Embracing Her Natural Locks

Ashly Rodriguez is a sensation on social platforms, thanks to being her true self
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Rodriguez posted a photo of herself on Instagram, showing off her curls. It went viral. Photo courtesy Ashly Rodriguez

Growing up in Manchester, Ashly Rodriguez had few places to turn for help styling her natural hair.

“If I walked into a hair salon,” she recalls, “they would look at me and be like, ‘I don’t know how to do your hair.’”

She’s grateful that there are now more options for teens struggling to find a place that can take care of their hair. But it took Rodriguez until her early twenties to embrace her natural curls, after years of being taught that it was “unprofessional” or hard to style — and lots of hours spent straightening it. But one day, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram, showing off her curls. And it went viral.

“I had tons of people messaging me like, ‘Hey, can you just share more of your hair?’” she says.

So she did. And in the nine years since, she’s grown an audience of more than 84,000 subscribers on YouTube, 160,000 on Instagram and, most recently, nearly 50,000 on TikTok. (You can find her at @ActuallyAshly on YouTube and TikTok, and @Actually_Ashly on Instagram.)

At first, Rodriguez focused primarily on sharing tips and resources for styling natural hair. Eventually, she expanded into the beauty and skin care space — and in the last few years, she started to branch out even more.

“I realized I want to just share everything that I enjoy,” she says of her pivot to creating videos focused on food, travel and other joys, large and small, from her daily life. “I don’t want to be stuck in a box.”

After years working on and off for the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester, she took a break to work full-time on content creation for two and a half years during the pandemic. During this stretch, she found herself missing the structure of a more traditional job; she’s since returned to a full-time position as a social media manager for a small company.

“My weekends are definitely full of more content,” she says, “but I try to get a couple hours in every day, even if it’s just a couple stories on Instagram or creating a new TikTok.”

Recently, Rodriguez struck social media gold with another series inspired by a challenge from her own life. Hoping to reduce her takeout budget, she embarked on a quest to cook every meal for at least a month in January 2022 — and, of course, documented her grocery trips and meal prep sessions along the way. Her “#foodathomechallenge” was a hit: She saved $649 her first month, according to one of her Instagram posts, but she also reached lots of other people who were inspired to try a similar approach. A TikTok video recapping her 2022 takeaways from #foodathomechallenge has garnered more than 1 million views.

“It’s just so cool that a little challenge I did for myself to save money has impacted so many people,” she says. “And now they’re being a little bit more mindful or just finding joy in the kitchen.”

While her audience hails from all over, Rodriguez says she loves to connect with other Granite Staters — whether sharing restaurant recommendations (for when she’s not cooking at home), or swapping advice on a good hair stylist (like her current stylist in Massachusetts, who she met through social media).

“Just connecting with people and teaching and learning from people is really what brings me joy,” she says. “I just want to make the best with what I have. And I’m very lucky to have the platform that I do.”

Categories: People