Ashley Dossous '24 greets the audience at the inaugural Hair Show. (Photo: Jaiden Nicholson)

Slaying on stage

First-generation college student Ashley Dossous ’24 celebrates the power and versatility of hair

On a Saturday night in March, a standing-room-only crowd roared with approval as a model strutted down a red-lit runway in the Heights Room, music pulsing in the background. When she reached the end, she turned her back to the audience and lifted her hair, letting the intricate braids fall in waves around her. This, after all, is what the people had come to see. 

The Inaugural Hair Show, hosted by (Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step, Boston College’s all-women step team), was created by Ashley Dossous ’24, a nursing student who launched her hair braiding business, , as a first-year student. Her vision, inspired by the annual fashion shows put on by the African Student Organization, Black Student Forum, and Caribbean Culture Club, was an event celebrating hair as both an art form and centerpiece of Black culture.

“I always describe hair as being a crown that can be readjusted, especially within our society, but it’s also an accessory that can be an embodiment of your personality,” she explained. “I wanted to put on a show that made people feel empowered and beautiful.”

Dossous grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her parents settled after emigrating from Haiti. Her mother was a talented hair braider and a big believer in first impressions, which meant Dossous and her younger sister never left the house with unstyled hair. Eventually, hand cramps prevented her mother from braiding for long periods of time, so she began passing on her skills to Dossous, who proved a quick study. 

“I instantly got it, so I guess it runs in the family,” Dossous said with a laugh. “We had lots of teaching sessions with my sister being the model.”

Dossous began using two mirrors to braid her own hair, and when she arrived at Boston College, she offered her services to her roommate. Through BC F1rst, a program for first-generation college students, Dossous met other students of color who became close friends and were more than happy to avoid Boston’s high salon fees, which can reach $500 for more involved styles. With their encouragement, Dossous set up a make-shift salon in her dorm and launched an Instagram account showcasing her work. Soon, DMs requesting appointments began to roll in from students at BC and beyond.

A model in the hair show
A model in the hair show
A model in the hair show

Photos by Jaiden Nicholson.

A model in the hair show

In the beginning, Dossous’s repertoire was limited to braids and twists but she quickly branched out, practicing cornrows until she was able to execute clean lines and, eventually, intricate patterns where the flat braids cross over or zigzag around one another. Her menu of services now includes knotless braids, fulani braids (cornrows in the front, box braids in the back), goddess braids for adding curly pieces, and marley, bohemian, and passion twists. She does all types of locs, any length of hair, and challenging multi-part designs—and she’s constantly learning new tricks.  

“There’s a couple of friends I have that, whenever they book me, I know it’s going to be for a style I’ve never done before,” she said. “If they bring an inspiration picture I’ll try to mimic it so it’s kind of like copying and pasting, but when they want me to freestyle I have to think outside the box and be creative.” 

Most appointments begin with Dossous conditioning and blow drying a client’s hair, then detangling it to prepare for parting and styling. For longer women’s styles, she divides extension hair and weaves it into each individual braid, a process that can take up to eight hours. Men's styles (usually twists, braids, retwists of locs, or cornrows) can take two to three. Occasionally, Dossous will take a break, but mostly she enjoys the chance to have deep conversations with people from many different backgrounds. Over the years, she’s started to view doing hair as a form of therapy, she said. “It’s kind of like my self-care time.” 

I always describe hair as being a crown that can be readjusted, but it’s also an accessory that can be an embodiment of your personality.
Ashley Dossous '24

Her favorite moment comes when a style is complete and she can stand back and watch her client’s reaction. On her business Instagram, Dossous posts photos and videos of men and women modeling their new looks, brimming with confidence and joy. 

“I feel very passionate about being able to capture how confident people get when they take care of themselves,” she said. “I love capturing their smiles.”

For her hair show, Dossous worked with photographers and videographers to create multimedia interludes for each of the show’s four parts: Nostalgia, Femininity, Masculinity, and Love. While those were shown on a screen, Dossous and eight other hair braiders and stylists readied the models for the runway. Between walks, each model’s hair was transformed to fit the next theme: one woman’s braids started out wrapped around her neck like a multi-layered necklace (Femininity) and then were let down to her ankles and adorned with roses (Love). She walked with a male model who began the night with two-strand locs (Masculinity) that Dossous’s team later transformed by adding barrel twists and flower decorations. 

This month, Dossous will become the first person in her family to graduate from college, an accomplishment she’s extremely proud of. Next, she plans to pursue a career in pediatric oncology, and to use her passion for self-care to help improve her patients’ mental well-being. She’ll also still be braiding hair, but hopefully in a professional studio instead of her living space. No matter where she goes, at least one loyal customer is guaranteed to follow: Dossous’s little sister Shaidha only trusts Slayed by Asho with her style, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.