I met Vicki Peters the way most of us did, at a trade show. It was the first time she judged my work and after the awards ceremony I asked her for a critique. I was so upset because I worked really hard to make sure there were no air bubbles in my pink and white sculptures and the nails that won had so many. She patiently explained that the winning nails were so good in the other categories that the deductions the competitor received for air bubbles didn’t matter. After the show Vicki became one of my favorite mentors, if not the No. 1 person I would go to for competition and industry advice. She asked me the same question she has asked so many of us, “What are your goals in this industry?” I didn’t realize until her passing that her question was a turning point for me and that she saw something in me. I had forgotten how much time I actually spent with Vicki and how she shaped the beginning of my career. She pushed and encouraged me, lifted me up, introduced me to key industry people, gave me opportunities and helped me reach several of my goals. She also scolded me about my gum chewing more times than I care to count. (I’ll never put a piece of gum into my mouth on a trade show floor again without thinking of her.) As a competitor, Vicki probably presented over half of my trophies to me. Ironically, as the head judge for Nailpro Competitions, I have the pleasure of doing that same job now.

After learning of her passing on New Year’s Eve, so many memories of Vicki came flooding back.  Unfortunately, over the last few years she and I had grown apart and even had been angry with each other at times, but in the last couple of weeks I remembered the good times. We had shared meals, hotel rooms, lots of laughs and many good friends.  I found myself going through old magazines and photos, and I came across a card she had mailed to me after I got second place in a competition. I was upset that I wasn’t awarded first place. The cover of the card said, “A champion is someone who gets up even when they can’t”. Those words have stuck with me for 20 years. Inside, she wrote an encouraging note, saying, “Although sometimes the best nails don’t win 1st it doesn’t mean everyone isn’t aware of that fact, even me!” That meant a lot coming from her because at that time, some of the judges were not qualified to judge nails—Vicki was a true pro but she wasn’t in attendance that time. Jewell Cunningham was there (another trusted judge) but was not judging that day either.

I knew Vicki was very sick and wasn’t going to be with us very long. This made me sad, but I didn’t realize the feelings her death would invoke. It has been years since we’ve been close. A few years ago, both of us judged the last competition our dear friend Tom Holcomb would ever compete in. We both knew he should have won, even though he didn’t, but I believe we bonded through that experience. While our original closeness never returned, the anger was no longer present and I was glad.  

Recently, I’ve had some tough growing experiences in the nail industry. I found myself devastated by some untrue things being said about me publically. In my self-pity and pride I allowed myself to stop being so involved. At the news of Vicki’s passing the words from Vicki’s old card hit me like a ton of bricks: “A Champion is someone that gets up even when they can’t”. Who knew 20 years later those words would still be so motivating? This is the first blog I have finished in more than a year. Thank you Miss Vicki, this champion is going to get back up and back on track! You, my lady, are and always will be an inspiration. I will remember you with fondness, putting any negatives aside and carry on—just like you taught me.