Alaska has a reputation for many things: snow, moose, wild adventures. Lip liner? Not so much. But when Ashley Strong noticed Kylie Jenner’s viral lip liners flying off the shelves while working at M.A.C., she thought she could offer her expertise.
“I never entered the industry because I wanted to sell lip liner,” Ashley said. Rather, she saw a need for transparency and insider knowledge about the world of beauty. “I did want to help girls understand that there were some cosmetic procedures being done.”
Ashley, who has a cosmetology license, started filming herself doing makeup tutorials, demonstrating tips and tricks, and providing real talk in an industry that often profits from smoke and mirrors.
Her blunt approach and avant-garde style garnered her a massive following on social media. Ashley quickly became one of the most popular influencers not just in Alaska but in the beauty space. Her videos have received millions of views, and she has partnered with major brands like the makeup company Morphe, with which she developed a line of makeup products including an eye shadow palette and yes, her very own lip liner.
“I kind of became an influencer on accident,” Ashley said. “I went viral a couple of times and then I realized that, you know, it felt good doing it.”
Even though Ashley was always a creative, growing up in Anchorage didn’t give her much of a reference point for how to turn her talents into a career. Much of her inspiration came from pop culture outlets like MTV, VH1 and online. Today, she hopes her success can inspire the next generation of Alaskans to pursue careers and ideas that may not be so prevalent in the 49th state.
“I try to take up enough space so that I am someone that someone else who’s growing up here can look at and say, ‘She did it — there are people here that are doing what I want to do,’ ” Ashley said.
Ashley doesn’t take that visibility lightly, in Alaska and beyond. Being a biracial Black woman in the beauty industry, she’s noticed how Black women of different shades and skin tones are treated differently. Darker-skinned women are often overlooked or not even approached for the types of opportunities that she gets. It’s important, she said, to support others by sharing opportunities and creating connections.
“I try to just make space, make room, and cause a ruckus,” Ashley said.
While she didn’t necessarily see an avenue into her current career as a kid, she’d like to see Alaska grow a “bigger arts scene, more fashion, more glam, more makeup.” Her success shows that being from Alaska isn’t automatically a limitation.
“As long as you are being authentic to yourself, you’re being real and honest and you truly are aligned with your passion, that is a special energy that no environment or circumstance can interrupt,” Ashley said. “If you’re on your path, there’s little to nothing that can stand in your way.”