Outspoken Fernello Nelson is a contestant in the body art competition, where each episode is devoted to a particular theme with the weakest art piece being eliminated. In the season premiere, which Nelson held a screening party for at Escape Penthouse in Astoria, he quickly rose as a favorite among the 12 competitors.
Nelson was the first to win a challenge on the show when his colorful depiction of "passion" blew away judges Craig Tracy, Robin Slonina and RuPaul as well as host Rebecca Romijn. His model, spray painted in colors such as blue, purple, gold and pink, featured two drawings of paintbrushes on her back and a number of paintbrushes rooted from a heart on her chest.
Art has always been a part of his life. Between an unlikely combination watching the Ninja Turtles and Bob Ross paint on television, Nelson grew up knowing he wanted to make art. As for body painting, he stumbled upon the art form while on a photo shoot five years ago. He’s learned the techniques and painting style to be among the top body painters in the country.
Model Sekena Chang said Nelson takes about five hours to do a full-body painting and he does it all himself. His work includes the American flag body art and ornate dragon details. One of his most impressive works is his illumination series, which features glow-in-the dark paintings of intricate skulls and other designs.
His longtime friend and supporter, Olivia Francois, couldn’t hold her excitement for her friend.
“When he first started off with body painting, he’d go from college to college to work,” Francois explained. “Now he’s on TV, he’s come a long way and I’m so proud of him.”
At the screening party, he showed off his skills by masterfully painting three models head-to-toe. The girls were painted to reflect Amazon goddesses with touches of tribal influences. He tries to paint femininity in a sexy, provocative way. His controversial style of painting certainly reflects his outspoken and outgoing personality.
However, Nelson’s personality may interfere with his success in future episodes of the show. Many of his fellow contestants were displeased when it came to his overconfidence. Throughout the episode, he was deemed “annoying” several times, especially when he called the show his “kingdom” in front of the judges and contestants. One competitor even said that Nelson’s “big head will lead to a mighty fall.”
None of that bothers him, though, and besides, it makes for good reality TV. He understands that the artists all have their differences, and his only goal is to be the last one standing.
"I just want to have fun, enjoy the moment and everything has to be spontaneous," he said. "I don't think about what people think about me, I just try to be myself."
His no-regret, larger-than-life persona is more evident when he talked about becoming the “Bill Gates of painting.” Although he currently works at North Shore University Hospital, his dream is to own his own body art business and employ other artists worldwide. But to do that, you have to have a certain drive, Nelson said.
“By having the Bill Gates of painting mentality, it means you want to be number one,” he said. “I believe if you think you’re number one, and you act like you’re number one, sooner or later you will be number one.”
Tune in to GSN on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. to find out if Nelson makes it all the way to the end of the competition.