Reality TV star and OC mom Ashley Wahler talks about helping others feel beautiful through hair, and raising awareness about mental health and addiction.
For as long as Ashley Wahler can remember, she’s always had a passion for hair.
“My great-grandfather was a hair stylist who immigrated here from Italy, so it is definitely in my blood,” said Wahler, of Laguna Hills, who works at Indigenous Salon in Laguna Beach.
In fact, she loves hair so much that she recently launched her own hair accessories line called The Gold Collection by Ashley Wahler. If Wahler’s name sounds familiar, it might be because she’s also starred on MTV’s “The Hills: New Beginnings” seasons 1 and 2, along with her husband, Jason.
She has used her public platform to speak about health topics that are meaningful to her, including her husband’s struggles with addiction. Her goal is to help raise awareness about addiction and alleviate some of the stigma surrounding it.
She does all this while also being a mom to two young children: Wyatt is 5 months old and Delilah is 4 years old. Wahler took some time from her busy schedule to answer some of our questions about mental health, beauty and other important wellness topics.
Parenting OC: When did your new hair accessories line launch and what has reception been like?
Ashley Wahler: I launched the line Sept. 28, 2021. It has been so amazing, all of the love and support I have gotten since I launched. … I really would love to expand Ashley Wahler Beauty as a whole.
POC: Why do you love hair so much and how does having one’s hair look its best inspire a sense of overall wellness in people?
AW: My great-grandfather was a hairstylist who came overseas from Italy. He actually helped write the cosmetology license for the state of Illinois and thereafter moved to Los Angeles, where he continued to do hair at Bullock’s in Westwood. So it’s safe to say my passion runs deep in my veins. I honestly have always loved hair [in] all aspects — color is my specialty — and I just love making people feel beautiful about themselves. I have the best job because instead of sitting in front of my phone all day, I get to build real relationships with people, some whom I have done their hair for over 10 years. It is amazing to see how people have grown over the years and how we really share our lives together.
POC: You’ve completed two seasons on MTV’s “The Hills: New Beginnings.” How has this time on the show served to educate viewers about mental health, including your husband’s recovery from addiction?
AW: Using the show as a platform has been an incredible experience. I honestly didn’t realize how much of an impact it would make on others as well as how many people related to our story. When we went into it, we both agreed to just be vulnerable and real about what was going on in our lives no matter if it was good or bad and I feel like that really shined through for us and in the end helped us be more relatable to the audience.
POC: Do you have a favorite episode or scene where you felt you got to really talk about mental health?
AW: The first season was hard because Jason was just gathering sobriety time prior to filming, so triggers and emotions were at an all-time high. That being said, I really feel like the moment Audrina and I went to lunch and I confided in her about Jason’s “slip” was such a raw moment to show the wives’ side of what a struggle with addiction looks like. It truly is a family disease and in that moment you could see the pain. Now come full circle to this past season, you really got to see more into my life things that I had gone through, losing a child during a molar pregnancy, as well as me telling the story of my deceased father. These are all real-life circumstances and we are navigating life on life’s terms and being able to show that as well and show our support in our relationship.
POC: In addition to Jason’s addiction, you’ve also talked about your struggles with co-dependency. Can you talk more about this aspect of addiction?
AW: Well as Jason always says, wherever there is an alcoholic, there is a co-dependent and I was that person. I was addicted to my husband’s addiction. I completely lost who I was an an individual when Jason was in the depths of his disease and instead of having healthy boundaries, I was essentially loving him to death. Taking the fault for his mishaps and it became this vicious cycle of sickness both of us going round and round with no end. It was not until I went [to] Al-Anon and got the support I needed [that I could] see my life from an outside perspective. What I thought was perfect was a huge life I was pretending to have. Getting that support saved my life and in [turn] saved Jason’s, because once I had proper boundaries I set, he couldn’t get away with anything and in the end was given an ultimatum. Luckily he chose recovery and [celebrated] two years sober in December.
Today we raise awareness through the Red Songbird Foundation, which is a non-profit who give scholarships for treatment. Along with that organization we are constantly just trying to share our story on any platform and just being vulnerable about our journey.
POC: You recently participated in the Shiseido Blue Project Beach Cleanup at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. Is conservation another important issue for you?
AW: I have been on the board for Oceana for the past three years. I fell in love with the organization when I went to the SeaChange summer party a few years back. Obviously living by the ocean I am so much more conscious and aware of the impact I have daily. … One of the biggest things I have been passionate about is single-use plastics and how we have no options in a lot of places for it. It’s very sad what a horrible impact it has on the environment. I love the ocean and this planet and want to do whatever I can to keep it as healthy as [possible] so my children can enjoy it as much as I did in my childhood.
POC: Mental health has become a prominent theme because of the pandemic. Is this something that came up in your home during this time?
AW: My husband and I are not shy about the fact that we still attend couple’s therapy every week for the last two years. I think that helped us a lot with dealing with any triggers or added stresses during COVID. I do feel in a sense the pandemic came, for us, at the time when we needed to slow down the most, which actually made us stronger than ever as a family.
POC: What advice do you offer to other families who might be struggling with mental health, addiction and related challenges during this stressful time?
AW: I highly recommend getting into a support group where other people are going through the same thing you are. Being able to relate to another human when you feel so alone is something that in time gives hope. It takes a village and it’s important to know if you are struggling [that] you are not alone.
POC: Considering you have young children and are a mompreneur, do you have any strategies you practice for alleviating stress and keeping a healthy balance in managing your time and priorities?
AW: I am working on this on the daily! I was so structured waking up at 5 am, going to an online meeting, and then start my day with my daughter — but to be honest, ever since having my son, I am all over the place. True mom life with a new baby, just still figuring it out. But my biggest advice and the thing that helps me the most in times of stress is always making a list and checking it off as well as keeping in as much structure as possible. Yes, being flexible is important — especially with two kids now — something always comes up, but as long as I’m making a little bit of time for myself, that helps a lot. I also use to have a hard time asking for help and now I am so much better at just asking — in the end, it helps alleviate so much stress when things get busy.
By Jessica Peralta