Chasing Rainbows: Inside Shelley Gregory's Technicolor Dream

Shelley Gregory’s beauty journey wasn’t always rainbows. In fact, she had been a hairstylist for 15 years—in San Diego, California and Las Vegas—before she racked up close to the nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram she has today and all the success that has come along with that recognition.

Gregory’s infatuation with beauty actually started with Cabbage Patch dolls. Around the age of five growing up in Las Vegas, she had a Cabbage Patch magazine that taught her how to braid. As she grew up, her love for beauty flourished, with makeup specifically.

After high school, Gregory moved to San Diego to attend beauty school at a community college. She learned how to do hair, with the eventual goal of graduating to become a makeup artist—but, of course, that changed.

“I fell so much in love that I stuck with hair,” she says. “It's cool because now I’m doing makeup on hair because I get to do rainbow hair.”

After school, Gregory worked in a salon in suburban La Jolla outside of San Diego before moving back to Las Vegas. She worked at four salons before falling in love with the salon she now calls home, Square Salon.

Two years ago, there was a pivot in the trajectory of her career to which she credits Instagram. In October 2015, after tagging #modernsalon on many posts, @modernsalon shared her work. That’s when Gregory says her account “blew up” and her work really started to get noticed.

“I must've gotten at least 300 followers that day and it was from this really pretty copper redhead MODERN SALON shared named pumpkin spice latte,” Gregory says. “After that, it’s like I got that little fix and I wanted more. MODERN was the first to post me and have me get that fix. Now I’m addicted!”

Gregory began consulting with fellow Square Salon stylist Chita Beseau to amp up her social media game. Beseau had already gained a following herself, frequently getting reposted and getting attention from the industry.

Beseau gave Gregory some pointers on how to clean up her page and move her best work higher. Gregory bought a ring light to improve her photo quality and kept posting and hashtagging.

Then, any social-media maven’s dream came true for Gregory in November 2015—her work went viral. That color creation just so happened to be Gregory’s first rainbow look—that skill Gregory has become so famous for. She called the look “pastel macaroon hair.”

“I had 1,400 followers when I posted that pastel macaroon hair,” she says. “And by Christmas, I had 10,000 followers.”

The rainbow bug had bit.

She wanted to do more and more multi-colored, vibrant hair because of everything great that came from that post, she says. And those rainbows have led her to some magical places.

Earlier this year, L'Oréal Professionnel named Gregory as a brand ambassador, educating on her pastel balayage skills and serving as a judge for the brand’s inaugural U.S. Color and Style Trophy. Beyond that in 2017, Gregory has collaborated on a cover shoot with MODERN, been a guest artist for Pravana, winner of GHD’s style master, worked on five shows at New York Fashion Week and more.

She says by entering contests and getting her name out there, it made her realize her talent and worth, which makes her work harder for more. She now travels internationally for her craft to speak and educate, a trend that will continue into 2018 when she kicks off the year teaching on the main stage at the International Salon and Spa Expo in Long Beach, California.

Her advice to other stylists is to hustle, network, be consistent in your work, and always say yes.

“If you say ‘yes’ all the time, eventually all those yeses are going to turn into bigger and bigger opportunities,” she says.

Gregory is having her best year ever—until next year.

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