Ashley Medina, 42, is Lansing’s mullet master. Featured on NPR, she has more than a half-million followers on Tik-Tok. A session with Medina can feel cathartic and therapeutic, as her clients — many of whom identify as LGBTQ+ — share their stories and life experiences with Medina. Medina’s bold haircuts are a powerful form of self-expression that give confidence to those who sometimes need it the most.
When did you decide to become a hairstylist?
My aunt Pat was a hairstylist with a salon at home. Whatever we could think of, we would go to her, and she could make it happen. There was a lot of stylists in family — cousins and aunts — even my dad and my grandfather used to cut people’s hair in the kitchen. Maybe we’re a vain family, that could be possible.I first got into hair strictly for my own vanity. I wanted to have good hair. I was never fully satisfied when I left the salon, so I would do my hair myself. After many years of doing my hair, people would say, ‘You did such a good job on yours, will you do mine?’ I said, “I can help you guys!” Then I realized how much more fulfilling it is to help others than it is to just have good hair myself.
When did your fascination for mullets begin?
In 2009, I got pregnant. And when I was pregnant, that’s when I got into minimalism. My mullet came about with that, as did wearing all black and wearing the same hoodie daily. I told myself, ‘I’m pregnant; I need to minimize my life to simplify things and focus on this little nugget I’m growing.’ But the honest truth is that my daughter had a birthday party, and I didn’t have time to look at myself and get ready. When the pictures came back, I was disgusted with how my hair looked. I said, ‘Fuck this, I need a hairstyle that always looks badass.’ That was the moment when I said, ‘I need a mullet.’ It was 2011 when I first shaved my head and began growing a mullet, so it’s been about 10 years.
How did you get connected with Bliss Salon?
I was looking around for a new job, and the manager at my beauty supply shop told me to talk to Dallas Angelosanto, the owner of Bliss. I met her and it went really well. I knew it was going to be a good fit when Dallas told me she hired based on personality, not skill level. What she has cultivated has a great energy, everybody that comes in notices it. You can feel it, and that’s what really sold it to me. When I first started working there, Bliss was up and coming. Over the years, we’ve really grown together. I could not do what I do and have the success that I have had without them. I’ve thought about opening my own place plenty of times, but it’s just such a great team that it’s just not time for me yet.
What is it about you that attracts media attention and thousands of social media followers?
All of my videos that blow up are never the ones that are like, “Hey look at this amazing work I did.” The ones that go viral are the ones of me talking to my clients about what they want to get. I do think that I’m a great hairstylist, but it means more to me that I am touching people. I am so honored that they’re trusting me to be a part of this transitional period in their life, whether they’re transitioning genders or they’re not feeling comfortable in their body and their hair isn’t matching how they picture themselves on the inside. It’s sensitive and vulnerable, and there’s so much emotion on their end. It’s a nerve-wracking thing to sit in a chair and hope that this hairstylist will listen to you and actually be able to execute what they say they’re going to execute. It proves how many people can relate to sitting in that chair; being nervous and trying to figure out how to explain things that you yourself might not understand.
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