Ashley "Respect The Braider"
I went from a babysitter to a Celebrity hair braider in about 3 months.
I’ve known how to braid ever since I was ten years old but I never took it very serious until recently. I posted a picture of the braids I did for my brother a few months ago and started to get some really good feedback from a lot of different people. Instagram really started to blow things up for me and I wasn’t sure at first how to handle it all. It almost felt like the Universe was sending people with long hair my way – like it was meant to be.
Soon after, more of my friends started coming over to get their hair braided and every time I posted pictures, more and more people wanted to get work done. It got to the point where total strangers would slide in my DM and ask what my rates were or when I was available and I ended up creating appointments for all these people who loved my work. I had multiple appointments each and every day - it was non-stop. This was going strong for about 3 weeks but slowly died down. I thought maybe my luck was up with this streak that had caught fire from social media but sure enough as soon as it started slowing – Kim Kardashian posted a picture with these awesome braids and everyone wanted them. So they turned to me.
So many people on Twitter and Instagram were contacting me asking if I could do the same braids she had. I never had attempted it but went for it and sure enough it became one of the most popular and requested braids from my customers. After that, things became routine. Most of the braids I do are the basic two braids or box braids, and occasionally the Kim K braids to this date – simple things for the most part. The difference is that I really take time and view it as an artform. Some people see braids and think “Oh that’s so easy” but it’s not, not when you do it the right way. I pay attention to all of the details and respect the process. If you ever see me work you will understand how much care I put into a job. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will take a long time, but more that it’s similar to art, art on your head, and with that comes all of its intricacies. When I’m done, I really want my clients to look at themselves and say “Wow”. I want them to be confident. Honestly that’s what makes me happiest. Being able to see my clients afterward feeling good about themselves is one of the most rewarding parts. It’s also still so surreal looking at them and realizing, I did that. It amazes me every day.
I also want people to understand that this didn’t happen over night. Though things moved quickly, it took a lot of hard work and commitment to even get to where I’m standing today. This was a non-stop mission for me braiding hair day in and day out, perfecting my work. Every day was different and taught me new things. I embraced that and I never stopped working.
Eventually it was this type of work ethic that caught on with a few celebrities. One of the first celebrities I worked with was Omarion’s brother, O Ryan who is a musician himself and a very popular figure in social media. We connected when I was out in LA and I worked on his hair for about 5 hours giving him box braids. He loved them and even mentioned that I was the only other person that had braided his hair besides his own mother. To me, that really put the trust people had in me in perspective. I appreciated the love and respect he showed for my work and it was a huge boost to my confidence.
After that, I worked with Wolf Tyla who is also pretty dope. She is a 19-year-old Vine celebrity who also sings. I got linked to her almost immediately after meeting a new friend who really liked my work. I was telling him that it would be awesome to braid Kehlani’s hair one day and he said he might know someone, “she’s not Kehlani but she does have over 1 million followers on Instagram”. It’s funny looking back now because at the time I actually did not know who Wolf Tyla was but I am so glad to have met her. She was really laid back and even hung out with me after I did her braids. She ended up sending a ton of clients my way whether they were cool chicks on Instagram or actual models that wanted to get braided by me. Seeing the support from someone I just met on a professional level was really motivating for me.
Next was probably my biggest client to date. I went from someone with 1 million followers to someone with 25 million followers. His name was Chris Brown. I want to say that happened pretty unexpectedly, but part of me always expected to work with some pretty big names. I was supposed to link up with someone in California who had access to some artists in the same profile level as Chris Brown but things didn’t work out when I was there. We stayed in touch though and one day I got a call from her and she said I need you to come and braid someone’s hair – are you free? I didn’t even ask who the client was as I was happy to just help. I remember running back home to get all my things for the braids, showing up at the studio and it was Chris Brown there waiting for me. It’s funny because I still remember all of my friends hitting me up asking what I was doing that night and if I could hang out. They all felt bad for me when I told them I couldn’t because I was braiding hair. Little did they know, there was nothing I could be doing with them that would be more exciting than this.
Protocol with high profile individuals like this include phone confiscation which was kind of bummed about because I wanted to promote my brand and get it out there that this was one of my clients. Luckily for me though, Chris was really chill and loved my story and almost couldn’t believe I was only doing this for three months. He loved the finished product and even said that they were the tightest braids he ever received and that “they got that grip”. He let me take some pictures and even a video that you can find on my Instagram.
After working with some of these clients my work really started reaching so many new audiences. People were telling me they saw my work on the explore page, Facebook, people that they were already following, etc – It was everywhere. My hashtag #RespectTheBraider was booming! I have to say that it’s all been a blessing and I’m so thankful. Hard work does really pay off.
As far as what I would like to do in the future, you know this whole braiding thing wasn’t a part of the plan and it kind of just happened. It’s come so far in such a short period of time but it’s really got me to think of what I could do if I put my mind to it. I would love to open up my own Beauty Bar where it’s just me and a couple of other people handling all beauty related work. Whether that is hair, makeup and nails all in one unique setting with dope music and art. I want it to be different than anything that’s out there today. I feel like it would be a blend of all the things I love doing. I love drawing, playing the piano and I love music. I’m too shy to be the one out there in the spotlight so I’m happy to have found something that I can do every day and be proud of.
A big piece of my story is also a mini awakening I had gone through in the midst of my braiding phase. I actually had recently gone through a break up from a very long relationship, one that was three and a half years long. People see me doing what I’m doing and they’re so shocked at how fast I was able to bounce back and get on my grind but honestly it helped me so much. I’m not saying the relationship was bringing me down bur rather there were things that made me not focus on me. I was gaining a bunch of weight, my mind was elsewhere, and I felt like I couldn’t focus. I needed to get my mojo back. Once the braiding thing started going, I got this renewed confidence in myself. I felt like because I was single, I was more appealing now and could really focus on being a better me. Like they say, when one door closes another one opens. I feel like so many of the opportunities that came my way could not have been possible if I was the same person I was before. I would not have been as available or as open to meeting with so many new people. I was getting out of my comfort zone, which is what I needed to do.
I tell everybody – just believe in yourself and follow your dreams and don’t let anything or anyone bring you down. Be yourself and people will like you for who you are. The only person you can be is yourself, everyone else is taken so why not just embrace it. If people don’t like you, maybe they are the problem. Appreciate things that come your way and understand no love is perfect. Things wont always go your way or as you planned but that’s okay. There’s always something out there that is better for you. Keep doing what you got to do to be where you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
P.S Follow me on Instagram @Maryjane_ash and @RespectTheBraide