane. I will always remember the first day. We signed in and there was a quick lunch, I didn’t know a soul and I am (seriously) very shy. I was alone at a table and two people came over and asked if they could join me… I can remember having a complete mental breakdown in my head because the person who sat next to and talked to me like we had been friends awhile was none other than …Holly Schippers! I couldn’t believe it and then later I was helping in another building and this woman walks in… I heard her voice before I looked up. It was Athena Elliot, the host of Nail Talk Radio. I was having another mental freak out, and she looks at me and says, “Hello darlin’!” And gives me a hug. Yes, at this time I had a total fangirl moment. I’m thinking ‘Holy Crackerjacks, I cannot believe I am here, with all of these amazing professionals that most only read about!’ This event shaped my career – I set my standards high, kept learning, and kept going. I took every single thing I could get from that weekend, it was a definite HOLY CRACKERJACKS moment in my life.

Almost 5 years ago, while still in cosmetology school, I had a medical emergency and almost died. It was the hardest thing I had ever been through. I was so determined to finish school. It had taken me over 20 years to get there, I was bound and determined to finish. The last 4 years I have struggled with effects resulting from those surgeries. I wasn’t giving up. I had finally found my passion, I was doing it. I was NOT going to let my body stand in my way. I know without a doubt if I didn’t have the support of my husband I would not be where I am today. I have been asked how I keep smiling – I smile because I absolutely LOVE what I do! I am getting ready to have neck surgery next month and hopefully it will be my last surgery. My biggest fear was never being able to do nails again, to be able to compete again, or to just be apart of this AMAZING family our industry is.  I want to be a light for people going through struggles as well, we should be there to lift each other up. I want to be for others what Heather, Holly, Tanya, Sandy, Amy, Ellen, Tiffani and Lauren have been for me. I spent my life trying to fit in a box that society and life wanted me to be in, this industry has allowed me to step out of that box and spread my wings. We are all so talented and full of so much passion for what we do, I don’t want anyone to have that light dimmed. I want to be their flashlight or help them find the light they need. My advice to others who are struggling – take it or leave it, find your light. Whatever your passion is, fight for it and follow it.


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