She has been a butterfly, a reindeer, a lizard, a stained-glass window, the Mad Hatter and many more characters, using cosmetics and other items from her Walgreens in Owensboro, Kentucky, to bring each look to life.
Last year she planned to come to work the day before Halloween as a werewolf, and turned to YouTube in the weeks before to study hair application techniques used on movie sets.
“Halloween gave me a playground to experiment with all the products we have at Walgreens,” says Hardesty. “For the werewolf, I used Walgreens makeup and bought spirit gum – a novelty adhesive we sell during Halloween – to lay down the hair on my face and neck using chunks of a wig. I even put makeup and hair on my hands and wore long, claw-like artificial nails from Walgreens, but I roughed them up using black, brown and red paint. It took me four hours.”
The next day, on Halloween, she showed up to work as Mystique from the X-Men comics and movies, covered head-to-toe in electric-blue makeup and clothing – a costume she worked on for six weeks.
When the holidays arrived, it became Hardesty’s “thing” to go above and beyond with makeup, and she began to expand in-store demos and customer makeovers to include characters and costumes. The week before Christmas, she dressed up every day, drawing sparkly red poinsettias around her eyes and wearing full makeup and costumes to become Jack Frost, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and an elf. On Christmas Eve, she came to work as the Grinch, green hairspray and all – from Walgreens, of course.
“It was cheaper for me to use my Walgreens makeup than buy an ugly Christmas sweater,” she says, laughing. “And the looks got a lot of attention from customers. Women would ask, ‘What did you use for this? How long did it take?’ It really let me show off my creativity and knowledge of our products.”
Hardesty joined Walgreens a year and a half ago, but her creativity blossomed decades earlier when she learned to sew at a young age. As an adult, she turned her love for sewing into a side business, making custom dresses for weddings, proms and other special occasions. She spent her days working at a nursing home and caring for her young sons, now 10 and 7, and used her nights to perfect her craft.
Hardesty knew sewing was just one piece of the puzzle on each client’s big day – a carefully synchronized orchestration of dress, hair, makeup, nails and accessories – but she couldn’t stand to see anyone feeling rushed, stressed and less than confident when they came to pick up their dress.
“I never turned a girl away without her feeling picture-perfect,” she says. “Sometimes that meant offering to touch up her curls or do her makeup, which is how I got started. Now my job at Walgreens allows me to combine my love of sewing and makeup for holidays and other events when I’m dreaming up entire characters and teaching customers about everything we have to offer.”
One look Hardesty is especially proud of is something she calls the “half and half” – an old woman on one side of her face and her regular self on the other. To create it, she recalled what she’d learned during anti-aging training for No7, a Walgreens Boots Alliance skincare and beauty line.
And then she did the opposite.
“I have a lot of customers who want to even out lines and wrinkles or get rid of age spots and redness around the eyes,” she says. “I took all of that into account and tried to put it on myself. I turned my face every which way to see where I’d develop lines. I thought about what people are trying to correct, and then forced myself to see it.”
A personal place
Sometimes Hardesty is unrecognizable – even to herself. It’s these moments when she knows she has done her best.
“A lot of my hobbies come from a very personal place of pulling from within and finding what makes me me,” she says. “And I felt that whenever I could accomplish an entire garment for someone or whenever someone told me they loved the makeup I did for them, it’s seeing how pleased someone else is that really makes me feel like I did well.
“But to get better, you have to have a practicing medium. So I felt like the more I could lose myself in a costume or a makeup look – the more I could lose Ashley's face and turn it into another face – the better my skills got. You can choose to wear makeup or not wear any at all. It doesn't have to be to lose yourself or enhance yourself. It's all about what makes you feel good about you.”
Makeup, meet mask
A lot looks different in the world this year because of COVID-19, including Halloween. But for Hardesty, it will feel largely the same at home and at work. She’ll sew Halloween costumes for her boys, as she does every year, and set up a table in-store with photos of her Halloween beauty looks and the products she used to create them. But she is adding an important layer this year: a mask.
“Walgreens has custom photo face masks that can be ordered to fit any costume,” she says. “With a little creativity – using makeup, a mask or both – people can still have fun safely this Halloween.”
Visit the Walgreens photo site to bring out your inner artist and design your own mask today, or choose from tons of fun ready-made designs.