Real Stories: Ash Fortis, @xostylistxo

Insta-famous color maven Ash Fortis, 29, (@XoStylistXo) was inspired early on by shows like Shear Genius and Extreme Makeover. “I remember thinking how amazing it was to transform a person and see them light up,” says Fortis. Today, her more than 124 Instagram followers light up seeing her vibrant and mesmerizing client color transformations. The Norfolk, VA, native graduated with honors from a Paul Mitchell partner school, and quickly threw herself into an intensive apprenticeship at Dupre’s Salon and Spa in Virginia Beach. The experience not only sharpened her technical skills but also instilled a strong culture of business and a life centered around passion and authenticity. In fact, it’s been her mission to inspire the hairdressing community with these values. “I want to use my story to make a difference and inspire someone who needs it,” says Fortis, who regards social media as the perfect vehicle to generate excitement and create a diverse look book. “It’s allowed me to pursue my wildest dreams—to inspire, educate and be part of a beautiful movement elevating stylists.”

Using the live video-streaming platform Periscope, Fortis connected with educational troupe Butterfly Circus. There, she opened a dialogue about everything she experienced on the floor including formulations and techniques. “I loved sharing and interacting with other stylists. And [Butterfly Circus] co-founders David and Alexis were some of them,” says Fortis, who tours the country teaching color with Butterfly Circus. The best part of her job? “Engaging people and building relationships.” Watch for Pulp Riot, the new color line she’s helping to launch. Oh, and in her spare time, she also plans to open XO Hair Studio at Phenix Salon Suites in her hometown.

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