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Turning Passion into Career: English Hairdresser Finds His Place in the Industry

Feb 28, 2024 |

White male with blonde hair takes a selfie. He has a limb difference on his right arm.By Jewel Connelly, Communications Specialist 

As far back as Ashley Lee can remember, he has always been fascinated with hair. From the time he was 6 years old he loved braiding anyone’s hair who would let him – typically his mom, grandma, and friends. However, one factor proved to make his goal of becoming a hairdresser a bit more challenging than most – he was born with one hand. Today, Ashley is an in-demand hair stylist in London and his weeks are frequently booked with editorial and photo shoots as he transforms models with the wave of a hair curler. His journey to pursue a career that was previously inaccessible to him shows the power of passion to overcome any obstacle. 

Learning to do anything with one hand requires extra patience, and growing up, Ashley’s family was content to allow him all the time necessary to figure out how to do everything on his own. This mindset, which gave him the gift of confidence and independence, certainly carried over as he attempted to learn each new hairstyle. At 16, Ashley applied to college for hairdressing but was denied because he couldn’t complete certain course requirements. After a couple of rejections, he settled for his second choice in graphic design, but ultimately decided his heart wasn’t in it and he needed to follow his true passion. During this time, he continued to do hair on the side, learning from both his sister and stepmom who were hairdressers themselves. 

White male hairdresser sprays hairspray on a woman's banges. She is sitting down and has a darker complexion. After moving from his hometown to London, Ashley decided to try again over a decade later and was pleasantly surprised. He contacted the awarding body for hair and after explaining his situation, found out since the last time he applied to college the previous rules had changed. At 27, Ashley was now able to obtain qualifications in his areas of interest and because he had continued to train and practice on his own it expedited the process to only one year. “In college I was told by my instructors that they were not going to know how to show me, but they could advise me on how to do it, and I would have to figure it out for myself,” Ashley recalled. “I said that’s fine because I’ve always done that my entire life.” With practice Ashley was able to master each style through his own innovative techniques, using his limb like a second hand.

Even though the formal education was delayed, Ashley is confident in the longer journey he has taken. “I always believe that things happen for a reason,” he said. “I feel like if I would’ve gone into college at 16, I might have been really frustrated that I wasn’t able to do everything. So, I feel like having that gap and doing other things, but still learning at a slower pace and figuring things out for myself was maybe just the best way for me to do it.” 

White male hairdresser uses a blow dryer on a blonde woman sitting in a chair.As some with congenital limb difference have expressed, Ashley feels like using a prosthetic arm at this point would just get in his way and slow him down. From beachy glam waves to snatched ponytails and long braids, Ashley does it all with efficiency and enthusiasm for the final product. “A model can come in and after we finish with hair and makeup, they will just look completely different and fit the brief that we’ve been given for the photoshoot,” he said. “I think hair is just amazing, you can do so much with it.” Although he admittedly doesn’t spend much time on his own hair, Ashley loves using his talent and skills to make his clients feel attractive. “I love the transformation and just making people feel pretty and beautiful,” he shared. “Everybody feels so much nicer after they’ve had their hair done, so I just like making people feel like they’re looking their best.” 

As a person who has persisted to achieve what he has in his field, Ashley’s biggest advice to others is the same he’s taken himself: simply to practice whatever you are trying to achieve and never give up on yourself. “I posted a video of me doing hair on TikTok during the pandemic that went viral, and I had quite a lot of people messaging me who had one hand and always wanted to do hairdressing,” he said. “I made sure I applied to every single one because I wanted to tell them ‘look at me, you can do it if you just work hard and practice’.” Repetition until you figure out a way proved to be key for Ashley and his reward is waking up every day to a career he absolutely loves. “It’s not even a job to me, it’s the best job ever!” 

Follow Ashley on TikTok and Instagram (@ashleyleehair) and visit his website at to see his latest creations.