Fernello Nelson wants to become the “Bill Gates of body painting.”
The 31-year-old Laurelton resident may get his chance to do so on season two of “Skin Wars,” premiering Wednesday night on GSN.
Nelson is one of 12 contestants who will test their skills on TV’s first-ever body painting competition show and the network’s most watched original series.
Hosted by actress Rebecca Romijn and judged by entertainer RuPaul Charles and body painting icons Craig Tracy and Robin Slonina, “Skin Wars” hands the winner not only $100,000, but also an all-expense-paid trip for two to the World Body Painting Festival in Austria, and a nationally distributed Royal and Langnickel custom brush collection with their name on it.
Starting at age 5, Nelson knew that being an artist “was always something true” to who he was, but didn’t know where his creative desire would lead him.
He eventually studied graphic design, but only worked in the field for a few years before he began airbrushing, including on T-shirts. A photo shoot where the T-shirt was painted on the body changed Nelson’s career direction, and he started building his body painting resume.
“[Body painting] was more controversial because you can paint on a canvas and you can do your work and it moves people, but body painting moves people in a different way,” he said.
“It brings painting to life,” he added. “You feel like you are creating this living, breathing entity.”
At first working as EMT to supplement his body painting work, Nelson is now doing the art full time mostly for private parties and events. He decided to audition for the second season of “Skin Wars” because he wanted to show the world his abilities and style, which he describes as very sexy, tattoo-like and making women feel confident and comfortable.
“I wanted to be part of this pioneering adventure, this movement of body art and I felt ‘Skin Wars’ was giving this platform for body artists,” he said, explaining that the show is helping the art form as it’s becoming more acceptable.
“It’s not like you are having a stripper at your event. It’s art, it’s different,” he said.
The show is also giving Nelson, who describes himself as a newbie with a lot of experience within the time frame he’s worked, a chance to sharpen his skills.
“It’s like body paint boot camp,” he said. “You’re working and you are doing body painting that you thought you would never do before. But it’s worth it.”
There is also the chance to win $100,000, which Nelson hopes to reinvest in his business and one day run a company that creates jobs for other body paint artists. And this is where he looks toward Bill Gates as a model.
“I could do the same thing with body painting and grow a company and manage others,” he said, speaking of the Microsoft founder.
“Anytime you set out to do business you want to be number one.”
“Skin Wars” airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on GSN.