We didn't think it would be possible to find a new girl crush and BFF in one swoop, but it happened. Meet Ashley-Lauren Elrod, actress, singer, violinist, dancer, and painter. And despite living in the spotlight, she's as down-to-earth as they come — as illustrated by her no-fuss beauty routine. Homemade face masks whipped up from bananas, brown sugar, and olive oil? Au naturel never looked so good!
Photographed by Heather Talbert
So, you’re a violinst, actress, singer, dancer, and painter. We feel lazy! Tell us about how you’ve grown to develop these multiple talents.
"You know it’s funny; all of these things — along with others — just came naturally. God-given gifts that I surely don’t take for granted. I come from a family where each member possesses at least five things they can do extremely well. With the exception of Mom, one of my brothers, and older sister, all are athletes and artists. My dad was a star football and basketball player at NIU, champion swimmer at U of I, along with the first chief of police’s assistant, a mental hospital assistant, an actor, teacher, dean, and now an assistant superintendent! Ha-ha! We just really get around!"
Ashley is wearing a Lee Winter vintage shirt, Express shorts, and HUE stockings.
Who do you admire from a beauty perspective and why?
"My mom and sister are beautiful from the inside out. Their humor and wonderful spirits make them as beautiful as ever because they are very accepting and down-to-earth. Their style is very coordinated and polished — total opposite from me in a way, which is why I admire and love it. They’ve taught me everything I know about inner and outer beauty. I also deeply admire my great grandmother; she was from the Blackfoot tribe and had super-long gray hair and the most beautiful style of the tribe. I’ll never forget seeing the photo."
From left to right: Hair products from Carol's Daughter's Chocolat Smoothing and Hair Milk collections, EOS lip balm, and Ocean Salt from Lush.
How would you describe your style?
"I would say my style is vintage chic. I live for tailored blazers, button-downs, dresses, and slacks. Chic and sophisticated with a little edge. I love to rock out, so my style definitely has that funky little edge for a strong statement."
What’s your biggest beauty challenge and how do you work on conquering it?
"Keeping my spirit in the right when it comes to people doing me wrong. Like I said before, inner beauty is what matters most to me and keeping myself centered and positive can be a challenge around certain individuals who just want to bring others down. I feed off energies so, if the energy is off, I have to work 10 times as hard to not let it affect me. I work to strengthen my spirit daily with prayer, positive actions, writing, and deeply connecting with my center."
Let’s talk accessories: What are some of your go-to pieces?
"My custom snaffle bit leather bracelet by a wonderful bridle maker I worked with last year, my dream catcher earrings, a Forever 21 elephant necklace, and mustang rings."
Considering you have your hands in so many pots, so to speak, how do you maintain your nails?
"I keep my nails natural and clean with a dab of color using my favorite line: OPI
. I also use Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Balm
, which does wonders to keep nails looking healthy."
Do you have any favorite spas or nail bars in Chicago?
has been my go-to place and I really love Beauty Bar
— it’s such a retro and cool place! I’m mean, c’mon. What’s better than grabbing a cocktail, getting a mani, and dancing in the same place? It for sure makes the perfect night out. Lastly, if you want the best eyebrows ever, B. Bella Salon
in the South Loop is the best. You’ll never leave disappointed."
You have some amazing hair! What salon do you go to?
"First off, I’m keeping it real, girl! This isn’t all of my hair. I have the back sewn in because it protects my actual hair in the winter and allows my hair to grow longer and stronger. My hair grows extra fast when left alone and braided, so when summer rolls around, I’m ready to break free! I still have to keep the big amount of my hair that is left out and not braided, healthy, so Carol’s Daughter
is my savior. I use the entire Hair Milk
line along with its Chocolat Smoothing
line to keep my curls smooth and bouncy!"
"I have yet to find a salon that won’t mess up my hair. So, when I’m in a bind, I’ll go to a family friend who has a small salon on the south side. She does an excellent job!"
Do you have any homemade beauty secrets or remedies?
"I LOVE making my own masks! Bananas, brown sugar, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon, would be my favorite. I let it cool in the freezer for around five minutes so when I smooth it on, it’s cool and invigorating. I leave it on for five to 10 minutes and rinse off while exfoliating with the brown sugar crystals. Trust me, everyone should try it! It will leave your skin feeling like a baby’s bottom and bright as ever."
Tell us about the rest of your skin-care routine.
