For nearly nine years, Ashley Hardesty worked as a cook at the Bishop Soenneker Home in Knottsville.

After work, her creative side took over. Hardesty spent evenings playing with her sons and sewing.

About a year ago, though, Hardesty seized an opportunity and took a job as a Walgeens beauty consultant. That career move has transformed her in many ways.

Suddenly, she had shelves full of foundations, powders, eye shadows, concealers, lip stains and eyeliners at her fingertips. It looked like an artist’s palette — waiting for a little imagination.

On the job, Hardesty connected with customers who taught her some techniques, and she started watching makeup artists on YouTube.

At some point, someone invited Hardesty to attend a makeup artists’ competition in Louisville.

“That lit a fire under me,” she said.

During the holiday season, Walgreens encouraged its employees to dress in festive sweaters or Santa hats. Hardesty let her imagination fly.

One day, the self-taught makeup artist came to work with a red poinsettia painted by her eyes.

Another day, she used drugstore cosmetics to paint her face like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“On Christmas Eve, I came in full costume as the Grinch,” she said.

On Valentine’s Day, Hardesty showed up for work with a face full of hearts.

She shares lots of photos of the many faces she has created during the past year.

It took four hours to turn herself into a werewolf, and she worked six weeks on her Mystique costume, straight from the pages of the X-Men comics books.

She’s transformed her face into a fairy, elf, Jack Frost, lizard and stained-glass window.

“I practice something every day,” Hardesty said. “I get experimental with blending colors. Once you get to know the product, you learn how to manipulate it into something more artistic.”

Of course, most of the time she’s in Walgreens, she focuses on helping customers in the cosmetics department.

She provides beauty consultations and demonstrations.

Some days, she may work with a teen girl who needs a few pointers. Other days, it’s a cancer survivor who wants to feel good about herself again or a bride preparing for her big day.

Hardesty also uses her newfound skills to transform people into the characters of their dreams for parties, Halloween and other holidays.

At some point in the future, she would like to open a permanent makeup business.

Hardesty never wore much makeup in the past. She never thought about cosmetics or beauty as a career before landing the Walgreens job.

At one time, she thought homemaking, sewing and caring for people were her only skill sets.

Being involved with cosmetics has transformed her, she said, in more ways than one.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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