"I love to go all natural and fresh always! I’m not big on makeup, so making sure I keep a glowing, even-toned, complexion is very important to me."
"I always start with cool water and a dab of olive oil mixed with shea butter — the real deal shea butter that’s gets shipped in from Africa. Now don’t think I’m a bougie fancy-pants — I don’t get it shipped in personally but the store where I buy it from (The African Store
) on Van Buren Street does! It’s absolutely amazing; it leaves your skin smooth, bright, and has literally cleared up all of my post-acne marks. I use it all over my body and will never use anything else as long as I live. I exfoliate twice a week with Ocean Salt
from Lush and would be lost without it. I also use its Breath of Fresh Air
toner and Olay moisturizer.
And what about your makeup routine after you've prepped that glowing complexion of yours!
"Call me boring, but I simply don’t wear makeup unless it’s a special occasion. Sometimes, I’ll use a bit of Borghese
mascara to pop my lashes and smooth on some Revlon lipstick
in Black Cherry. Other than that, I dab on my EOS
lip balm and head out the door!"
Ashley is wearing a No Boundaries top, Style & Co sweater, Akira pants, a belt from France, Forever 21 earrings and bracelets, and Steve Madden boots (as seen in the next slide).
Where do you draw your musical inspiration from?
"I draw it from everywhere! I am in love with music and super-inspired by artists such as Phil Collins, Kings of Leon, Lifehouse, JT, Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Whitney, Aventura, Hans Zimmer, and so many more! Instrumentals and movie soundtracks are a major part of my overall inspiration for my particular style of music and writing."
Is this also what you listen to for personal enjoyment?
"Yep! I listen to everything from around the world. I make it an assignment to scan YouTube, and type in random stations on Spotify just so I can discover something new. There are SO many amazing artists out there from the U.S., Brazil, U.K., everywhere and it’s such a joy discovering them."
Of your many talents, which one are you partial to?
"That’s a tough one! Honestly, all of them — with the exception of painting — gets me on stage, which is my home. Being on stage is a supernatural feeling especially when you’ve worked so hard to deliver a great show. I love that genuine connection with the audience, there’s just nothing like it in the world. Each talent enables me to show everyone who I really am: I am selfless with my performances; it’s important for me to leave my heart on the floor. "
What’s a major career highlight you can share with us?
"Another tough one! Wow. There have been so many but the major career highlight would have to be launching my music career this year. Music is and has always been a big part of my life; it‘s been my escape. I recently launched a successful fundraiser for the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, an organization fighting to combat child abuse and help children and families receive justice and healing. Helping children all over the world survive after being harmed is the biggest goal of mine because I can relate to them and want to save as many lives as I can one song at a time."
"Launching my first single 'Warrior' was the best moment of my life. It has started my new journey off beautifully and it’s helping people, which is all I care about."
Tell us about your time on television — you must have been over the moon!
"I’ll admit it’s a pretty jazzy feeling! Maybe I think too much into it, but when you hit the hammer every day just trying to catch a break and someone finally says yes, seeing yourself in an Adidas commercial or on a show like MTV’s Underemployed is a humbling feeling."
What are you involved in currently?
"Right now, I’m wrapping up a short film called Ways to C'ange a Life. My character is a mom and waitress who crosses paths with a top executive whose life she changes for the better. Three big indies I co-starred in will be out this summer. But overall, I’m full speed ahead on the music train! Working hard on the album, collaborating with other up-and-coming artists, and entering pre-production for the 'Warrior' music video."
Ashley is wearing a Calvin Klein coat, Arts and Artisans scarf, Steve Madden boots, and a Charming Charlie hat.
What advice do you have for any budding artists/actresses out there?
"Never give up, never give in. I’ve learned a lot in the past five years of steadily working in the industry and as a young artist that people will try to break you down and make sure you stay there — especially if you’re woman. If you’re tenacious, smart, and handle your own, you will be respected by many and disliked by a handful. Stay humble, open, and keep training! Even if you don’t have money for classes, find good monologues or songs, tape yourself, and learn to properly critique yourself. It’s also great to have a few good honest colleagues to do the same...no sugar coating."
What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
"Heels down, head up. I believe that, in a way, is the best beauty advice I’ve received from my first horseback riding trainer, Judi Pappas. I believe beauty is all about confidence and inner strength, this training tool has always helped me in everyday life to keep my feet on the ground and head up no matter what hardships may come my way."